Before you can get your motor running and head out on the highway, you need a few essential parts. This includes wheels! Responsible for keeping your vehicle in motion, they’re a core part of any car or truck.
If you’re in the market for a new set, then it helps to know the different types of wheels that are available on the market today. With a little research, you can choose the best ones for your car and get back on the road in no time!
Understanding Steel vs. Alloy Wheels
A new set of wheels can help you totally transform and custimize your ride. Yet, the selection process might not be as simple or straightforward as you expected. Materials matter, as does the construction process.
When it comes to construction materials, there are two main types available for wheels. These include steel and alloy. Let’s review how these differ from one another.
If you’re on a budget, then steel wheels are your best bet. While they may not be as attractive as their alloy counterparts, these are the more cost-effective option and are built to be as durable as possible. Not only do they perform well in dry conditions, but they’re also excellent in adverse weather and can keep you safe in winter conditions.
Before you start buying car wheels, keep in mind that steel wheels are heavier than alloy wheels. This makes them suitable for heavy-duty vehicles, but they may strain the suspension system on a standard sedan. Moreover, their added weight can impede quick acceleration.
Alloy wheels, on the other hand, are lighter weight. They’re excellent at accelerating and also boast a better fuel economy than steel wheels. If aesthetics matter to you, then you’ll be glad to know that these are also available in a range of sleek designs.
The downsides? Alloy wheels aren’t built to be as durable as steel ones and could crack under excess weight or pressure. They also come at a higher price point.
Construction Matters: Cast vs. Forged Models
Manufacturers can make steel or alloy wheels in two ways. One way is to cast the metal, and the other is to forge it. Let’s take a look at the differences between these two processes.
If manufacturers choose the casting process, then they’ll start by melting the metal into a liquid state. Then, they will pour that liquid into a special type of mold. As the metal cools down, it will form to the specific shape of the mold.
Before putting the wheels on the market, manufacturers will trim any excess material off the final design. They’ll clean up the overall product and drill each wheel out for easy mounting.
Casting can be performed quickly and relatively easily. The process is also relatively inexpensive, and manufacturers can pass those cost savings on to customers. However, it’s important to note that these wheels are also more likely to crack under heavy use.
This is because the mold curing process makes the wheels more porous, which can impact their structural integrity. If you’re used to driving in harsh conditions or a rocky landscape, then this may factor heavily into your buying decision. Otherwise, cast wheels perform just fine under normal driving conditions.
With forged wheels, manufacturers start with a solid piece of billet aluminum. One of the most widely used aluminum products in the world, billets are considered to be stronger and longer-lasting than cast metal. These parts are made from a single block of material that’s processed through a CNC machine.
To make forged wheels, manufacturers will shape the billet aluminum into the exact shape that they need. Next, they will pressurize the material to make it stronger and more rugged. Once they’ve finalized the design for their wheel using CAD software, they will use a machine to cut the wheel into their design.
This results in a wheel that’s much lighter than its cast-metal counterpart. Due to the unique machine-cutting and CAD design process, manufacturers can create stylish car wheels in a number of unique and eye-catching designs. This makes them more appealing to drivers who want to stand out and turn heads on the road.
One, Two, or Three-Piece Wheels
Finally, let’s talk about wheel layers. If you opt for a cast wheel, then the entire wheel will be one solid piece. These are easy to produce and can save you money if design isn’t a top priority.
Conversely, most forged wheels are available in a two-piece design. One of those pieces will be the center part that includes the spokes, and the other piece will be the outer rim. These pieces can be constructed from a variety of materials, including billet aluminum or cast aluminum.
Three-piece wheels are also referred to as split-rim wheels. With this design, you’ll find a centerpiece and two individual rim halves, held together by bolts. These can help correct issues with wheel fit, although the manufacturing process is more costly and involved.
Specialty Wheels to Consider
While the above designs are the most common car wheel options on the market, they aren’t the only ones. If you’re looking to splurge on a type of luxury wheel, then you’ll have a few models to consider.
For instance, you may decide to invest in handmade carbon fiber wheels. While these wheels can perform well and look incredible, they could also empty your pockets due to the intricate process used to create them. While they come standard on certain Mustangs, they’re usually available as a pricey upgrade.
Which Types of Wheels Will You Buy?
While there are many different styles to choose from, the best car wheels are those that will keep your vehicle safe and running well on the road. As you browse the options, make a list of the features that are most important to you.
Do you want to focus on the look of your wheels? Or, are you more concerned with performance, ruggedness, and longevity? Shop around and ask your mechanic to share the best types of wheels on the market.
In the meantime, be sure to check our site often for more helpful lifestyle tips you can use.