Whether you call them wheels or rims, they are nonetheless incredibly important. There are many types of rims that you can purchase, and since they are where the rubber does indeed hit the road, it’s a purchase that should best be made carefully.
So, you’re looking for a new set of rims. The two first questions that you should consider are how much you are willing to spend, and what type of driving you’ll be doing. The standard, and least expensive, option is steel wheels. Steel wheels are the wonderbread of rims. They are cheap, functional, and ultimately forgettable. Steel wheels, called steelies for short, don’t have much to say for themselves besides they work. If you need a set of wheels that simply work and are light on your wallet, then they’re your option. However, with their cheapness comes several problems.
Steel wheels are heavy. Steel, for how strong it is, is not a light metal, and having to lug them around will put a toll on your car’s handling, fuel economy, and speed. Additionally, steel rims don’t dissipate heat all too well, potentially injuring your brakes.
If you want more out of your rims, alloy wheels are your best bet. There are several types of alloys, some with more merits than others. The simple fact that a wheel is some sort of alloy does imply that it will outperform steel wheels in some form or another. Compared to their steel counterparts, alloy wheels are lighter. Aluminum, the base of many of these alloys, is a considerably lighter metal, and the additional metals that it is alloyed with, which can be nickel, titanium, or magnesium to name a few, are added to strengthen it. Besides their lighter weight, alloy wheels also transfer heat more efficiently than steel rims do. This means they can take a heavier braking load without warping or damaging the brakes.
One of the potential issues with alloy wheels is how they deal with wear and tear. While they are tougher than steel wheels, they are still not impervious. Part of the issue here is that when confronted with a force strong enough to damage the wheel, alloy wheels are more liable to crack or fracture. Steel, on the other hand, is more likely to simply bend, allowing for easier repairs.
Forged vs Cast Wheels
While the following does apply to all types of wheels, you are more likely than not to see these terms in reference to alloy rims. There are a few common ways in which wheels are made. There are forged wheels and cast. Forged wheels are made from hot pieces of metal that are milled into the final shape of the wheel. The other form of wheel production is casting, which is how most people assume wheels are made. Cast wheels are made from liquid metal being poured, or in some cases forced, into a mold. Compared to forged wheels, cast wheels are significantly easier to make, but that also entails both a change in price and quality. Forged wheels are stronger and lighter than cast wheels, but they also tend to have a higher price tag.
Calling wheels chrome is a bit of a misnomer. Rather than being entirely composed of chrome, the surface of the wheel is instead lightly coated in chrome. That makes sense since chrome isn’t necessarily the cheapest material. There aren’t any performance benefits of chrome rims to speak of. Chrome wheels basically operate like a coat of primer on your wheel, preventing oxidation. In this case, chrome wheels are a good option if you are looking to squeeze the most out of your wheel investment as possible.
Spinners and Floaters
Any article about types of wheels would be severely lacking if they omitted these. While these have subsided substantially in popularity since they have become illegal in several states, they are still near and dear to many people’s hearts. As it would seem, these wheels are purely for appearance, not offering any added strength or durability. Additionally, the spinning element will only add extra weight to the wheel. Sure, it does miss the point to analyze the performance ramifications of spinning or floating rims.
Additionally, it’s possible to make wheels out of carbon fiber. Not only do carbon fiber wheels come stock on the GT350R, but more performance vehicles are getting carbon fiber option packages.