Steel Wheels Vs Alloy Wheels

Wheel is considered to be the greatest invention in human life and they are the main source of moving for vehicles from one place to another. A wheel is made up of a rim and a tire which rotates by an axle to move the vehicle forward or backward. Whether it is a new vehicle purchase or customizing the old one, deciding the type of wheel is very confusing as both steel and alloy types has its own advantage. Wheels not only contribute to the look and style of your vehicle but also effects the quality of ride, breaking and even fuel efficiency.

Previously most of the manufacturers included steel wheels to their vehicles, because of the inexpensive nature of steel over alloy. But today, many of the entry to mid level cars are coming with alloy wheels as standard option even though they are expensive. To have a better understanding on wheels, in this article we are going to discuss some significant differences between steel and alloy wheels.

Steel wheels

Until 90s, steel wheels were more popular in small and medium level car segments. Even today steel wheels have definite benefits and they are still part of standard equipment on some basic economic models of passenger vehicles!


  • Durability: Durability of steel wheels is more, as they are heavier with high ultimate stress value. They are usually stronger and can bear larger load. Durability of steel wheels is one of the reason that they are still used in heavy vehicles like trucks.
  • Traction: Due to more weight of steel, tire of the car has greater traction. Steel tires are best suitable for off road applications or sporty applications.
  • Repair or replacement: Steel wheels have very less possibility of getting into a repair or replacement. In case if they need a repair, it is easy to fix the bent when compared to alloy wheels.
  • Cost: Steel wheels are less expensive as the cost of manufacturing is almost half times that of an alloy wheel.
    Driving in winters: Steel wheels are much safer to drive in winters as they are more heavier, have less response to acceleration and easily cuts the snow and ice clusters.

Because of the heavy weight, steel wheels reduce the driving performance and overall fuel economy of the vehicle.
Though steel wheels are tough and can resist more amounts of loads, they rust easily when exposed to moisture and give an ugly look. To avoid rusting it is good to paint the wheels with an epoxy paint.

Alloy wheels

Alloy wheels are generally made of Aluminum/Nickel alloy, which are 15-20% less weight than steel wheels. They offer high performance benefits with added advantages of durability, strength and appearance.


  • Weight: Alloy wheels are several pounds lighter than steel wheels and hence they result in quicker acceleration and better fuel economy.
  • Customization: Alloy wheels can be easily customized, different designs of alloy wheels can be made to meet the requirement of the customer.
  • Dissipation of heat: As alloy wheels have less weight they give less strain on suspension components. In extreme driving conditions, these wheels have better capacity to dissipate heat away from break components than their steel counterparts.

Aluminum used in alloy wheels can withstand less stress and this causes wheels to bend or crack easily. They are more vulnerable to damages under heavy road impacts.

Metals used in manufacturing alloys wheels, aluminum and nickel have a higher price than steel. So ultimately the cost of alloy wheels are higher than that of the steel wheels.

What you need to know before upgrading to alloy wheels?

Many people opt for alloy wheels either to enhance the appearance of their vehicle or make it less weight for better performance. However, before upgrading to alloy wheels, there are some important elements that are important to consider –

  • Size of the alloy wheels:
    When choosing an alloy wheel, size of the wheel definitely matters because getting the right fit for the tyre is very much important. Generally, many entry to mid sized cars use 15” to 17” diameter, but again it depends on the model and the accuracy of the fitting. Most of the alloy wheels are customized based on the mechanical factors such as PCD (Pitch circle diameter), offset, rim width and wheel diameter. It is not a good idea to change the overall diameter of the tyre and alloy combination as this will impact on the odometer readings and affect the car handling adversely. Hence, when up-sizing the tyres or replacing the rims with the new one, it is better to check with the service center to see if they are compatible.
  • Weight of the alloy wheels:
    Light weight alloys improve the car handling and increase the speed but some of the drivers feel uncomfortable to drive in snow or icy conditions because of their quicker acceleration. While choosing the weight of the alloy, you should also consider the proportion of the weight of the tyre, because the combination of heavy rim and tyre is going to slow down the vehicle. So, work out all the possibilities and understand the purpose, before investing huge amount of money on alloy wheels.
  • After market part or brand new?
    Brand new alloys wheels are expensive when compared to aftermarket parts that are made by the private automobile manufacturers. In India, we can get aftermarket alloy wheels for as low as Rs 2000, which has no guarantee for quality and durability. So if you have decided to invest money on alloy wheels, make sure you are  making a wise purchase on a genuine brand.
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