What are the strongest type of wheels?

Wheel Construction

With so many different types of wheels, not to mention all of the different wheel finishes out there, it can be challenging finding the right rims for your ride.

But style isn’t the only factor in choosing your rims. In fact, some of the most important distinctions in rim types are in the materials and construction process used to build them.

Most modern wheels are constructed using either steel or aluminum. Steel wheels are generally heavier than aluminum wheels and are welded together from two pieces. Meanwhile, aluminum wheels, AKA alloy wheels, are often one-piece and only sometimes multi-piece. They’re typically made in one of the following ways:

  • Cast wheels
  • Forged wheels
  • Flow formed/rim-rolled wheels
  • Multi-piece wheels

TYPES OF WHEEL CONSTRUCTION OPTIONS:

CAST WHEELS

Cast wheels are formed using a mold to achieve shape and form. Molten metal is poured into the mold. As the metal cools, it hardens into the shape of the wheel. There are different ways to cast wheels, gravity casting and low pressure casting. Each type of casting has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Gravity Casting

Gravity casting is just what it sounds like. Molten aluminum is poured into a mold and gravity is used to create the force needed to fill the mold and achieve the desired shape. This simplifies the casting process, allowing for lower costs. The aluminum will not be as densely packed as in other casting processes, so a gravity cast wheel will likely be a little heavier in order to achieve the same level of strength.

Low-Pressure Casting

Low-pressure casting is the process where molten aluminum is rapidly pumped into the wheel mold. This process increases density and reduces the development of pores or cavities. This allows for a lighter, stronger wheel than a gravity casting, all without a huge increase in cost. Because of these benefits, low pressure casting is very common.

High-Pressure Casting

Similar to low-pressure casting, high-pressure casting uses a mold and a pump to increase pressure and create a denser, stronger final product. That said, high-pressure cast wheels tend to be quite a bit more expensive without a huge increase in strength or reduction of weight, when compared with low-pressure casting.

FORGED WHEELS

Forged wheels, sometimes referred to as billet wheels, are made using a solid billet of aluminum and shaping it under extreme heat and pressure. This process provides maximum density paired with very light weight. For this reason, forged rims are often considered the best in one-piece wheel construction.

FLOW FORMED/RIM-ROLLING WHEELS

Also called flow formed wheels, rim-rolled wheels are made using a low-pressure casting that is then spun on a specialized machine.

This machine heats the outer portion of the cast section and uses rollers to shape the rim to achieve the desired width and shape. Applying heat and pressure and then spinning the material creates a strong rim.

In fact, it’s similar to a forged wheel but at a lower price point. Resulting in a light and strong wheel at a reasonable cost, the rim-rolling process is commonly used to produce OEM wheels for limited edition high performance vehicles.

MULTI-PIECE WHEELS

Multi-piece wheels are made up of two or three separate parts. These parts can be made using the same or varying methods of construction already mentioned. The rim section(s) and center section are formed separately and then attached together either by welding or with bolts.

Multi-piece wheels are typically some of the most exotic wheels and allow the manufacturer to push the boundaries in style, finish and performance. For this reason, these wheels also tend to be the highest price point. These wheels are often the OE (original equipment) wheel for a lot of super cars and high-end sports cars.

CHOOSING NEW WHEELS

When choosing a new set of wheels, you may want to be aware of these construction processes, not to mention their benefits and costs. But we know that the question, “How do these wheels look on my vehicle?” is one of the most important factors for new rims.

That’s why we have our wheel visualizer. Use it to see what your favorite rims look like on your exact vehicle, including make, model and OE paint color.

When you’re ready to buy your new set of rims, be sure to buy and book online to get a 30% shorter average wait time in-store!

If you have any other questions about all the different types of wheels or how your rims are made, stop by your nearest store or schedule an appointment, and we’ll get you taken care of!

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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