An analytical membrane model is used to study how wheel imperfections are converted into radial force variation of the tire‐wheel assembly. This model indicates that the radial run‐out of the rim generates run‐out of the tire‐wheel assembly at slightly less than the one to one ratio that was expected. Lateral run‐out of the rim is found to generate radial run‐out of the tire‐wheel assembly at a ratio that is dependent on the tire design and the wheel width. Finite element studies of a production tire validate and quantify the results of the membrane model. Experiments using a specially constructed precision wheel demonstrate the behavior predicted by the models. Finally, a population of production tires and wheels show that the lateral run‐out of the rims contribute a significant portion to the assembly radial force variation. These findings might be used to improve match‐mounting results by taking lateral rim run‐out into account.