Wheels 101: What You Need to Know About 5 Types of Wheels
One of the most straightforward ways to give your car an aesthetic upgrade is to get new wheels. They’re among the first things people notice; what’s more, depending on the style and material you choose, your wheels can make your car look cool, sophisticated, or ruggedly handsome. New wheels can also improve your car’s driving performance.
That said, new wheels can cost you a lot of money. Thus, you want to be really sure about your purchase so you won’t have any regrets. Here are some things you need to keep in mind about different kinds of wheels:
Most modern cars nowadays have alloy wheels. They’re more expensive than steel wheels (which will be discussed below), but they can actually help you save money in the long run. That’s because alloy wheels are lighter, which means you can get better mileage out of them. This is especially true when it comes to city driving. In addition, alloys are easier to manipulate than steel. Thus, alloy wheels come in a wider variety of designs.
The downside of alloy wheels is that they’re more prone to bending and cracking. As such, if you’re the adventurous type or if you use your vehicle for mostly utilitarian purposes, you may be better off with steel wheels.
For those who prefer function over form, steel wheels are the ideal option. They’re designed for heavy-duty usage, able to withstand the abuse of extreme weather conditions and aggressive driving styles. In fact, you might find police vehicles with steel wheels due to the high risk of slamming into curbs during high-speed chases.
The problem with steel wheels is that they’re quite heavy. Thus, you won’t get the same level of fuel economy as alloy wheels. What’s more, the extra weight can put a strain on the suspension and the axles. This can result in difficulties in handling the vehicle, particularly on slippery or icy roads.
If you’re looking for attention-grabbing wheels, the best choice would be chrome. Do note that these wheels aren’t 100% chrome because chrome is an expensive metal. Thus, it’s simply impractical for manufacturers to make entire wheels out of it. Instead, chrome wheels are often alloy wheels with a chrome coating. This creates that sleek, shiny look without it costing too much.
Do note that chrome wheels share a lot of properties with alloy wheels. They are both lightweight, which is good for fuel economy, but tend to get damaged easier. The one advantage of chrome wheels is that they are slightly less prone to oxidation. However, do note that you need to care for the chrome finish dutifully if you want it to stay shiny for a long time.
Cast Wheels and Forged Wheels
Alloy, steel, and chrome wheels are the three most common types of wheels available in the market. When you consider the methods of manufacturing, however, then the list would grow to five to include cast wheels and forged wheels.
Cast wheels are made by pouring hot, molten aluminium into a wheel mould. Then, once the aluminium cools, the wheel is removed from the mould. The wheel is then cleaned, trimmed, and drilled; all the finishing touches are also applied at this stage. Cast wheels are easier to make, and the production process is also much cheaper.
However, cast wheels are more porous. This is what makes them prone to damage like cracks and dents. Nevertheless, if you’re driving in mostly normal conditions, cast wheels are more than capable of delivering top-notch driving performance.
Forged wheels, on the other hand, are made from a solid block of billet aluminium. This solid block is heated to extreme temperatures, then pressurised to form the shape of the wheel. Afterwards, the final details are added through CNC machining. The result is an extremely tough yet lightweight wheel, with a refined structure.
If you want long-lasting, good-looking wheels, then forged wheels are a great investment. However, do note that they’re more expensive. There are also two varieties of forged wheels: one-piece and modular. Modular forged wheels are usually composed of two or three separate pieces, which are fastened together with bolts.
Once you’ve figured out what kind of wheel you want, the next step is to consider various factors such as the correct diameter, width, and offset. Style-wise, you can choose from different spoke patterns as well as finishes like chrome, polished aluminum, painted, and powder-coated. Each has its pros and cons, both in terms of style and maintenance. However, the easiest to care for are painted and powder-coated wheels; they also offer the most options when it comes to colour and design. Of course, your budget also matters.
All in all, the choice depends on your style preferences and performance requirements. For many drivers, cast alloy wheels are the most practical choice. For vehicles with specialised functions, however, forged or steel wheels may be more ideal.
Happy wheel shopping!