The different kinds of wheels: which one for which?

Car wheels are commonly referred to as rims and come in all materials, designs and sizes. For some individuals, it is tough to understand the difference between the diverse types of wheels. The defining factor in car wheels is the material used: here, we provide you with a small description and their applications.

Alloy Wheels

These types of wheels are made of aluminium alloys that are created when small bits of other sturdy metals are fused with aluminium. Aluminium is a lightweight metal, but when it’s reinforced and strengthened with other metals, the end product is a wheel that is favoured for its appeal and performance.

Benefits of Alloy Wheels

Alloy wheels are the most preferred type of wheel in the racing industry because of more break clearance, better performance and increased car fuel mileage. Alloy wheels’ extra break clearance reduces the effort to push the brake pedal hence giving the driver better control.

Lightweight: alloy wheels are lightweight because of the aluminium. Alloy wheels decrease unsprung weight to add to the vehicle’s better handling especially in the steering precision. The lighter wheel also leads to better car acceleration giving the driver a small increase in fuel mileage.

Durability: alloy wheels have better heat dispersion and, therefore, decreasing bending and cracking. Better heat distribution also means more efficient braking. Alloy wheels also have spokes that allow air freely around the tyre, and this cools the brakes. Everything is connected – that's you need to know your tyres.

Increased Car Value: vehicles with alloy wheels are easier to sell and since installing alloy wheels is considered an upgrade, it increases the car’s resale value.

Alloy Wheels

Chrome Wheels

Also known as customised wheels, chrome wheels are a popular choice for many car owners. When you want to customise your vehicle with a more distinctive feature, chrome wheels are the ideal choice. Chrome wheels are common on vehicles that are driven by young people and are mostly fitted on sport utility vehicles. Chrome wheels are made of aluminium or steel base that is covered by natural chromium through electroplating.

The chrome plating gives the wheel more strength and a highly mirrored and desirable appearance. Chrome wheels are available in many shapes, designs and sizes. The spoke design and pattern are limitless and can even be custom-made according to your specifications and requirements. Chrome wheels come in three basic appearances: matte, black chrome and polished. These three types of wheels have the same features with the only difference being the type of look. Chrome wheels are installed on racing cars and high-end vehicles for beauty purposes.

Benefits of Chrome Wheels

Durability: chrome wheels are durable and harder than aluminium wheels. Chrome wheels are also more resistant to rust and corrosion and can withstand extreme conditions such as unusual weather temperatures.

Aesthetics: chrome wheels have a shiny and glossy appearance that cannot be matched by other types of wheels. The beautiful appearance is the main reason many people favour chrome wheels. Many car enthusiasts install chrome wheels because the car looks sharp and expensive.

Chrome Wheels

Steel Wheels

Steel wheels are the ideal types of wheels and are favoured by the no-nonsense types of drivers or for any vehicle that does not have to look good or do fancy tricks. Think tow trucks, regular trucks and basically any car that does the heavy and dirty stuff. Steel wheels are also preferred as an extra set of winter wheels.

Steel wheels are commonly made in 16-inch sizes or less. The 17-inch steel wheel sizes are limited in number, and there are no 18-inch steel wheels in the market, anywhere. Such a wheel would be significantly heavy. Installing steel wheels involve downsizing of the vehicle, and some high-performance vehicles do not accept downsized wheels because of suspension issues and oversized brake callipers.

Steel wheel user’s install wheel covers on the wheel to make them appear like alloy wheels. These wheel covers look cheesy and are fragile and are held by a steel friction grip that has a tendency to fall off. Another reason steel wheels are not favoured on high-performance vehicles is their un-sprung weight that has detrimental effects on a car. Steel wheels are much heavier than alloy wheels and, therefore, dampen agility and acceleration.

Benefits of Steel Wheels

Strength and weight: steel wheels are stronger than alloy wheels, and it takes extra force to cause a steel wheel to bend: it is impossible to crack a steel wheel. The extra weight is not ideal for summer applications but during winter, steel wheels provide a more physical and psychological advantage.

Cost: steel wheels are cheaper than chrome and alloy wheels. The difference in costs is vast considering that a steel wheel is 75-80 percent cheaper than an alloy wheel. This makes steel wheels the ideal choice for a second set: they are also cheap to replace when severely damaged.

Of course, choosing the best wheels for your vehicle will be dictated also by what type of car tyre or motorbike you need.

Steel Wheels