If you’re in the market for a new set of rims, you may be contemplating the benefits of steel wheels versus alloys. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
ARE STEEL WHEELS BETTER?
- Malleable and resistant to high-impact forces
- Easy to bend, but very hard to crack
- Strong centre
- Can be re-shaped / repaired on a trail or remote area
- Widely available, even in remote regions
- Weak edges in terms of distortion and bending
- High heat-conductivity
- Prone to rust if scratched
- Limited sizes that are specific to off-road use and high-profile tyres
- Slightly heavier
- Harder to balance if distorted
- Limited design styles in terms of customising
ARE ALLOY WHEELS BETTER?
- Are extremely rigid and resistant to mild impact forces
- Are hard to bend or distort
- Have strong edges
- Won’t rust if they have been scratched
- Are better suited to low- or medium-impact forces
- Are easier to balance
- Have a wide range of styles available
- Offer a wide range of sizes for most vehicle types
- Have low heat-conductivity
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- More likely to crack in a severe impact
- Are seldom available in remote regions
- Are difficult (and sometimes impossible) to repair
- Are more costly than steel wheels
- A crack in the bead area will allow air to leak from the tyre
- There is a greater risk of theft
So which is better: Steel or alloy rims?
We tend to think of steel rims as the stronger option, but in some cases, where potential impact forces are low or medium, alloy rims are less likely to distort, and are therefore less likely to cause other problems such as with balancing.
However, if the wheel is exposed to extreme impact forces (particularly if the tyre is flat or significantly deflated), alloy wheels are more likely to crack. Needless to say, a cracked alloy rim is almost impossible to fix on a trail and is likely to leak air. In most cases, the wheel will have to be scrapped.
Get an instant online quote on a wide
range of steel & alloy wheels here
In contrast, steel wheels are far more malleable, which means that they are easier to bend (especially on their edges), but are almost impossible to crack. In other words, most steel wheels can be knocked back into shape with a hammer in emergency situations, and it is very unlikely that a steel wheel will ever leave you stranded.
As far as other damages go, such as rock rash, etc., a steel wheel will obviously rust if badly scratched. However, in most cases, the corrosion is surface-bound and easy to brush off and repair. Of course, alloy wheels won’t rust if scratched, but because they tend to cost more, it’s often harder to face any damage to the rim.
Typically speaking, steel wheels tend to weigh more than equally-sized alloy rims, but the differences are often marginal, and the impact on fuel consumption is far more likely to be affected by your tyre choice, particularly if the tyre’s carcass is a Light Truck variant, as opposed to a P-Metric alternative.
In many ways, debating ‘steel versus alloy’ is encapsulated in the Chinese proverb, “The green reed which bends in the wind, is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in the storm.” So, the question of which is best depends on the storms (i.e. trails) you hope to chase.
On that note, another equally important question is, ‘Are all steel wheels equal in strength?’ The answer to this may surprise you… But more on that later.