Since the introduction of the Ford Model T in 1908, countless car manufacturers have entered the auto sector, producing innumerable models and their variants. While cars continue to outdo each other with ever-improving specifications and features, there is one component that has remained largely unchanged over the years: the wheels. Though initially, only steel wheels were offered, alloy wheels followed soon after in 1924. Ever since then, customers have only these two options to choose from.
When choosing between alloy wheels or steel wheels, customers are usually thinking in terms of strength, performance and cost? Which type of wheel offers them longevity, a comfortable ride and savings. In this blog, we will cover these three aspects in terms of pros and cons of installing alloy wheels over steel wheels and vice versa.
Alloy Wheels: Pros and Cons
The word “alloy” in alloy wheels simply means combining two or more elements together, one of which is a metal like aluminum or magnesium. This is done to make the wheel stronger, lighter and corrosion free.
Now, let’s take a look at their strengths and weaknesses.
- Aesthetic appeal – It is a known fact that they look more stylish than steel wheels. Easy on the eyes, this is why many auto assemblers offer them in their higher variants only. They are offered in a variety of sizes and types like Diamond Cut alloys, etc. If you are interested in knowing more about this aspect of alloy wheels, there is a blog link pasted at the end of this article for you.
- Light weight – Alloy wheels are lighter in weight, which makes them a very attractive option when it comes to your car’s performance. They reduce the weight of the car, which leads to better fuel efficiency, longer tyre life and better acceleration and braking.
- Performance – Since alloy wheels are lighter, when a car goes over bumps on the road, the wheels move up and down, along with the suspension system. The weight of the wheels that are not supported by the suspension system are called “unsprung weight”.
Alloy wheels create less inertia (resistance to motion) when the wheels move up and down, which means the suspension system doesn’t have to work as hard to keep the wheels and tires in contact with the road. This results in less wear and tear on the suspension system and improves how the car handles on the road.
- Corrosion free – It is common to see rust grow on steel wheels while the same is not true of alloy wheels. It is worth remembering that rust eats away at steel wheels, limiting their life.
Despite having many benefits, alloy wheels have some disadvantages too.
- Cost – Aesthetics and performance comes with a price. Many auto assemblers in Pakistan only offer them in their higher variants since they are expensive to produce. To put things in perspective and this is perhaps not an accurate reflection of current prices in the market, if a steel wheel costs Rs.1,000, an alloy wheel could cost Rs.12,000. To get an idea of their current prices in the market, check out OLX Pakistan listings of alloy rims in Pakistan.
- Flexibility – Flexibility here doesn’t mean strength. It is a misconception that steel wheels are stronger than alloy wheels and can carry more weight, etc. Rather, steel is flexible, while materials an alloy wheel is made of aren’t. Which means that an alloy wheel can crack or bend if carrying more weight than prescribed. A bent steel wheel can be hammered back into its original shape, while the same cannot be done with an alloy wheel.
Steel Wheels: Pros and Cons
Like alloy wheels are made of different elements, steel wheels are also made by combining iron and carbon. So, in a way, steel is also an alloy. Known for its strength, steel is the toughest form of iron used in the automobile industry.
As you have already read the disadvantages of alloy wheels, the same are the strengths or advantages of steel wheels.
- Cost – Since they are relatively easier to manufacture, they are therefore less costly. The price difference between the two (alloy and steel) wheels could be over 1000%.
- Repair – As mentioned before, it is easier to repair steel wheels as compared to an alloy wheel, which once deshaped, may not be repairable at all.
Despite these advantages, steel wheels have their fair share of disadvantages as well, which are essentially the strengths of alloy wheels.
- Weight – To some, alloy wheels may look heavier, but they aren’t. It is the steel wheels which are heavier and therefore they affect the ride quality by increasing the unsprung weight of the car. However, their weight can help you if you are driving on snow. It can minimize slipping on icy roads, etc.
- Corrosion – It is a common sight to see rust grow on older steel wheels. However, this is not much of a disadvantage anymore as modern paints can make the steel wheels resist rust and corrosion more effectively.
- Size – Unlike alloy wheels, steel wheels are limited in size. You’d mostly find them in 16” size rims or less.
- Design – To many, steel wheels may look boring. Steel wheels are offered in limited designs. This is not true of alloy wheels.
If you are convinced that alloy wheels are the way to go, read this blog. Here you will find in-depth information on alloy wheel types, what to look for while buying them and more.
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