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All about alloys

Rahul Sharma, 01-Oct-2011

Part 1

All About Alloys

An alloy wheel can change the way your car looks. We help you choose wisely to improve the car's performance.

So you have decided to get a set of alloys for your car. But have you considered every aspect of such a modification? After all, everything has its pros and cons. And alloy wheels are no different. No doubt, if you are looking to buy alloy wheels, you already know their benefits but for the uninitiated, we will go through them once again.

First things first, many cars come fitted with steel wheels only because they are cheaper to manufacture and help keep the price of the car to a minimum. Some manufactures recognising the demand, also offer alloys as an option or an update.

There is no denying that alloy wheels are aesthetically appealing and are offered in many colours and designs over the drab steel wheels. But the advantages do not end there.

Alloys offer better heat dissipation under braking as there is improved airflow through the larger gaps between the spokes, leading to increased life of the brake system.

As they are lighter than steel wheels, less weight is rotating around the hub, which translates into longer life for the suspension. Another positive for alloys is that they reduce the unsprung weight, the weight of everything connected with the wheel, from the wheel itself to the tyre, the brakes, spindles, bearings and even a portion of the weight of the half shafts, springs and suspension links. Low unsprung weight also leads to longer life of the suspension and improved grip on the roads.


Part 2

Generally, larger the wheel and lower the profile of the tyre, the nicer it looks and ensures improved grip but it will surely impact ride quality. It is best to let the experts figure out what wheel/tyres sizes will be appropriate and how to go about choosing them. But it’s always advisable to approximately match the overall diameter of your original tyre and wheels through plus sizing.

Plus sizing is the replacement of the existing wheel with a 1-in bigger wheel in conjunction with a lower aspect ratio tyre, keeping the outside diameter of the tyre within 2 per cent of the original.

For example, a 13-in wheel fitted with 175/80R13 tyre can be upgraded to a 14-in wheel with a 185/70R14 tyre. In other words, an increase in wheel diameter by one inch has to be compensated with a 10mm wider section and one index lower aspect ratio tyre. Plus sizing improves handling and braking by creating wider contact patches with the road surface. It also improves the appearance of the vehicle.


The moment you put an alloy wheel, your car looks swankier and more upmarket. One look at the pictures above and below and the answer to the question which looks better, becomes a no brainer. But you also need to think about tyre profiles, advantages, disadvantages, increased maintenance, corrosion issues and so on before you get a set of alloys for your car.



Things to be careful about with alloys

  • Alloys need to the washed regularly to maintain their looks.
  • Alloy wheels suffer from occasional radial runouts if not fitted properly.
  • Alloys might suffer from kerb damage unless one chooses wide wall tyres to go with them.
  • Alloy wheels take to large potholes less kindly than steel wheels.
  • Lateral runouts can only be detected during wheel balancing. In case the runout is significant the whole wheel will need a replacement.
  • Corrosion also plays havoc with the finish of the alloy wheels, which make them look uglier than steel ones.
  • After first installing the wheels, it's recommended you check the tightness of nuts after the first 60km.
  • Once bent they can't be repaired.

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