The Rim Reality: Advantages And Disadvantages Of Alloy Wheels

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There's something really attractive about your neighbour's car, but you can't put your finger on it. You look harder, and realise that the wheels on his car are really attractive and lend the car improved visual impact and character. That's because he's probably had alloy wheels fitted to his car.

I need to get me a set too, you think to yourself. But is there anything you need to know before spending the usually formidable sums of money to have them installed? We answer these questions and more in this important story.

The story continues in the next slide.


Alloy wheels, or ‘mag wheels', are made of an alloy of aluminium or magnesium or sometimes both as well. These wheels were traditionally available only on high-end sports cars and luxury vehicles, but over the last two decades or so, have trickled all the way down to even budget cars.


Most alloy wheels are cast aluminium alloys, but some are forged from magnesium alloys as well, which gives them greater strength and ductility. Traditionally, however, car wheels have been made from steel because of its strength, durability and an appearance that was earlier perceived as decent. However, demands of motorsport saw alloy wheels increasingly adopted for their several benefits, and saw steadily appreciating demand from the commercial market as well.


1. Better looks

Steel wheels can never look as good as alloy wheels, and the cosmetic upgrade and improved visual impact are the major reasons why so many car owners opt for them. Check out the blacked-out rims on the adjoining Porsche Cayman, it's very easy to see why so many fall for alloys.


2. Better heat conduction/dissipation

Since alloys are able to dissipate heat better than steel wheels, they provide better braking performance and decrease the risk of brake failure.


3. Better performance

Alloy wheels decrease unsprung weight and therefore transmit less inertia to the springs, thus allowing the suspension to follow the terrain more easily, thereby providing better grip. In addition, handling, steering and cornering see a marked improvement.


4. Better fuel economy

Because alloy wheels are lighter than steel wheels, fuel efficiency is increased to a certain extent.


5. Better braking

This is because there is better traction during braking since wheel hop is reduced with alloy wheels.


6. Less likely to corrode and rust

Since alloy wheels are usually made of aluminium alloy, there are far better protected against corrosion and rust.


7. Lengthens tyre life

Since alloy wheels dissipate heat better, tyres wear out less quickly since they remain cooler.

8. Well-suited to tubeless tyres

Alloy wheels are completely airtight and therefore are the perfect foil for tubeless tyres, unlike steel wheels, where one experiences minute losses of tyre pressure.


1. Not as high-strength as steel wheels

Steel wheels are significantly stronger than alloy wheels and are able to take much more impact before bending or even cracking, like alloy wheels can when subjected to a harsh undulation in the road surface. This is why you should think very carefully before having alloy wheels fitted to your car, especially in our country where bad roads are a part of daily life.


2. More expensive to produce, buy and repair

The manufacturing processes of alloy wheels are more complex than traditional steel wheels. As a result alloy wheels cost a lot more than their steel counterparts, easily up to 75 to 80 percent more. In India, alloys range from about INR 2,500 to INR 50,000 each and more. Steel wheels also cost much less to repair in case of damage.


3. More attractive to thieves

Since they are far better looking and cost way more than traditional steel wheels, alloys tend to attract attention of the wrong kind. So if you do have mag wheels on your car, make sure you take precautionary measures like getting locking nuts or the like fitted.

Fender ender

While alloy wheels from reputed companies offer significant benefits in terms of your car's appearance and performance, they are still less durable than steel wheels, and you should make sure that your driving is predominantly on decent tarmac surfaces before opting for this upgrade. Because if you do shell out your hard-earned moolah for a set of mags and don't see that unmarked speedbreaker or hidden pothole, tens of thousands of rupees or more can go down the drain in an instant. Then again, if you're careful, the benefits can easily outweigh the disadvantages. It's your choice.

Read more on: #off beat #car talk #tips
Story first published: Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 15:08 [IST]
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