The Skinny on Alloy Wheels

by : Darren Faulder

We frequently see and hear car advertisements boasting all sorts of fancy features - a major one being alloy wheels. But what exactly are they and how do they differ from "normal" wheels? Alloy wheels are made from aluminium or magnesium (also referred to as "mags" or mag wheels) and sometimes a mixture of the two, while regular or standard wheels are made of steel.

The main performance difference between the two is that alloy wheels are a lot lighter than standard steel wheels, thus, giving the car with alloy wheels smoother and more controllable steering and braking. Other performance benefits include alloy wheel's ability to conduct heat better than steel wheels, which can lower the risk of brake failure. Alloys are also widely considered to be much better looking than steel wheels.

Alloy wheels are staple inclusions in most upmarket car brands; however, they are not a common feature on many others. To buy a set of alloy wheels can be expensive, especially when compared to the much lower price of steel wheels. There is no real price range as cost is dependent on the vehicle brand, model, wheel size and quality. Purchasing a second hand set is an alternative if you don't want to pay full price. Depending on the size of your alloy wheels, you may need to purchase new tyres. However, if they are the correct size there shouldn't be any need to.

To keep your alloy wheels in good condition and to maximise their lifespan, constant maintenance is required. An accumulation of dirt and dust from the road can make alloys prone to galvanic corrosion, so regular cleaning is a must if you want them to remain intact.

Maintaining your alloy wheels
&bullBefore fitting your alloys, coat them with a few protective layers of car polish.
&bullWash your wheels regularly with soap, warm water and a soft sponge. Anything harsher, such as buffers or heavy duty acidic cleaners could damage the surface.
&bullAlways rinse your alloys with clean water and low pressure.
&bullAvoid taking your vehicle to a car wash. If it must be done, make sure you warn the staff not to use any abrasive cleaners. Also let them know that they should only use a soft cloth or sponge when wiping the wheels down.

Popular alloy wheel brands operating within Australia include Advanti Wheels, CSA Wheels, Enkei Wheels, Mangels Wheels, Petrol Wheels, Prestige Wheels, Prodrive Wheels, ROH Wheels and Speedy Wheels amongst others.