Abhishek Neeli , our new writer gives us a special insight on Alloy wheels.
Read Abhishek’s Profile…
History of wheels
Till the 1960s the design of car wheels was a frustrating issue. Too heavy, and a chunk of the engine’s power would be wasted in overcoming their sluggish inertia; too light, and the integrity of the wheel- and even worse, the safety of the passengers- would be in jeopardy. The hunt was on for a wheel that could be strong, suave, and at the same time, reliable and street worthy. The solution came in the mid to late sixties, in the form of refinements in the casting process of aluminium – leading to the conception of the alloy wheel.
Alloy wheels are wheels made from an alloy of aluminium or magnesium. The earliest prototypes were made from magnesium alloy. The initial popularity of alloy wheels was limited during the better part of the sixties, owing to their low ductility (and thus brittle nature). However as improvements in aluminium casting were more widely implemented, the alloy wheel eventually earned its stripes as the ideal cost-effective, high performance wheel, especially in motorsport.
But what is it about alloy wheels that makes them so distinct from ordinary wheels?
Alloy wheels are typically lighter than ordinary wheels for the same strength (in other words, offer a better strength-to-weight ratio). This means that the wheel could now be made lighter without sacrificing strength, thus allowing better handling and making optimum use of the engine’s potential. Lighter wheels reduce unsprung mass, decreasing the eccentricity between suspension and terrain, thus improving overall handling.
Alloys provide better heat conduction, which comes in handy not only because of the wheel’s proximity to the hot asphalt, but also when dissipating the enormous heat generated while braking, thus reducing the chances of brake failure due to overheating.
Alloy wheels are also popular because of their better cosmetic appearance in comparison to their regular steel counterparts.
Manufacturing process of Alloy wheels
The manufacturing processes for alloys allow for the fabrication of intricate shapes and stylish designs complete with bare-metal finishes, the sort that can’t be achieved by regular steel wheels. This is because steel wheels are usually pressed from sheet metal and welded together, often leading to the presence of unattractive “bumps” on the surface. On the debit side, alloy wheels are prone to galvanic corrosion, which can cause the tyres to bleed air if preventive measures are not taken. Even when sealed with paint or wheel covers, alloy wheels tend to start corroding after about 3-5 years of usage. Also, alloys are harder to repair than regular wheels when bent, but their high cost still makes repair a more viable option than replacement.
Check the video of one of the leading brands of Alloy wheels TSW
Pricing of Alloy Wheels
During the nineties the fat price tag of an alloy wheel meant that alloys were offered as add-ons rather than standard features, especially in inexpensive, budget-oriented cars. However, they remained popular with aficionados who were passionate about having some exclusivity when it came to grooming their cars. But since the year 2000, the alloy wheel has seen a steady rise in demand, probably due to its pros outnumbering its cons, and car manufacturers laying more emphasis on safety as well as good looks to woo customers.
All in all, the alloy wheel has plenty to offer in terms of durability, safety, strength, and visual appeal, provided we are willing to take its high price in our stride. The alloy promises to offer endless possibilities and scope for innovation, taking the automobile through the restless, ever-evolving technology that powers the future.