We know that having alloy wheels brings a little bit of added class to the appearance of your car – it’s generally accepted that they represent an improvement on the more standard steel and hub cap variety of wheel.
But, what exactly is an alloy wheel?
Well, let’s first take a look at what we mean by alloy.
If you can remember your science lessons in school you may recall learning about alloys with regard to different metal materials.
Essentially, an alloy is created when you melt together a minimum of two different metals for the purpose of creating a material that will be robust enough to withstand the strains of operating a car.
This is done to create a material which will be more versatile and durable than its constituent parts. For example, the BRASS which we use for door hinges or electrical plugs is an alloy created from a mixture of copper and zinc.
So what are Alloy Wheels Made From?
What Makes Them the Wheel of Choice?
From a practical point of view, the alloy wheel has a number of advantages over its steel counterpart.
Steel wheels are, as a rule, a lot heavier than the more lightweight alloys putting a greater strain on the suspension of the car and are more prone to rust. The fact that Alloy wheels are generally much lighter means that they produce less un-sprung mass (the mass on the suspension) on the car which means the suspension has less strain. This can allow for better grip on the road surface which can improve the handling, responsiveness and braking capabilities of the car.
Another aspect of reducing the overall mass of the car is that it can sometimes provide benefits when it comes to fuel consumption, with the engine needing to expend less energy.
For all of these potential practical benefits however, the overriding reason why alloys find favour in the market, is for their cosmetic appeal.
With smooth, metallic finishes, made all the more aesthetically pleasing through powders and paints, alloy wheels tend to provide a sleek, more stylish appearance versus a more traditional steel wheel and hubcap combination.
Being generally more robust and harder wearing, this improvement in appearance can be maintained to continue to look good on your car for years, whilst steel wheels do have a tendency to rust more readily over time.
A Brief History of the Alloy
We do tend to think of alloys as something of a feature of the modern car, coming into vogue from the late 1980s onwards. However, these types of wheels have in fact been around for nigh on 90 years, with the first alloys appearing back in the 1920s, featuring first on the Bugati Type 35 in 1924.
Throughout the years the alloy wheel has been synonymous with the more upscale end of the car market, becoming standard issue on the high-end car brands from Jaguar and Porsche to Cadillac, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz.
These days we tend to find that more and more new cars coming off the production line come with some form of alloy wheel.