Pros and Cons of Different Car Wheel Types

If you own a car, you know that wheels are as important as the tires mounted on them. They play a significant role in the way your car behaves on the road – when it comes to speed, braking, fuel economy, overall vehicle lifespan, as well as the look of your car. But, how to choose the right type for your precious vehicle among so many out there? Worry not, we are here to shed some light on the matter and help you out in the process.

The first thing to consider when it comes to car wheels is the material they are made of Usually, car wheels are made of chrome, aluminum or alloy – a mixture of aluminum and magnesium.

Even though the name suggests so, chrome wheels aren’t made entirely out of it – you’ll most likely find steel or aluminum coated in chrome. The reason behind this practice is the fact that wheels made entirely of chrome cost too much, making them sit on shelves because drivers cannot afford them or aren’t willing to pay the price, thus seeking cheaper alternatives. Hence the many alternatives. And, rightly so since chrome wheels are quite the popular choice among car enthusiast since they are widely considered the most beautiful type of car wheels. If you want to make your car more aesthetically pleasing than it already is, one of the cheapest options is to just replace its wheels for chrome ones. Their shiny surface makes them eye-catchy, but more than that, they are also less prone to rusting than other types of wheels. In that sense, their maintenance is made easier for the car owner, despite requiring a lot of attention to remove dirt and debris. However, once you’ve had that taken care of, you only need to polish them thoroughly to give them back their natural shine and your car will take on its new and improved look.

Aside from chrome wheels, there are also those made out of aluminum – cast or forged. Cast aluminum wheels are made by pouring molten aluminum into a one-piece mold, whereas forged aluminum ones are manufactured by applying extremely high force to the base wheel material in a contained dye. In either case, they allow for less cracking, while forged aluminum wheels are also able to withstand extreme pressure. Moreover, aluminum wheels are lighter than those made of chrome at the same time offering the driver better vehicle handling and excellent tire uniformity.

Finally, the most sought out car wheels according to the material are alloy wheels – made of aluminum, magnesium or a mixture of both. It’s not that difficult to guess why. A mix of different materials make for a more durable product, but also a lighter one – a great benefit in vehicles which need to have reduced weight in order to perform better. This is precisely why they were first used on modified racing vehicles in the 1920s – almost 100 years ago! Furthermore, they make vehicle handling more responsive and braking easier, important not only in racing cars but also in everyday driving.

Another major thing to consider when buying car wheels is their size. It goes without saying that a purchase of a new car includes wheels specific – or at the very least, perfect – for that make and model. However, if you are looking to REPLACE wheels on your car, you have to make sure that the new wheels are close in diameter as the original wheels – in other words, your new wheel and tire need to be as close in diameter as your old wheel and tire. Following this particular rule will benefit you in at least 2 ways:

  1. You won’t have to spend more money to make additional modifications to your car and/or wheels to make them fit
  2. You won’t risk your safety since you will have control over your vehicle on the road.

Nevertheless, the common practice among drivers is to buy bigger wheels than they originally had on their vehicles.

Why, you ask?

On the one hand, bigger wheels make for a more beautiful car since they visually fill the gap in the car chassis around the wheel and tire, but you have to be pretty sure about which ones are best suited for your vehicle. Therefore, before you go on a spending spree, browse cars like yours or take to Photoshopping pictures of the wheels you like on your car.

Furthermore, cars with bigger and wider wheels are more stable because they are stiffer and have more contact with the road. By the same token, they decrease the braking distance even on wet roads. They offer better overall handling of the vehicle and improve driver confidence and security.

On the other hand, if you go for bigger wheels and tires than the manufacturer issued ones, you might get disappointed with your acceleration times. If bigger, the new wheels and tires are heavier than the old ones, which means you’ll have to add some horsepower to your car as well to compensate for the poorer results. This will also reflect on your fuel consumption, i.e. your car will need more fuel to run than you’re used to. Finally, you will be less comfortable while driving if your new wheels and tires are bigger, harder and have more contact with the road

Carlos G. Hill

Carlos G. Hill

Carlos joined TireReview in 2019 after seven years of living and working in Dubai. He has been a journalist for over a decade and has worked for a wide range of publications, including Rolling Stone, Time Out, iQ and Loaded. After starting out on the automotive team as deputy editor of Engine Technology International, Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International and Transmissions Technology International, he has been an editor since 2015, and began editing Tire Technology International in 2018. In 2020, he was appointed editor-in-chief of Tire, Professional Motorsport World, Electric & Hybrid Marine Technology International and Crash test Technology International

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