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 some its usability. Steel and Alloy wheels are two of the most common type of wheels used in modern cars. Each of them has their pros and cons, from reliability, maintenance, aesthetics and what not. But, in the end, it all trickles 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 various metals done so to combine their prominent properties (rigidity, malleability, hardness). An alloy wheel in this context are wheels that are made up of either alloy of 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. The same can be said for steel wheels. To the common man, alloy wheels increase the overall looks of the car boosting its road presence. But there is more to it than meets the eye.
Alloy Wheels: Thumbs Up 👍
- Aesthetics: The most featured advantage of the alloy wheel is the way it looks. In most 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 help in 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 due to its elaborate manufacturing procedure cost more than 50% the price of a steel wheel. It is because of this, car manufacturers do not feature alloy wheels in their lower end budget cars (cost cutting…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 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 wheel, alloys have to undergo an elaborate procedure to bring it 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”. Steel wheels have been around for a long time and are battle-tested for toughness and longevity and because of this, they find use in hardcore SUVs, city cars, HMVs etc. Steel wheels are manufactured as a cost-effective alternative to alloy wheels.
Steel Wheels: Thumbs Up 👍
- Price: The manufacturing process for Steel wheels involve stamping the wheel into the shape. Steel wheels are way cheaper to buy costing less than 70%-80% compared to Alloy wheels.
- Durability: Know this! steel wheels are stronger than alloy wheels. Which is why steel wheels are used on most rugged hardcore SUVs. They are also the first choice of many economy car manufacturers.
- Repairability: Repairing a steel wheel requires nothing but hammering the bent portion into proper shape. This is because steel wheel has greater malleability that alloy wheels.
Steel Wheels: Thumbs Down 👎
- Weight: Steel wheels are heavy, which add to the unsprung weight of the car. With the added weight that comes with steel wheels, the suspension takes a massive battering upon prolonged use. This may come as a disadvantage, but the fact is; in certain vehicles, steel wheels aids in traction and manoeuvrability.
- Corrosion: Steel wheels do not like salty and/or humid environment. Although, with modern paint-tech like powder coating, steel wheels can pretty much resist corrosion and rust.
- Looks: Well, this is subjective. Steel wheels are not the first choice for luxury car makers. 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 look absolutely radical.