We all love to customize our cars and one of the first things we think of is changing to alloy wheels. However what alloy wheels we should go for, what size we should go for etc are things we get confused with.
Here we take a look at what alloy wheels are, what they do for your car in terms of performance and how you can choose the right set for you car.
Different sizes, profiles of tyres along with other things affect the handling, acceleration and ride quality of your car. First let’s understand what an alloy wheel is all about.
How are alloys different from steel wheels?
When we purchase low or even some mid end variant of a car, most manufacturers offer us regular steel rims or wheels. While these wheels are well thought of and are provided keeping in mind the best blend of comfort performance etc they do not add to the aesthetics of the vehicle. Moreover if you are an enthusiast, replacing your stock steel wheels with alloy wheels can help alter performance and other dynamics.
Steel wheels can take a good beating and can usually be hammered back into shape even if you damage them. They are also heavier and usually smaller in terms of their diameter and width than alloy wheels. Also read: Buying alloy wheels for your car: A CarToq Guide
Alloy wheels are essentially wheels that are moulded into various designs and are a mixture of aluminium and other metals. This makes these wheels lighter than steel wheels and they also disperse heat faster then regular steel wheels. Good quality alloy wheels are also stronger and less prone to cracks. However, if and when they do crack, you have no option but to replace them, they cannot be repaired.
Advantages of alloy wheels
By virtue of being lighter alloy wheels make your car lighter. They usually reduce the un-sprung weight of your car. That essentially means that alloys create a reduction in the rotating mass at the end of your suspension setup. They can play a pivotal role in improving the steering feel and the response of your brakes.
A right set of alloy wheels paired with the right set of tyres can help enhance the overall handling of your vehicle. Alloy wheels contrary to popular belief also help improve the fuel efficiency of your car. This difference is now much over short distances but over the period it will help you save a few bucks! Another small benefit of alloy wheels is that they are not prone to rust like regular rims.
Disadvantages of alloy wheels
Alloy wheels are more expensive that regular rims and when we say expensive it means they can cost you up to 5 times more depending on the brand and size. Another disadvantage we mentioned earlier in this story is that they cannot be repaired once they crack.
You will need to get your wheels aligned and balanced post installation. The issue here is that while our regular rims allow us to use simple clip on weights, alloy wheels do not. They use weights which have to be stuck on the inside of the wheel which can easily fall on bumpy roads (which in India are no rare sight!).
What are the popular brands of alloy wheels?
Popular alloy wheel brands include OZ, HKS, Aura, NeoWheels, Plati, League, HR, Lenso, Enkei (usually available as second hand), and Prestige etc. The trick here is getting value for money alloy which looks good as well. Now while brands like OZ, HRS, MOMO and Enkei are very good quality they are also more expensive. Brands like Aura, League etc give you the best of both worlds; they are available at affordable prices as well.
How do I select the right alloys?
To select the right set of alloys you will need to understand the following things:
What is my wheel size?
If you are buying a new set of alloys but do not wish to change your tyres then buy alloys that are the same size as your rims and you can use your original wheels. So if you have 15-inch steel rims then you need to buy 15-inch alloy wheels. If you are willing to change your tyres as well then maintain the specified wheel and tyre combination. Also read: Five points to consider when buying new tyres!
What is PCD?
PCD or pitch circle diameter is the distance between the wheel bolts and the center point or axle of the wheel. It also takes into account the number of studs that you have on the rim. For e.g.: A PCD of 5×160 indicates that the rim has a 160 mm diameter on which the 5 evenly spaced bolts are located. If you don’t match the PCD exactly to what the car came with, you won’t be able to fit your alloy on the car’s wheel hub.
What is offset?
Some people play the offset on purpose to make the alloy wheels stick out of the wheel arches. That is high negative offset while positive offset means that the wheel hub protrudes out further, when compared to the rest of the wheel. Most alloy wheels come with zero offset or slight negative offset.
It is best to stay within 1-inch of deviation from the stock setup. Negative offset aids handling while too much offset puts pressure on the hub and axle. This can even cause breakage of these parts.
Take care that the alloy rim that you are buying is not too wide. Apart from having to buy new tyres, wider rims can also foul with the fender, steering rod or suspension components. The width of the alloy wheel is denoted by numbers such as 6.5 J, 7 J, 8 J etc, where 6.5 is the width in inches and J is the shape of the rim lip (some alloys have JJ).
Upsizing your tyre
You will need to get wider alloy wheels if you upsize your tyres. The overall diameter of the tyre and alloy combination should stay the same. If this is not done then the reading on your odometer will not be correct and your car’s handling will suffer.
Reduce the profile size of the tyre based on the increase in the tyre’s width. Upsizing is essentially increasing the diameter of your wheels and reducing the profile of your tyre to accommodate the tyre and maintain the rolling radius.