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01 January 1970  |   Views  |  

Alloy wheels are automobile (car, motorcycle and truck) wheels which are made from an alloy of aluminium or magnesium. They are typically lighter for the same strength and provide better heat conduction and improved cosmetic appearance than "normal" wheels. The earliest light alloy wheels made were made of magnesium alloys. Although they lost favor for common vehicles they remained popular through the 1960s albeit in very limited numbers. In the mid to late 1960s aluminium casting refinement finally started to allow manufacture of wheels that were safe. Until this time most aluminium wheels suffered from low ductility, usually ranging from 2-3% elongation. This meant these earlier aluminium alloy wheels were quite brittle, and as light alloy wheels at the time that were often made of magnesium and referred to as "mags" these early wheel failures were later attributed to magnesium's low ductility, when in many instances these wheels were poorly cast aluminium alloy wheels. Once these aluminium casting improvements were more widely adopted, the aluminium wheel took its rightful place as low cost high performance wheels for motorsports.


Forging
Forging can be done by a one or multi-step process forging from various magnesium alloys, most commonly AZ80, ZK60 (MA14 in Russia). Wheels produced by this method are usually of higher toughness and ductility than aluminium wheels, although the costs are much higher.
High pressure die casting (HPDC)

This process uses a die arranged in a large machine that has high closing force to clamp the die closed. The molten magnesium is poured into a filler tube called a shot sleeve. A piston pushes the metal into the die with high speed and pressure, the magnesium solidifies and the die is opened and the wheel is released. Wheels produced by this method can offer reductions in price and improvements in corrosion resistance but they are less ductile and of lower strength due to the nature of HPDC.

Low pressure casting (LPDC)

This process usually employs a steel die, it is arranged above the crucible filled with molten magnesium. Most commonly the crucible is sealed against the die and pressurized air/cover gas mix is used to force the molten metal up a straw like filler tube into the die. When processed using best practice methods LPDC wheels can offer improvements in ductility over HPDC magnesium wheels and any cast aluminium wheels, they remain less ductile than forged magnesium.

Gravity casting (permanent mold and sand casting)

Gravity cast magnesium wheels have been in production since the early 1920s. This method offers wheels with good ductility, and relative properties above what can be made with aluminium casting. Tooling costs for gravity cast wheels are among the cheapest of any process. This has allowed small batch production, flexibility in design and short development time.

Strength

aluminium alloy wheels are generally stronger than steel wheels due the materials used and the procedure by which they are made (often, they are cast). Steel wheels use a stamped wheel center that is usually welded to an outer stamped rim, although some older steel wheels were even riveted together. Steel wheels are more likely to bend if they hit a pot hole or large bump extremely hard. That is one of the many reasons that alloys are used in automobile racing.

Heat

Wheels made from aluminium alloy dissipate heat better then steel wheels. That can result in better braking, and alloy wheels are also less likely to crack than a steel wheel under extreme conditions. Alloys often feature an open-spoke design that allows more air to circulate around the brakes. Steel wheels retain more heat than alloys and can experience tire blowouts more often as a result, although this is not a common occurrence. Alloy wheels can very occasionally suffer from air leaking through the metal it the alloy is porous.

Weight

Usually, alloy wheels are lighter than similarly sized steel wheels, which is one of the reasons for their popularity as an upgrade to a vehicle's performance. Less weight on the suspension results in a more nimble, better handling car or truck. Not all alloy wheels are lighter than steel wheels; if an alloy wheel is considerably larger in diameter or wider than a steel wheel, it may actually weigh more.

Selection

When it comes to alloy wheels, there is a tremendous selection of choices available to consumers. Alloys come in a wide variety of styles, colors, finishes and sizes. There are fitments for practically every car ever made. Choices among steel wheels are not as plentiful and buyers are usually limited in their choices of appearance.

Cost

One of the biggest difference between steel wheels and alloys is the cost. Alloy wheels are generally much more expensive than steel wheels, because of the materials they are made from and the more involved manufacturing process. This is where steel wheels have a big advantage over alloys. The cheaper materials and simpler manufacturing process results in a less expensive product.


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