How Are Steel Automotive Wheels Made?

by Tyler Lacoma


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Factory Steel Wheels

There are generally two choices when it comes to automotive wheels: alloy or steel. Alloy wheels are made of a combination of aluminum or magnesium metals, designed to improve strength while reducing weight. These wheels are often an improvement on the steel standby models, but have a steeper cost and, for now, less viability on the market in which cars are usually made for steel wheels. The steel versions themselves, however, are marked improvements from the first steel wheels created. Today, steelmakers work with automotive companies to mold the exact kinds of steel needed for specific wheels to improve safety and driving. By studying virtual car crashes, steelmakers can see what kind of strength steel needs to have, along with what kind of flexibility would be best suited for making the wheels. Steelmakers then produce several different grades of steel, each with its own strength and malleability rating, to be used in various kinds of automobiles.

Making the Wheels

These wheels are made in two different parts: the center and the rim. The center is made of one solid piece of steel and is carved by machine to form a decorative hub pattern and holes for the lug nuts. The center is fit inside the second piece, called the rim, made of a separate piece of metal sculpted to fit around and provide structure for the center. The two are usually welded together to form the wheel, which is then polished and coated with protective or glossy coatings.

Customized Steel Wheels

The second type of steel wheels involve customized wheels made to order in specific sizes, bolt patterns, diameters, backspacing and coatings. Most customizable wheel companies are too small to create their own steel and could not afford to create brand new wheels, so they adopt a salvage approach. The wheel house keeps a wide collection of steel wheel parts harvested from various kinds of junk cars and separated out into their components. Usually, the wheel house will simply take the wheels and separate them there, removing the centers from the rims and the nuts or caps from the wheels. When a customer asks for a specific type of wheel, these wheel houses will then browse their selection of parts and use basic metalwork techniques like welding or splitting to create the desire wheel out of the parts they have in storage. The newly created wheels are then re-polished and re-coated so that they resemble the finished product from any automotive company, only tailored to exact dimensions.

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