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Steel vs Alloy vs Chrome Wheel: Here’s How to REALLY Choose the Best One for You

We often see them in car brochures: chrome mags, alloy wheels, or steel rims. Yes, they’re all metals, and they look quite the same when viewed from afar. However, look closer, and you’ll see that the chrome’s shinier, the alloy ones are lighter, and steel wheels are heavier.  And it doesn’t stop there. They have a lot to offer, and will depend on the kind of lifestyle and environment you have at the moment.

So which is the best one for you? Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to choose the right tire for your vehicle:

Steel Wheels

 

CHOOSE STEEL WHEELS IF–

You’re the type who loves to drive out to nature and challenge your vehicle to rough terrain.

In short, they are great for off-road driving. Steel wheels are the toughest ones of the bunch, and they can take the rough blows with relative ease. In fact, cracking a steel wheel is nearly next to impossible.

Only Iron Man could probably slice a thick wheel neatly in half without sweating. Meanwhile, the rest of us technologically-challenged mortals might have to double up on the anti-perspirant roll-ons before we could even create a dent on this one.

You are on a tight budget, or you don’t like to spend a lot on your tires.

Steel tires are generally 70 to 80 percent less costly than alloy wheels, so they’re relatively inexpensive to replace.

You are a practical, no-nonsense driver who prioritizes vehicles that can drive you to your destination in one piece.

Steel isn’t as attractive as alloy or steel. But what it lacks for that ‘oomph’ factor, it more than compensates for in durability and reliability on the road. Remember: they’re really tough, which makes them highly resistant to the constant wear-and-tear that many daily commuters normally experience on the road.

DON’T CHOOSE STEEL WHEELS IF–

You live in a very humid or harsh environment. This is also true if you live near the sea or ocean.

Steel can rust easily, especially when you expose them to these types of environments. You’ll fare better if you live in drier places where humidity is lower–or more manageable. However, if you live near the ocean, then avoid buying steel tires.

You prioritize fuel efficiency above all else.

Steel is heavy, and can significantly add to a car’s overall weight. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “the percent of fuel consumption affected is directly related to the size and weight of the vehicle.” This means that the engine will use up more fuel or gas to make the vehicle move.

You like speed–and lots of it.

This is again due to their heaviness compared to alloy and chrome. In simple terms, a heavier vehicle would make it move at a slower pace.

You like to do a lot of fancy maneuvering with your vehicle.

If you’re the type who likes to make death-defying stunts and fancy maneuvers with your car to impress girls (or boys), then you’ll have a far more difficult time doing them if you’re using steel tires.

You drive a high-performance car.

This can affect your car’s agility on the road, making it more difficult to maneuver. These tires are not for you if you’re into high-performance vehicles.

You like huge tires.

Steel wheels are often limited in size. Most are made with 16-inch size rims or less. This means,you cannot downsize to a set of steel wheels on high-performance vehicles and larger vehicles.

Alloy Wheels

CHOOSE ALLOY TIRES IF–

You want to save a lot on gas.

Alloy tires are lighter–and if you use aluminum alloy, then they are actually even quite buoyant. If that’s the case, then these are the best tires to use if you really want to make every drop of your fuel last for a long time without affecting your car’s speed and performance.

You want to customize your vehicle.

Alloy wheels are more malleable than steel, meaning they can be molded and shaped in more sizes and shapes.

Your driving lifestyle requires you to do a lot of heavier braking.

Alloy, which is a combination of one or more metals with non-metallic elements, transfer heat more efficiently than steel. This means it can take a heavier braking load without warping or damaging your car’s brakes.

Now braving through EDSA’s traffic sounds more manageable.

You love high-performance, high-speed vehicles.

Aluminum, which is the base of many of these alloys, is considerably lighter compared to steel. This allows them to operate at a higher performance in most conditions. What’s more, their lighter frame adds less strain on your vehicle’s suspension. This will also allow for faster acceleration without wasting gas.

You like a more refined, subdued appearance.

Polished alloys look more refined and subdued when compared to chrome. They go well with drivers who prefer classier–and a more conservative–appearance on their wheels.

Alloy wheels also offer more advanced styling finishes than the steel ones. They can be polished easily when they become dull, and they can also be chromed, painted, and machined depending on your preferences. Really, what else can you ask for?

DON’T CHOOSE ALLOY TIRES IF–

You don’t want to spend a lot on your vehicle.

Alloy wheels can get pricey, especially if you customize it.

You’re into off-road driving.

Alloy is a much softer metal compared to steel and chrome. This make it the least candidate to handle challenging, off-road driving–especially those that involve rocky terrain.

You don’t have a lot of time to maintain your tires.

Alloy steel is more liable to wear-and-tear. They are also prone to crack and fracture when enough force is applied to them. What’s more, polished alloys need to be cleaned and polished more often, since their wheels are not plated.

You value durability over everything else.

Alloy wheels tend to bend and crack far more easily than tougher steel wheels when it encounters a huge impact on the road. It’s also prone to cosmetic damage, since they’re more malleable than steel.

Chrome Wheels

CHOOSE CHROME WHEELS IF–

You’re on a reasonable budget.

Chrome wheels are generally affordable–and some are even cheaper than alloy tires. It depends on where you’re buying it from, though. Better sharpen your research skills on this one.

You prefer looks above anything else.

These wheels have a certain ‘pizazz’ to them, and it’s hard not notice their mirror-like shine. It’s a great choice if you want to make your vehicle look cooler and hipper like the ‘bling-blings’ you see dangling (and almost suffocating) ‘gangsta’ rappers.

You live near the ocean or harsher environments.

The chrome layer acts like a protective coating for your wheel. This lessens the oxidation process,  and prevents rust from forming on the surface.

You like to attract attention.

Chrome-plated wheels have a mirror-like and brilliant shine that attracts attention even when viewed from afar. Expect people to do double (or triple) takes when you drive your wheels around town.

You like off-road driving.

Chrome wheels are stronger, because they are electroplated with layers of metal. They can take on rugged terrain far better than alloy tires.

DON’T CHOOSE CHROME WHEELS IF–

You don’t have time to clean your vehicle.

Chrome wheels have a tendency to flake off if you don’t take care of them regularly. That’s why it’s important to rinse them off and polish them regularly to avoid brake dust and salt residue from forming on the surface. Remember: if you don’t regularly clean off these impurities, then they will accumulate over time. And they can be difficult to get rid of once they settle there.

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to clean your chrome tires. Just use a pressure nozzle or hose to rinse them off. You will need to do this every week (twice or more if you live near the sea), but it’s definitely worth the effort if you want to maintain their shine.

You like to drive fast.

Chrome is a plating process that requires applying several layers of metals (like nickel and copper) to the base metal. It’s then followed by chrome plating.  As a result, all these layers add up to more weight, which affects your vehicle’s acceleration and performance on the road.

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