I live in an area where lots of salt is used on roads in the winter. Also I like to keep my cars for a long time (my current car is old enough to legally drink the ethanol that is mixed with the gas I feed it). I read somewhere on line that alloy wheels don’t hold up as well as steel under these kind of conditions. Any thoughts on alloy vs. steel wheels? Thanks.
Alloy wheels can corrode over time, causing a leak at the bead (which happened to me once). They’re also easier to crack when hitting a bad pothole. On the other hand, they do look nicer, so I don’t mind having them, personally.
Both steel and alloy wheels have a protective coating, paint, on them. If the coating is compromised, then either will corrode.
Alloy wheels have a reputation for being easier to crack, but alloy wheels are more often used with very low profile tires. The low profile tires do not offer as much protection for the wheels as higher profile tires, so it makes since that you would see more alloy wheels damaged than steel wheels.
Whether the alloy is more prone to cracking has a lot to do with the alloy itself. Some alloys are very brittle, some are very malleable. Unfortunately the more malleable alloys are generally too soft.
Wheel manufacturers don’t usually give you the alloy number for their product so it can be hard to judge. The Alcoa 356.2 alloy would be a good choice if heat treated properly. It has a rockwell hardness of 105, yet is very difficult to crack.
Of all the vehicles that i have owned,alloy’s are the worse. My two yr.old Honda Accord’s “beautiful” 17" alloy’s are pitted,scratched,and leak air.
Give me Steel wheels every time
Steel wheels are in many ways preferable: cheaper, tougher, usually lighter, less prone to leakage, and when they or their plastic wheel covers become unsightly, a new set of covers for $20 spiffs them back up.
I see alloy wheels as a disadvantage, based on what I have heard about them from friends, parts men, in books and on line. So far I have avoided owning them.
If alloy wheels are pitted, it’s because they aren’t being cleaned properly.
When alloy wheels fiirst became commonplace there were manufacturers that produced OEM wheels that were very prone to corrosion and even had inclusions and occlusion that tended to leak as the coatings and alloys broke down. Ford in particular had the problem with the wheels that had on the old Taurus/Sable cars. But it’s been some years since I’ve seen that happen. Wheel manufacturers seem to have solved that problem.
Ally wheels are, however, significantly more subject to physical damage. Steel wheels are stronger in all respects physically.
You generally will find that the alloy wheels come in two lines. Most are designed for general driving. The cost is not too high and they look good (At least most people like them) They vary in strength from a little stronger than steel to those which are weaker than steel.
I stick with steel wheels and some nice wheel covers. (about $15.00 each). Generally steel wheels have fewer problems, but not a big difference.
The major weakness of alloy (aluminum scrap) wheels are the valve stem holes…Here is where salt can penetrate unseen and destroy the ability of the rubber stems to seal the opening…Sometimes they can be salvaged by drilling out the damaged hole and installing the next larger stem size, or the hole welded closed, then re-drilled to the original size…The effort taken depends on the value of the wheel…