Alloy vs Steel wheels

We’re in the market for a new car and finding that most now have alloy wheels. We’ve only had steel wheels in the past. There’s no doubt that alloys look better than steel but do they have other advantages/disadvantages compared to steel? There are a lot of alloy wheel repairers advertising their services which seems to indicate that repairs are commonly needed. Are problems likely if we occasionally hit the kerb? Or sometimes travel on rutted gravel roads? Hopefully some of the car experts on here can provide some advice. Thanks.

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Cosmetic damage no…just doesn’t look nice and no different to scuffing a steel rim or hubcap.

Like steel, if the damage is more than cosmetic, they need to be replaced.

Depending on the design, alloy should be stronger and are usually one piece of metal…rather than 2 for most steel rims.

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Alloy wheels are generally lighter, and as unsprung weight in your suspension system, they will allow the suspension to perform more effectively. Less inertia due to lower mass, means they can better follow the road surface.
It’s best not to hit the kerb with any wheels! steel will bend and alloy will generally crack, given a hard enough impact.
In over 45 years of driving, I’ve never had any issues with alloy wheels, but have had flat spots on steel rims after hitting large potholes.

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Another advantage of alloys is if you live near the coast…or drive a vehicle where contact with salt water is likely (beach driving, boat ramps), is they don’t corrode/rust like steel.

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I have a vague memory when buying a car to tow, that alloys don’t allow as great a tow rating (or maybe it was just the specific cars that had them had lower tow ratings - not sure)

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They are most likely just repairing cosmetic damage such as scratches and burrs.

I doubt that they would try to weld cracks or fractures, which would probably be illegal anyway.

I have also heard recommendations not to buy wheels from wrecked vehicles as any damage may not be visible.

A former used car dealer in Cairns specialised in 'grey" imports from Japan and all vehicles had their wheels replaced with new alloy wheels as the original Japanese ones had not been approved under ADR’S.

A fortnight ago, we were having lunch at a clubhouse beside a busy arterial road and I noted just how many passing vehicles had alloy wheels. It was more than 90%.

Steel rims are generally only fitted to base models whilst the fancier models generally have alloy wheels and may have more powerful engines.

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A damaged alloy (esp in the wrong terrain) can crack resulting in catastrophic failure. An impact that bends a steel wheel can sometimes be remedied with a suitably weighty hammer and strong arm, good enough to hold air and get to ‘the shop’. Those who traverse such areas might have such a hammer in their kit.

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The Ford 1 tonne utes were supplied with optional allow rims and Light Truck (LC) rated tyres. Plenty of first hand experience without issues.

On dirt and rough country roads. I’d be more concerned with stone chips and damage to expensive head or fog lights, bonnet, windscreen, air con condensing coil, or underbody. Sheep, cow, roo or other animal risks are also in play. I’ve suffered damage from most of these, but never to an alloy or steel rim.

Note:
It’s important to ensure any after market alloys and tyres are rated according to the vehicles load specification in the hand book. It’s not unknown to find alloy rims and tyres suitable only for lighter duty a car fitted to a commercial rated Van or Ute.

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If one has split steel rims, there is possibly one major advantage over standard steel/alloy rims…that being one may be able to change a tyre or repair a puncture on route rather than having to carry spare rims with tyres mounted. The weight saving is considerable. They are practicable if one spend most of their time in remote areas away from a tyre fitter and can be a life saver if one is in an area where tyre damage from the terrain causes a number of punctures or makes the tyre irreparable.

This website, while is a tyre and rim seller, has some useful information about differences between alloy and steel rims. Much of which has also been covered above:

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For a passenger car, steel wheels are just ugly. They are usually covered up with flimsy covers that get scraped, bent, or just fly off when you are driving along.
The original post was about a car, so for cars I wouldn’t even consider steel wheels, unless you enjoy getting replacement covers. Or like the taxi look.

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But you do pay for beauty.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

US$30M for this taxi.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/photo-essays/2018-02-08/a-30-million-bugatti-is-named-best-of-the-best-vintage-car

Some other type 57SC Atlantics.
Steel rims as an optional - Rudge Witworth wires with centre lock spinner.

https://www.supercars.net/blog/1936-bugatti-type-57sc-atlantic/

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I read an article some months ago regarding a Frenchman who had one stored in his garage during WWII and he had been smart enought to remove the wheels.

When the nazis wanted to steal it, they gave up when they could not move it.

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Ah but steel wire wheels are something else again. Had them on my MGB.

For most cars an alloy rim is unlikely to be scraped unless you’re running very low profile tyres. I have a 12 year old HSV with 20" rims all round, running standard very low profile tyres eg. 275/30/20 rears. The low profile means the rubber doesn’t “bulge out” enough to protect the edge of the rim. Also, most people with such cars are anal about keeping everything looking schmick so have such scrapes repaired quickly. For most non performance oriented cars the tyre profile is such that it’s unlikely they’d be scraped - unless you’re a terrible driver. :slightly_smiling_face:

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This California USA tire sales site gives a topical comparison of alloys vs steel. The bits about snow and ice and deicers, salt on roads and similar is more foreign to our climates than just the web site, but it could be interesting to some.

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My wife would agree! She drove into the Aldi outdoor car park at Toronto and followed the left turn arrow,as you do. My car mounted the narrow curb (separating the entry from the adjacent parking spaces which were empty) and the left front wheel then fell off the other side, the chassis dropping onto the concrete curb with a loud ‘crunch’. I think I let out an expletive. But in her defense, on looking at it later there had been a metal post near the end of the curb, broken off at its base at some stage in the past, and there were numerous scrape marks on the curb… The curb was very difficult to see from the driver’s perspective. The NRMA patrolman checked the car and no damage was found. He said he had attended several cars with damaged wheels from that same spot in the recent past. (I do intend to getting around to contacting Aldi, and may ask for compensation for the fuller check from our dealer service after we drove a few hundred kms home.)

Could this sort of incident cause a tiny crack in the alloy that might cause failure at a later date?

If alloys are lighter than steel, a plus would be more manageable wheel changes at the side of the road, as well as checking a full sized spare wheel’s tyre pressure. Although for the last 12 years, I have used an extension tube screwed onto the spare and poked through the wheel. No more lifting up the spare wheel to get at the tyre valve for me. I don’t know why car makers don’t include one in new cars - so much simpler. They would only cost them $10 or less. I found mine at truck/farm-type parts store in a regional town. They might be hard to source in big cities.

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Good luck. I suspect Aldi will refuse the request unless you can prove the driveway/kerbing was defective in some way or didn’t meet design requirements for carparks/vehicle movements. This would mean you would possibly need to engage a traffic engineer to inspect the area in question and provide advice if there is an issue (you would be responsible for the cost of this). If there is an issue, Aldi may not be the right party to claim compensation from, it could be the property owner if this is different to Aldi.

If the traffic engineer says that there are no major issues with the driveway/kerbing, Aldi/property owner aren’t responsible for drivers accidentally hitting kerbing. Otherwise councils/state government would be responsible every time someone hit the kerb irrespective of why the kerbing was hit.

Like any metal, a fine crack could progess into something more catastrophic if repeated energy or a single high energy even occurs in the future. This could be another impact which otherwise would not normally caused any damage, repeated small energy events such as bumps or knocks, rapid change in temperature from braking or weather, change in air pressure from heating/cooling or inflating etc.

A hairline crack is unlikely to be able to be seen without forensic examination, such as that used in the aircraft industry.

If a rim has been subject to a significant impact like that when a car is t-boned, one should potentially consider having the rims replaced even if, from the impact, they don’t look too bad.

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The answer is - if you suspect a rim has received a potentially damaging impact - get it checked by a reliable tyre shop or service centre. Especially if there are is any evidence of deformation or vibration from a change in balance. For those with motoring club or other roadside assistance it may be worth a call in those instances, if only to get a second opinion, and if needed the wheel changed for the spare.

There is plenty of arm chair advice and enough anecdotal stories on the web to answer the question either way. Best ignored, no two instances are assured of being the same, or the advice reliable.

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In theory yes. If there is no visible damage you are probably OK but the only way to be 100% sure is to have a dye check. A wheel shop can have a look and would be ‘the standard’ but there are equally effective DIY methods if one is willing to clean it up, possibly remove the tyre, and pay for the dye product. Dye products are available from a number of local distributors.

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