Wheels are car, motorcycle and truck wheels which are made from an
alloy of aluminum or magnesium metals or sometimes a mixture of both.
Alloy wheels differ from normal steel wheels because
of their lighter weight, which improves the steering and the speed
of the car, however some alloy wheels are heavier than the equivalent
size steel wheel.
Alloy wheels are also better heat conductors than steel
wheels, improving heat dissipation from the brakes, which reduces
the chance of brake failure in more demanding driving conditions.
Alloy wheels are prone to galvanic corrosion if appropriate
preventive measures are not taken, which can in turn cause the tires
to leak air. Also, alloy wheels are more difficult to repair than
steel wheels when bent, but their higher price usually makes repairs
cheaper than replacement and even severely damaged wheels can often
be repaired to like new, though this depends on how badly the owner
wishes to salvage the wheel and its intrinsic worth or availability.
For passenger vehicles, alloy wheels are not only for
improved driving performance, they are also for cosmetic purposes.
The wheel itself is shiny and/or has an intricate design, so there
is no need for paint or wheel covers. By contrast, steel wheels either
have to be painted steel rims with a chromed wheel nut, or be hidden
with plastic wheel covers.
Alloy wheels are more expensive to produce than standard
steel wheels, and thus are not included as standard equipment on base
models of many non-luxury vehicles, instead being marketed as optional
add-ons or as part of a more expensive trim.
However, alloy wheels have become considerably more
common since the 2000s, now being offered on economy and subcompact
cars, compared to a decade ago where alloy wheels were often not factory
options on inexpensive vehicles.
Alloy wheels have long been included as standard equipment
on higher-priced luxury or sports cars, with larger-sized or "exclusive"
alloy wheels being options.
The high cost of alloy wheels have made them attractive to thieves;
to counter this, automakers and dealers have issued wheel locks where
one of the wheel nuts require a special key to remove.
A big advantage of alloy wheels is that balancing them
is easy. The balancing weights are attached in the centre unlike steel
wheels where they are attached at the edge of the rim. Thus wheel
balance is not disturbed by tire removal, etc.
There are different types of alloy wheels. Some are
cast, which are the most commonly seen on the road, while others are
forged. Forged wheels are lighter and stronger, yet much more expensive
than cast. Forged wheels are typically purchased by enthusiasts, luxury/sport
vehicle owners, or the affluent.
A sizeable selection (sometimes called "mags”)
are available to automobile owners who want lighter, prettier, rarer,
and/or larger wheels on their cars, in order to increase performance,
manipulate handling and suspension, and/or signify luxury, sportiness,
or wealth. These wheels have become a part of pop culture.