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I have recently bought my new car which has 14" wheels i.e. 14" rims (steel). One of my friends was asking me, "Dude, where are the alloys?". I didn't have much attention to it before until he asked.

My general knowledge tells me that an Alloy rim is an amalgam of multiple durable metals and therfore, lighter than usual rims and better for improving the performance of car suspensions and brakes (i.e. long-lasting brakes). However, it's more expensive to have the wheels fitted with alloy rims ('coz they are wider?) and also damages to alloys are more expensive to repair.

Could someone suggest something better regarding this? i.e. Do I need to move to alloy wheels? Is it better for me in long run?

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There are two main benefits to running alloy rims:

  1. As you mentioned, they are lighter. I read an article quite a few years back about sprung weight and un-sprung weight. Sprung weight is the weight which is above and supported by the springs. This would be like the body, engine, transmission, driver, etc. Un-sprung weight is the weight of the vehicle which includes everything below the springs, such as wheels, tires, brakes, etc. They said that 10lbs of un-sprung weight was worth 100lbs of sprung weight. If you can reduce the weight of your wheels/tires by 2.5lbs each, it's like taking a 100lb weight out of the trunk. This improves gas mileage, stopping distance, brake wear, and a plethora of other little things. These are very good things.

  2. Aesthetics - Most people would consider that alloys look better than steel wheels covered by a hub-cap.

There is a down side to this, though:

  1. Cost - What is it going to cost you to replace perfectly good steel wheels for the alloys? A pretty penny, I'd suggest. The cost to get one fixed is going to be more expensive as well ... but how many times have you actually had to fix a rim in the first place? I've been driving vehicles for over 30 years and have only ran into the situation once, on one rim. I was young and dumb at the time, so never really got it fixed (let's just say lack of funds). The tire and suspension almost always takes the brunt of an impact. The only way you are going to run into the situation is by doing something dumb in the first place. Drive sanely and you'll probably never run into this situation.

You are going to have to decide for yourself what you want to do. If you have the funds and feel froggy, then by all means, jump on a new set. If, on the other hand, you are just responding to something "Dude" said, I'd say back to him, "Dude, I'll put some on there when you give me the money to do so!"

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  • Minor one, weight normally has no impact on stopping distance, as the effects of weight on mass inertia and friction between tire and road cancel each other out. The standard formula goes for bikes and 40-ton trucks alike, the main variable is the friction coefficient between the tires and the road (mostly a function of road surface, tire surface and tire geometry). Unless the mass inertia is more than your brakes can handle, but that would mean you have overloaded your car beyond its maximum weight.
    – user149408
    Oct 13 '20 at 14:49
  • @user149408 - When talking weight with regards to friction between tire and road, you're right ... I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about weight with regards to rotational inertia. To put it to the extreme, if you have 10lbs of rotational weight, it will slow much easier than a 1,000lbs would. Even 2lbs will make a difference. Oct 13 '20 at 14:53
  • @user149408 - Also, weight in and of itself does make a difference, in both stopping distance, take off, and fuel economy. Whether there is traction enough to stop or get the car going, it still affects the rest of it. Oct 13 '20 at 15:00
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Keep in mind that alloy wheels can also stick to the iron parts of the wheel hub, especially if you live somewhere that uses salt during the winter. It is something that is easy enough to deal with when you are at home and have access to a BFH, but not a lot of fun changing a flat in the middle of the night on the side of the road.

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    +1: that happened to me and a hammer indeed solved the problem. My only complaint about that answer is that I had to google what BFH means: indeed, it refers to a hammer. Nowadays, I always have a hammer in the boot in case I have to change a tire due to a flat.
    – juhist
    Dec 10 '16 at 11:23
  • If you live somewhere that uses salt during winter, you are probably switching from winter to summer wheels and back every six months. From personal experience (living within 100 km from the Alps and frequently going there), I never had any issues getting the wheels off.
    – user149408
    Oct 13 '20 at 15:10

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