Choosing a Style of Alloy Wheel

By: Adrian Ripp

When someone decides to purchase a set of alloy wheels for their vehicle it is generally for two particular reasons.

First of all, because alloy wheels are lighter than the traditional steel wheel, they reduce the ’unsprung weight’ of the wheel. This is the weight of the wheel, tyre, brake (if mounted within the tyre), spindles, bearings and a portion of the half shafts, springs and suspension links. By reducing this weight things like acceleration, braking and fuel economy can be improved.

But by far and away the main reason that people choose to upgrade their wheels, is because they look so much better than a steel wheel, even if it has a fancy hub cap on it.

There are some technical issues that need to be considered when buying new wheels. These include the pitch circle diameter, number of bolts, offset, spigot size and the overall width of wheel and tyre together. So you may find that you options are limited to certain styles and sizes straight away.

What follows is by no means a definitive guide to what you should and should not go for, but it is based on what is generally popular to go for based on your type of vehicle.

The most popular styles of alloy wheels are the five and six spoke designs and are probably the most common style you will see when browsing for wheels. They are very versatile and can suit almost any type of vehicle, but it is probably best to select wider styled spokes on a wheel with a larger diameter. And it’s probably a good idea to go for a smoother, more rounded design on your standard family saloon, because the fancier patterns can look a little over the top on these types of vehicle.

If you have a larger, sports or executive vehicle, you might like to consider a twin of multi-spoke design. These sorts of vehicles have a lot more character and are able to take these types of wheels without having their look dominated by them.

Other styles are available, including ones that have the bolts exposed, these are usually multi-spoke wheels and can look like they came from a rally car. In the past there have even been three spoke alloy wheels, but these are few and far between and are probably best left in the past along with mullet haircuts and platform shoes.

You will also need to make a decision on the type of finish you want. Alloy wheels come in four main finishes or coatings:

1. PAINT is most commonly used when coating alloy wheels. It usually consists of three layers. The first layer is a primer coat to cover the bare base metal of the alloy. The primer also provides a perfect layer for the second layer of base or colour coat. The third layer consists of a clear coat or lacquer, for shine and protection, over the whole wheel.

The three combined layers provide a tough finish to alloy wheels. They can be then used the whole year round no matter weather conditions. Of course, alloy wheels with this finish still need to be cared for but can have longer periods between cleaning.

Painted alloy wheels can come in any colours. The main colours are silver, white, gold and anthracite grey.

2. STAINLESS STEEL is sometimes now used to coat the outer lip on alloy wheels. Stainless Steel is stronger than alloy which means that the outer lip is tougher and can with stand more abuse than normal alloy. The Stainless Steel also keeps its shine longer and can be cleaned more easily.

3. CHROME tends to be cheaper, and offers a brighter shine.

Another consideration is whether the brakes are going to be visible. The less spokes there are, or the thinner they are, the more you are going to able to see the brakes behind the wheel. If you have a nice set of sports brakes, this may even be a desirable situation, however if your brakes are a bit old and worn out, you might want to consider upgrading them at the same time.

Ultimately the decision is yours what style you go for, but if you put a set of 3 spoke wheels on your Jag, don’t expect me to get in your car!

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