When selecting a car, the wheels aren’t commonly considered to be the most important feature. However, if unsuitable wheels are chosen, this can adversely impact your vehicle experience. They can potentially not be appropriate for how you use the car, or might detract from its appearance.
Knowing the key information surrounding car wheels before you make a purchase is therefore key. You should be aware of the different types of wheels available, and the benefits and drawbacks of each. There may additionally be some advantages or disadvantages that don’t affect you.
Some wheels, such as alloy wheels, allow for a personalised appearance. This not only makes your vehicle distinctive, but can also completely transform its look – making them ideal if aesthetics top your criteria list when choosing or maintaining your car.
If being able to drive with confidence in the winter weather is important, then you can select wheels that will provide you with this. Or if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, you can find the most efficient option.
Below, we provide the answers to everything you’ll need to know in the wheel decision-making process.
What is an alloy wheel?
An alloy wheel is simply what the name suggests: a wheel combined of multiple metals, most commonly aluminium or magnesium. The latter has led to them sometimes being labelled ‘mag wheels’. Whilst steel meets the criteria for being an ‘alloy’ (it’s a mix of iron and carbon), ‘alloy wheels’ generally encompasses those produced from non-ferrous metals.
Alloy wheels are a popular choice in part due to their pleasing aesthetics. The manufacturing process allows for creative and custom designs during painting and powder coating, so you can select a style that complements your vehicle.
They’re quite light, which contributes to reducing fuel consumption and aiding the vehicle’s performance through improved braking, accelerating, steering and handling. Alloy wheels are also an attractive option because of their longevity; they’re resistant to corrosion and dust. This means there is less chance of needing to repair them. You can reduce the likelihood of this by taking on tips to prevent damage.
What are steel wheels?
Manufactured purely from steel, this type of wheel is very strong. You would have your work cut out trying to crack them, though it is possible to dent or bend steel wheels. This can be resolved using a hammer to return it to its original shape, meaning they can be the easier to repair option.
Steel wheels are quite low in cost, but they are heavy. Although this is preferable for winter when driving in snowy or icy conditions, this added weight makes vehicles less fuel-efficient. In addition, this can cause problems with handling and acceleration, and deteriorate the suspension as well.
Many opt for alloy wheels over those made from steel for aesthetic reasons. Steel wheels aren’t as attractive in comparison, and there’s less choice in terms of design too. Whilst there are a few different finish options, alloy wheels have more of a selection – including painting and powder coating.
What other types of wheels exist?
Steel wheels are a very popular choice, and alloy wheels’ main competition. Another option is wheels made purely from aluminium. These are produced via either casting or forging. Both processes ensure there is less cracking, with forged aluminium wheels also enduring extreme pressure.
You could additionally select chrome wheels – created by taking an aluminium wheel and adding coats of chrome to it. With a shiny and striking appearance, this type of wheel is also very resilient in all types of weather conditions. They have other benefits too, like being less likely to rust than alloy wheels.
However, chrome wheels do demand more maintenance. You’ll have to ensure any debris is removed, and their sparkling look needs to be conserved via regular cleaning. On top of this, the chrome layers make them a heavier choice.
What are diamond cut alloy wheels?
This type of wheel is like the traditional alloy wheel, but with a high-shine finish. This is produced using a machine lathe to create an incision in the metal – this generates a further edge, creating an incredibly faint grooved effect that allows for the shine. Their visually appealing appearance means they’re often chosen to upgrade the look of a vehicle.
On top of the numerous benefits of alloy wheels themselves, diamond cut alloys allow for a highly personalised look. You can select from the wide range of colours on offer – these include a striking gunmetal grey and energetic orange.
As alloy wheels are resilient, the requirement to repair or refurbish them will be minimised. When it is necessary though, it’s best to consult the specialists. As with fitting the tyres, it takes a qualified expert to carry out the essential tasks and offer aftercare advice, otherwise there is the threat of wheel damage.
What size of wheels to get?
When it comes to the size of your car’s wheels, is bigger really better?
Ultimately, the ideal wheel size depends on what you’re looking for in terms of aesthetics and performance.
The advantage of bigger wheels is that they truly look the part. When you head into large wheel diameters such as the 17, 18, 19-inch territory, they become extremely distinguishable. Given their imposing size and stature, these wheel sizes tend to offer a significantly improved ride when turning corners, driving over troublesome terrain or flying down a motorway. You can also select specific wheel sizes that will assist you when driving in all-weather conditions, helping you to feel confident in the car at all times.
Some of the other key advantages of using bigger wheels include better braking – with increased grip on both dry and wet roads – and greater traction, which results in a more comfortable drive on all kinds of different surfaces.
When choosing appropriately sized wheels for your car, you’ll need to take elements such as sidewall height into consideration, as failing to do so could lead to stiff steering and problems with accelerating and braking over time.
Plus, if you’re purchasing bigger wheels, you’ll also need new tyres to complement them.
Before you decide which wheel size to go for, it’s always worth talking to a car wheel professional. Not only will a specialist team be able to offer expert advice, but they’ll be able to determine which size to go for – ensuring you get the look and feel that is required whilst maintaining high-performance levels.
What are custom wheels?
Custom wheels are wheels which are designed specifically for the customer – with size, height, weight and appearance all manufactured in accordance with their requirements, ensuring that they receive desired results.
Often, people will seek custom wheels to inject a new lease of life into their vehicle as well as a little personalisation. Chrome, steel and diamond cut alloy wheels are some of the most popular choices. Customisation allows you to add a sense of style that cannot be replicated with original wheels – giving the vehicle a unique feel.
Custom wheels can be incorporated into your car purely to improve appearance, or they can be shaped in a specific way to help improve driving performance overall. If you’re struggling to decide which rims to choose, it’s important to consult an expert who can analyse your car and determine what sort of wheels you should be fitting to increase traction and turning whilst improving the exterior.
What are the wheel covers?
Wheels are exposed to various elements for most of the time, which inevitably leads to dust and debris finding its way inside and causing problems. Rain, snow and even sunshine can cause damage to wheels in the long-term, and wheel covers are intended to block out these harmful factors to keep them in good health.
Slipping over the wheel itself, wheel covers guard gaps where water can enter and protect against corrosion and rusting. If you’re parked in sunshine, the heat can also cause certain parts of the wheel to expand, which instigate steering problems – but wheel covers act like an umbrella by keeping the central workings of the wheel in the shade.
If you have upgraded to bigger, better wheels, then wheel covers are an effective way in which to protect your investment, ensuring top performance over a longer period of time.
What are the wheel rims?
Robust, tough and attractive wheel rims can make or break a vehicle. That’s why it’s crucial to spend plenty of time determining which rims might be best for you.
If you’ve recently added new rims to your vehicle, or purchased a brand new car right off the production line, be sure to take your wheel rims for frequent assessment in order to maintain high performance.
Purchasing a second-hand car will inevitably mean that the wheel rims have suffered a degree of damage due to wear and tear, so it’s always worth getting an expert to take a look and make any necessary touch-ups to prevent further abrasions.
Some of the most common problems with wheel rims are scratches and scrapes – which can not only affect your car’s appearance but can also impair driving as well. However, there are a wide variety of services that revert such issues ensuring that your alloy wheels are restored back to full health – both in terms of look and performance.
These include powder coating – which extends the wheel rim lifespan and protects against corrosion.
Plus, if your wheel rims are beyond repair, they can easily be replaced at an affordable price with quick turnaround time.
Do you have any questions for our wheel repair specialists? Give us a ring on 01204 859045, or send us a message through our contact form.