Alloy wheels are not just about good looks CSIRO

Got yourself a cool set of wheels? One of the first upgrades should be getting alloy wheel rims if the car is factory-fitted with steel ones.

The first obvious advantage of getting alloy wheels fitted is the look. Your car will look way cooler with these. 

However, there are more advantages with getting alloy wheels than just good looks. The performance and handling of the car will improve.

They were initially made with magnesium alloys. But with improvement in aluminium alloy technology, this became the preferred metal to produce alloy wheels, or alloys as they are popularly called. The high performance of aluminium alloy wheel rims has seen them being extensively used in motorsport.

This low weight will obviously make the steering lighter and easier to handle. This is because the unsprung mass is reduced. Unsprung mass is how much the suspension and wheels weigh. Reducing unsprung mass also makes the shock absorber work less. Additionally, there is better performance while cornering the car. These factors make the drive more comfortable and tyre wear is also reduced. Better ride quality is also likely to improve the fuel efficiency, albeit little.

The second big advantage is improved braking performance. Alloy wheels do not cover the brake discs and drums fully like steel rims do. This allows for better ventilation and the brakes will cool down faster. Cooler brakes will naturally improve braking performance.

Steel will rust and the problem is very likely to be worse in humid or coastal cities. Rusting is not a problem with alloys because they are made of magnesium, aluminium or nickel or a combination of these metals. Alloys might be prone to a bit of corrosion due to oxidation but proper care can ensure that there is no corrosion.

All this comes at a cost. A set of four 15 inch alloy wheels will cost nothing less than Rs 20,000. The upper limit can be a lot depending on the brand, quality and design.

Some brands available in India are Neo, Aura and Plati. Imported high performance alloys from Momo, OZ Racing, BBS, Sparco and the like are available but will be terribly expensive. These brands are often used in motorsport.

There are disadvantages with alloys too. If they are damaged in an impact, there is not much that can be done to repair them. Steel wheels can be hammered back into shape if they are damaged.

Alloys are more prone to theft and there is more danger of this happening if cars are parked on the street at night. Locking nuts, which can be removed only with a special key, can be a deterrent but there is no real guarantee of safety.

It is about looks for most car owners who want to change replace steel rims with alloys. There will definitely be an improvement in performance with alloys. One needs to weigh the pros and cons before investing in them.

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Alloy wheels are not just about good looks


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