Aluminum Wheels Vs. Steel Wheels

by William Zane

While there are other types of wheels, aluminum alloy and steel wheels are the most common on cars and trucks. Both types of wheels have pluses and minuses, depending on what you want and expect from the wheel.

Strength

Aluminum alloy wheels are generally stronger than steel wheels due the materials used and the procedure by which they are made (often, they are cast). Steel wheels use a stamped wheel center that is usually welded to an outer stamped rim, although some older steel wheels were even riveted together. Steel wheels are more likely to bend if they hit a pot hole or large bump extremely hard. That is one of the many reasons that alloys are used in automobile racing.

Heat

Wheels made from aluminum alloy dissipate heat better then steel wheels. That can result in better braking, and alloy wheels are also less likely to crack than a steel wheel under extreme conditions. Alloys often feature an open-spoke design that allows more air to circulate around the brakes. Steel wheels retain more heat than alloys and can experience tire blowouts more often as a result, although this is not a common occurrence. Alloy wheels can very occasionally suffer from air leaking through the metal it the alloy is porous.

Weight

Usually, alloy wheels are lighter than similarly sized steel wheels, which is one of the reasons for their popularity as an upgrade to a vehicle's performance. Less weight on the suspension results in a more nimble, better handling car or truck. Not all alloy wheels are lighter than steel wheels; if an alloy wheel is considerably larger in diameter or wider than a steel wheel, it may actually weigh more.

Selection

When it comes to alloy wheels, there is a tremendous selection of choices available to consumers. Alloys come in a wide variety of styles, colors, finishes and sizes. There are fitments for practically every car ever made. Choices among steel wheels are not as plentiful and buyers are usually limited in their choices of appearance.

Cost

One of the biggest difference between steel wheels and alloys is the cost. Alloy wheels are generally much more expensive than steel wheels, because of the materials they are made from and the more involved manufacturing process. This is where steel wheels have a big advantage over alloys. The cheaper materials and simpler manufacturing process results in a less expensive product.

About the Author

William Zane has been a freelance writer and photographer for over six years and specializes primarily in automotive-related subject matter among many other topics. He has attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where he studied automotive design, and the University of New Mexico, where he studied journalism.