There are many discussions regarding steel vs. alloy wheels in Winter on multiple forums. It would be good if someone could lay out full facts and help scale these differences (questions below).
For Steel wheels:
- Less expensive
- Uniform and made mostly of stamped steel
- May bend from potholes or any collisions
- Rusts if the paint layer wears off
For Alloy wheels:
- More expensive
- Mostly cast aluminum alloys
- More sturdy through potholes, will crack and break on hard collisions
- Salt will wear off the alloy
- Better looks and choice in design
The key questions are as follows. Please remember we are talking about a winter in Montreal, QC, meaning lots of potholes and salt on the roads in addition to parking in a heated garage at night:
Is there a noticeable difference in handling due to the added weight of steel wheels? (seems to be 5-10 lbs more per wheel, ignore the salt and potholes for now) (scaling safety and performance)
Are there safety concerns due to the potential bending of the steel wheels or are minor impacts from pothole too minor to be a concern? I.e.: During an accident, would the wheel type be a factor in the amount of damage to the rest of the car parts? (scaling safety)
Would winter and salt do more damage to steel or alloy wheels? In what ways, quantify the amounts.
What is the best long term value given that steel wheels may bend while both types may get salt damage and require replacement/repairs? (scaling costs)
Bonus question 1: Is there a noticeable difference in performance and safety of lighter and higher performance alloy wheels compared to standard ones. (E.g.: Enkei Performance or Tuning Series to unbranded alloys)
Bonus question 2: Are there pre-treatments to steel wheels that would help prolong its lifespan by reducing the occurrence of rust? Assuming the steel wheels come painted.
Thank you! I hope we could get answers, facts and discussions of the same quality as other Stack Exchange sites!
More Information: I forgot to mention it will be for the second set of wheels dedicated to Winter Tires. Car is a 2001 Subaru Forester S but in good condition!