Real Steel or His Flashy Brother, Alloy—Talking Wheels with RNR

I know in the past, you girls have written to me wondering what the deal is with custom wheels.  Most of the time, you just don’t get it—and that’s okay; but more and more, we find all kinds of people looking to spiff up their rides with some nice wheels.  If you’re new to this world or you’re thinking it might be fun to (as one friend put it) “decorate” your car, there are some basics you should know.  We discussed some of these briefly in a blog a while back, but what we didn’t discuss specifically was maintenance—and I know you all want to know what it’s going to take to keep things looking their best.  For the same reason you want to know if that dress is “dry clean only” before you buy it, you want to know what it’s going to take to keep your new wheels looking new, right?

So, here’s the skinny on custom wheels.  There are basically two kinds of wheels you’re talking about: alloy (or aluminum/nickel) and steel.  If you’re looking for the pretty, you’ll probably want to go with an alloy wheel, but if you’re treating your wheels like workhorses, then steel’s probably your best bet.  I can almost hear you asking why, so I’ll tell you.

There’s a lot more variety in style when it comes to alloy wheels because they can be cast.  Aluminum is a softer metal then steel, so it’s easier to work with, to shape, to design; but it’s this same positive that can, at times, be its negative.  Because alloy is a softer metal than steel, it also bends more easily under impact and can even crack when bent too far.  The cracking depends on the ratio of aluminum to nickel; more nickel makes the wheel heavier and more brittle, less makes the wheel lighter and more able to bend.  Being lighter is another plus on the alloy side.  Lighter wheels mean better acceleration and more dexterity when driving.  Alloy wheels can also have a variety of finishes like polished, painted, machined, or chromed, but they are also susceptible to cosmetic damage like corrosion from salt water and acid cleaners, and scrapes.  So, you get a lot more variety and a lot of ways to “style” your ride, but with that variety comes wheels that are more susceptible to damage than a harder metal like steel.  That means the possibility of replacing them because of damage is higher than with steel wheels.

If you want to keep your alloy wheels looking pretty and new, you’ll have to put a little elbow grease into them as well.  The biggest, everyday problem so far as keeping your wheels clean is dealing with brake dust, which can be corrosive.  Check out this previous blog for some cleaning tips!  But if you live near the ocean, you’ll also have to deal with corrosion from the salty ocean air.  Chances are that if you’re willing to put the money into outfitting your car or truck with custom wheels, then you’re willing to put the time in to maintain the appearance of your vehicle as well.  If not, how important is it to you, really?

Your other option for wheels are steel wheels.  They’re sturdy and durable but they’re also heavy and lack the “bling” factor of their alloy brothers.  If you’re looking at new wheels for high performance or cosmetic reasons, steel’s not for you.  They make a vehicle feel heavier and take a nibble out of the car’s acceleration and agility, but there are some situations that might make this a positive, like driving in snow.

Steel can also take a beating, generally without cracking or showing much damage, so if you don’t do maintenance, they could be a better bet.  Most cars these days come with alloy wheels because they look and handle better, but you can always make a change. If you need or want a second set of wheels because you live in the frozen North and you want to keep your “summer wheels” pretty, steel might be a good alternative.  They’re much less expensive (ideal for a second set) and can hold up to the beating winter can give.

If you’re thinking about dressing up your ride with some custom wheels, girls, do a little research.  Just like a new pair of boots, you have to find out how to take care of them, how to keep them looking new; and you have to know where you’re going to be wearing them.  You wouldn’t wear knee high boots with a stacked heel to go hiking right?  Same with your wheels—get the look you want but make sure it also fits your lifestyle.  Come see us at RNR for style tips and to learn more about the specifics of the look you’re going for—we know what we’re talking about.;)  Talk to you soon!

Bree