Welcome to the first GoMechanic #Basics post of 2019. Let’s start this blog post by delving into one of the most trending topics in the automotive forum; Alloy wheel Vs Steel Wheel. For some, it is all about the looks, for others its usability.
Steel and Alloy wheels are two of the most common type of wheels used in modern cars. Each of them have their pros and cons; from reliability and maintenance to aesthetics. But, at the end of the day, it all comes down to which wheel type is best for your car.
What are Alloy Wheels?
Let’s get a bit scientific here. An alloy is a mixture of several metals so as to combine their main qualities (rigidity, malleability, hardness). So, an alloy wheel in this context is a wheel that is made using an alloy of either aluminium or magnesium. In modern cars, alloy wheels find a special place in the list of features and can even make or break a deal. Alloy wheels cost more, but they do offer major advantages over steel wheels. (But we can say the same for steel wheels as well!). Despite that, to the common man, alloy wheels enhance the car’s overall looks, boosting its road presence. However, when it comes to alloy wheels – or simply alloys – there is more to this than meet the eye.
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Alloy Wheels: Thumbs Up 👍
- Aesthetics: The most featured advantage of the alloy wheel is the way it looks. In many Indian cars, alloy wheels are offered as a luxury feature, found mostly in high-end variants. Marketed as “Diamond Cut”, “Laser edged”, the basic makeup remains very much the same.
- Weight: Owing to the complex manufacturing process of the alloy wheels, alloys are considerably lighter in weight helping in weight reduction, fuel economy, braking and acceleration. Alloy wheels also abet prolonging tyre life by dissipating heat faster than steel wheels.
- Performance: Alloys wheels due to its lightweight build, transmit less weight to the coil spring, thereby providing better grip and traction. Additionally, steering and cornering abilities also see a noticeable difference.
- Rust Proof: Another thumbs up. Alloys are corrosion-proof! This feature comes very handy for people living in coastal areas where salt and surface corrosion is recurrent.
Alloy Wheels: Thumbs Down 👎
- Price: Expensive to buy, expensive to repair and expensive to manufacture. Alloy wheels are quite expensive due to its elaborate production procedure. To buy an alloy wheel you will have to pay 50% more than you would for a steel wheel. It is because of this, car manufacturers do not feature alloy wheels in their lower-end budget cars (cutting costs…duh!).
- Rigidity: Unfortunately, alloy wheels are not as strong as steel. They are prone to cracks, dents and curb rashes. And because of this, even the slightest damage on the wheels can tarnish the overall look of the car.
- Repairability: That’s a tough one for alloy wheels. Repairing an alloy wheel is tasking and expensive. Unlike, steel wheels, alloys have to be subjected to complex procedures to bring them back to shape.
What are Steel Wheels?
The name is self-explanatory. Steel wheels are made up of … Steel (captain obvious strikes!), to be precise “Stamped Steel”. These steel wheels have been around for a long time and are battle-tested for toughness and longevity. Because of this, we can find them in hardcore SUVs, city cars and even in HMVs. Steel wheels are manufactured as a cost-effective alternative to alloy wheels.
Steel Wheels: Thumbs Up 👍
- Price: The manufacturing process for steel wheels involves stamping the wheel into the shape. Steel wheels are much cheaper to buy, costing less than 70%-80% of what alloy wheels cost.
- Durability: Know this! Steel wheels are stronger than alloy wheels. This is why manufacturers fit tough, rugged SUVs with steel wheels. They are also the first choice for many economy car manufacturers.
- Repairability: Steel wheels are more malleable than alloy wheels, which makes them easier to repair. Repairing a steel wheel requires nothing more than hammering the bent portion into proper shape.
Steel Wheels: Thumbs Down 👎
- Weight: In spite of all that, steel wheels are heavy and this adds to the unsprung weight of the car. With the extra weight of steel wheels, the suspension takes a beating after a while. The weight is not always a bad thing though. Certain vehicles can take advantage of this, since steel wheels offer better traction and manoeuvrability.
- Corrosion: Steel wheels are not a big fan of salty and/or humid environment. Although, with modern paint-tech like powder coating, steel wheels can pretty much resist corrosion and rust – at least up to a point.
- Looks: Well, this is subjective. That said, steel wheels are not the first choice for luxury carmakers. The plain Jane, bland look doesn’t help in adding to the street presence of a vehicle. With that said, in some tasteful vehicles, steel wheels do look absolutely radical.
You now know the pros and cons of steel and alloy rims. So which one will you choose – the tough steel wheels or the sophisticated and charming alloys? Do let us know!
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