There’s a lot to like about the 2023 Honda Civic Type R, but after spending some time admiring one in person, the new hot hatch’s standout feature is one that lays flat. Yep, I’m referring to its trick, 90-degree valve stems. Take one glance at the wheels and it’s impossible to miss them; they stand out with their silver finish against the dark satin void of the barrels. And if you look closely, you’ll see that they’re rigidly mounted at a 90-degree angle to the wheel, perfectly level with the ground. Can you guess why?
At first, I assumed it had something to do with the wheel’s internal sensor(s). Yeah, even wheels have sensors these days. Tire pressure monitoring systems often (but not always) employ a small, battery-powered sensor connected to the valve stem inside the tire, and the Type R’s low-profile tires and thin wheels may have presented a greater-than-normal impact potential if the sensor happens to sit too proud of the wheel.
Curious, I grabbed one of Honda’s PR folks. I half-expected them to defer me to an engineer who would then sit me down for a lesson involving angular momentum and balancing tolerances, but instead I got a simple, incredibly satisfying explanation: the horizontal orientation makes it easier to put a pressure gauge or tire inflator on it without the spokes, face or barrel of the wheel being in the line of fire.
If you’re like me and you’ve ever handled tech at an autocross or track event, you may be just as enthused by this as I am. Trying to check pressures on a car with somebody’s $10,000 set of mesh wheels poking at your knuckles is a nerve-racking experience. This setup provides tons of clearance while allowing Honda to mount the valve stem well inboard of the wheel edge, maximizing internal clearance too.
And as it turns out, the aftermarket figured this out a long time ago, but for motorcycles rather than cars. That’s how Honda’s engineers got the idea too, and I’m not at all surprised that they jumped on it. It’s simple, elegant and functional. What’s not to like?