Steel vs alloy wheel weight

I’ve always heard that alloy wheels are lighter, but I note that the Ford Fiesta with the 1.0 liter 3-cylinder engine only comes with steel wheels. Seems like the alloys would be lighter and provide better mileage (one of the main points of the small engine). Then I ran across an article comparing steel with alloy wheels in (I think) Car & Driver. The alloys (with tires) were actually heavier, but they only came in larger size wheels. In their test, the steel wheels gave better mileage. For the same size wheel, which is lighter? I’m beginning to think that steel wheels are better (ignoring appearance). Especially since I once dented a couple of alloy wheels on an Audi when I hit a pot hole.

I wondered about that for years, until last year someone here posted a link to a comparison that showed alloy wheels to be heavier. I suspect that high-end cars use alloys (like magnesium, from where the term “mag wheels” actually originated) and designs that are lighter than steel wheels of the same size would be, but the link convinced me that the alloy wheels on any car I could afford would be heavier.

Technically, steel wheels have advantages over mag wheels. But alloy wheels look classier. Ah, sweet vanity!

Just my 2 cents, but I also think that steel wheels are easier to balance and hold their balance better than alloys.

Depends on the wheel,check Tire Rack or any site that lists the weights of wheels,the alloy wheels that would fit my Dakota are about 9# lighter then the steel wheels they list dont know what the heavy duty stock steel wheels weigh,keep in mind light weight steel wheels are availible also-Kevin

They engineer the rest of the cars components based on the weight of the wheel. The braking system, suspension system, and overall handling is engineered with that wheel weight in mind. Changing that can effect the rest.

Are you certain the Fiesta has steel wheels? I was fooled once by a Honda CRX with what looked like steel, but were actually aluminum.

Today’s steel rims have a lot of ventilation holes in the design. That makes them lighter.

Texases, according to Ford’s web site, the Fiesta with the 3-cylinder engine has steel wheels. That’s what raised this question for me. While “building” the car, I selected the 3-cylinder option, and they replaced the aluminum wheels with steel ones. After decades of hearing that aluminum wheels are lighter and more fuel efficient, I wondered why they would do that, so I began questioning this “common wisdom.”

Fender1325, when the factory offers different wheel options, one would hope that the wheel designs keep the weights very close. But I’m not willing to bet any money on this.

As the_same_mountainbike points out, vanity counts for a lot, which also makes them less attractive to thieves.There seems to be lots of reasons for favoring steel wheels.

BTW, my main interest is in the 2015 Focus with the 3-cylinder engine. I’ve read that it doesn’t save a lot of gas, but I think the engineering is super cool. In the late 1960s I drove a 1965 SAAB that had a 3-cylinder, two-stroke engine.

Here is an interesting comparison of steel vs alloy wheels: This test is comparing larger alloy wheels with smaller steel ones, but that is common when one chooses a wheel “upgrade” when buying a new car. From C&D’s test results, I’m not convinced that the wheel “upgrade” is anything more than vanity (and more money being moved from my pockets to the manufacturer’s).

They might not be lighter, but they’re stiffer, and generally run lower-profile, stiffer tires…a performance upgrade, if not a fuel economy one.

OTOH, there’s this trend of buying old Monte Carlos, Caprices, and similar Mullet-Mobiles and putting like 28" rims on 'em. Call 'em “donks.” Dunno what that’s all about…

@meanjoe75fan, The term “Donks” comes from the favorite car of the culture that created it. Urban youth (da boyz frum da hood) would buy the pre '90 boxy, RWD, Chevy Impala and install “Dubs”, or 20 inch wheels (the biggest at the time) under the Impala. The chrome wheels were huge, heavy and often had “Sprewells”, the spinner named after Latrelle Sprewell the basketball player who started a company to make the spinners. The name “Donk” came from the Impala emblems on the car, it is short for donkey. Yeah, really, donkey! Hence the nickname “Donks”

There are lots of variations in aluminum wheels that cause them to be light or heavy. Forged aluminum wheels are lighter and more expensive that cast wheels. Multi-piece wheels with cast centers and rolled rims, like BBS racing wheels, are usually the best, and most expensive. Pressure cast or spin cast aluminum wheels can usually be lighter than steel. Cheaper cast wheels are usually heavier than steel but can be cast in very good looking shapes. They can be stiffer because of the thickness of the metal while aluminum itself is not as stiff as steel. The weight, as many here have posted, depends on the design of the wheel as much as the material.

" while aluminum itself is not as stiff as steel."

Dead soft (pure aluminum) is less stiff than steel, most alloys are much stiffer than steel, but also much more brittle.

Let me rephrase the above, most aluminum alloys are stiffer than mild (pure) steel. There are some very stiff steel alloys as well, it’s all in the alloy.

And all these years I thought the Impala was an African antelope. Dem boyz frum da hood be lotz smarter dan me.

The huge Rimz are popular in my area and there are 3 retailers who specialize in the huge tires and wheels. They advertise selling and a rent to own contract and often the car must be jacked up to give clearance. Quite a few cars are seen driving with 4 of the mini spares installed on raised cars apparently from missing a payment. Maybe that will become a new fashion statement.

Speaking of Sprewell . . . I believe he was the NBA player who strangled his coach on national television, and wasn’t fired

If any of us strangled our coach, supervisor, boss, etc., we would be fired before our hands even released the guy’s throat

FWIW My 2013 Prius V and all 3rd gen Priuses have aluminum wheels under the plastic wheel covers. I actually took my hubcaps off and put center caps in the alloy wheels. They do not look as nice as the premium alloy wheels on the higher trim levels, but they look ok.

And my 2005 Prius has aluminum wheels, which is a big reason I was so surprised when I selected the 3-cylinder option while “building” a Fiesta. Ford’s website removed the aluminum wheels for the regular SE model and added steel wheels. Caused me to question my understanding of wheels that I had held for several decades.

I really appreciate the thoughtful responses to my original question. I’m getting the general impression that alloy wheels on a new car are largely a marketing gimmick. I suspect the reason for aluminum wheels on my Prius is to reinforce the view that Toyota is trying to make the car as light as possible in order to maximize gas mileage. Alloy wheels that are truly lighter would probably cost a lot of money.

Well…not so fast. They might not be lighter, or more fuel efficient, but they are higher-performance, not just marketing fluff.

Semis use aluminum rims, and it’s ALL about weight: every pound saved is an additional pound of legal paying cargo. They aren’t cast aluminum though–extruded?