alloy vs steel

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flyanddrive

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I would love to get some opinions on running an alloy wheel vs a steel wheel. Is the weight difference that big of a deal? I am just starting to build up my 2018 Wrangler JLU Sport and I prefer a low key look. Thanks in advance for the input!
 

Uberland

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Hey there...I had the same question. Ended up watching this YouTube video and learned a fair bit. Bottom line: steel is cheaper, isn’t a lot heavier and CAN be repaired in the field (with some expertise), whereas alloy wheels are more expensive, are a bit lighter, but are more likely to crack vice bend like a steel wheel.

 
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Boostpowered

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If i were to go to steel rims i would definately get beadlocks there isnt a lot of benefit otherwise. Saying that i use the stock 17" alloys without any problem. Only thing that keeps me from steel rims is having to battle rust on more parts.
 

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missed one point

In a winter climate, salt, sand etc, an aluminium rim can bond itself to the axle, wheel end assembly. A steel wheel will not. Changing a flat alloy on the shoulder after a season of winter driving, you might need a sledge to break that bond.
Steel rims come off way easier.
 

OtherOrb

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The most important reason to choose alloy over steel is that for the same diameter and strength, alloy/aluminum wheels have significantly less unsprung, spinning weight. Less unsprung, spinning weight means far less wear and tear on almost all parts of the vehicle. 20 to 40 pounds of weight savings doesn't sound like much, but it's rather huge over the life of the vehicle when you're talking unsprung and spinning weight, which has impact on everything from the suspension to the axles to the bearings to the brakes to the road feel. It's much more important than a few pounds added to the cab of the truck.

This is ignored in the video even though the vehicles being used as examples all spend much more of their life on pavement at much higher speeds than rock crawler speeds.

In my decades of overlanding, I have never seen a wheel damaged in the way they demonstrate. Mostly it was a small knick or dent to the rim. And usually it did not impact the bead and therefore wasn't important enough to be a problem. The very few times it was a problem, the wheel was replaced with the spare and we kept going. Once we were home, the damage was assessed by an expert and either the wheel damage was ignored, repaired, or the wheel was replaced. But we had spares in the field so it really wasn't an issue that required field repairs in the manner suggested by the video.

I certainly would never ride a pressurized tire on a wheel that had been hammered back into shape on the side of the road by a non-expert. The stresses involved and the microfractures caused by that hammering are too dangerous to take up to pressure or up to speed. Throw the spare on and stay safe.
 

David C Gibbs

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Once you ding an Alloy wheel, you have to replace it! Out on a trail run, you bend the steel wheel, you can HAMMER it back into shape, re-bead the tire, and get home. If you have the space, Cool Wheels for the street and Highways (Reduced Noise, Wear & Tear), and mount the Aggressive Off-Road tires for trips into "Off Highway Conditions" I live in semi-Snow Country, When it gets bad - I put the Mud-Terrains on, until it gets better, then the Highway tires get remounted.
Keep your life simple.
 

David C Gibbs

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You aren't going to damage aluminum rims unless you are truly hardcore baja racing. This is especially true if you have appropriate tire sidewall and bulge.
WRONG, slam your vehicle into a curb, on ice, ZERO control, will - Kill any wheel! I had to replace the Tire and Wheel... Good thing, I had a full size spare, and all the Equipment to changed it, in a white-out. Man did I have traffic backed up. ; (
 

MidOH

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missed one point

In a winter climate, salt, sand etc, an aluminium rim can bond itself to the axle, wheel end assembly. A steel wheel will not. Changing a flat alloy on the shoulder after a season of winter driving, you might need a sledge to break that bond.
Steel rims come off way easier.
My steels do that as well. Anything hubcentric is going to stick hard. I keep an orange plastic harbor fraught dead blow hammer for this. You can hammer the inside of the rim, rotate 90, repeat.

Hubcentric steels, you can loosen the lugs a hair, and steer left and right to crack them loose. Or GM's responded well to stopping quickly with loose lugs.

Bolt centric wheels, I'd only hammer off. Not ''wobble'' off.
 

OtherOrb

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My steels do that as well. Anything hubcentric is going to stick hard. I keep an orange plastic harbor fraught dead blow hammer for this. You can hammer the inside of the rim, rotate 90, repeat.

Hubcentric steels, you can loosen the lugs a hair, and steer left and right to crack them loose. Or GM's responded well to stopping quickly with loose lugs.

Bolt centric wheels, I'd only hammer off. Not ''wobble'' off.
This can be avoided by scrubbing clean the hub and wheel and then spraying or painting onto the hub a very thin layer of wax, anti-seize, or similar. Not WD-40, which exists only to collect dust and grime. Do this every time you take the wheel off the hub.

Or use a deadweight hammer.

But that rust and grime still needs to come off or it can cause the wheel to feel and eventually be unbalanced.
 
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Lindenwood

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WRONG, slam your vehicle into a curb, on ice, ZERO control, will - Kill any wheel! I had to replace the Tire and Wheel... Good thing, I had a full size spare, and all the Equipment to changed it, in a white-out. Man did I have traffic backed up. ; (
You're right. If you crash your rig, you indeed might damage things...
 
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MazeVX

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missed one point

In a winter climate, salt, sand etc, an aluminium rim can bond itself to the axle, wheel end assembly. A steel wheel will not. Changing a flat alloy on the shoulder after a season of winter driving, you might need a sledge to break that bond.
Steel rims come off way easier.
Then you did it wrong, messing around with salt and winter and alloys for the last 20 years and never had a alloy wheel stick to the hub but sometimes steel when someone else mounted it, never had that when I mounted them myself.

Sorry I don't want to offend anyone, but really, I'm a car guy since I was born, I know mostly car people etc, and this was never a problem when the wheels are mounted properly.
Really no offense, but there's no problem when done right.
 
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Wawa Skittletits

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I've been running nothing but forged, or equivalent, wheels since 2006. Off road, on road, and on the track. I run forged wheels specifically for their weight savings and the fact that they're much stronger than regular aluminum. Coming from track experience the weight savings are definitely noticeable and as @OtherOrb mentioned those same weight savings also reduce a lot of wear and tear over the life of a vehicle. This is also food for thought when it comes to selecting your tires. With that said do not assume aluminum is lighter. The 17x8 wheels on my Outback weigh 15.7 lbs which is ridiculously light and the exact same size steel wheel comes in at 18.5 lbs. Sorry to break it to a lot of you but that 18.5 lbs is a lot lighter than most aluminum wheels the same size.

Damage.. I've damaged multiple forged wheels from a lot of track and street use/abuse and only once did the wheel crack. The crack, from an inner lip bend, was so slight I still ran the wheel and only occasionally had to add air. Every other instance was a bent wheel that professionals claim is easily repaired. That was all with low profile sticky rubber which obviously exposes the wheel to damage more easily. I've hit rocks with the wheels on my Outback and all it's done damage the paint. I don't air down bead locker low and my wheels will NEVER take a hit to the barrel like in the video.

As with anything I'd say this boils down to intended purpose. I think aluminum wheels will work just fine for most people when it comes to this line of work but if you're really pushing it in situations where you know you'll get wheel strikes I'd absolutely go steel. Theres always a right tool for the job and it always saves you time and money.
 
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MOAK

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If ya have the money to spend then forged alloy are superior to all things wheels. If you're like me and have more important things to spend money on, then keep the stock alloys. I've been running stock alloys for 25 years. On occasion I do a bit of hardcore rock crawling but for the most part we are traversing unmaintained and maintained forest roads. A few nicks and a few scratches is the only damage ever suffered. You know where my vote is.
 
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Lindenwood

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The 17x8 wheels on my Outback weigh 15.7 lbs which is ridiculously light and the exact same size steel wheel comes in at 18.5 lbs.
Could you post a link to this?

A quick google search of a several steel wheels in the 17x8 size resulted 35-38lb reported weights. It seems the ones you describe would have to be made of some very strong (and thus expensive) steel to be half the weight of "typical" steel wheels.
 
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Wawa Skittletits

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If ya have the money to spend then forged alloy are superior to all things wheels. If you're like me and have more important things to spend money on, then keep the stock alloys. I've been running stock alloys for 25 years. On occasion I do a bit of hardcore rock crawling but for the most part we are traversing unmaintained and maintained forest roads. A few nicks and a few scratches is the only damage ever suffered. You know where my vote is.
You assume they have to be expensive. There are OEM forged wheels out there than can be purchased second hand cheap.

In my case the stock wheels on my Outback weren’t going to be the best option because I wanted more sidewall. Since I was buying new, smaller, wheels I went with the biggest value in wheels that exists today. On top of being lighter/stronger Enkei RPF1’s are priced very competitively with traditional aluminum wheels. Who knows how much they’ll end up saving me on fuel or other drivetrain components over their long long life but hey... that’s my vehicle and my reckless spending. Hahaha.
 
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For a number of years there was great debate online about the stock alloy wheels on my LX450. Some thought they were forged, others thought they were cast. A lot of research later they are in fact, machined alloy from a casting and I still paid top dollar for my 20 year old matching trailer wheels. I've some frinds that run Subarus and they tell me that BBS forged wheels are an option but at a much higher price (500 plus each) than their regular cast/machined alloys. If you're gettin them for cheap, then good for you !!
 
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Wawa Skittletits

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For a number of years there was great debate online about the stock alloy wheels on my LX450. Some thought they were forged, others thought they were cast. A lot of research later they are in fact, machined alloy from a casting and I still paid top dollar for my 20 year old matching trailer wheels. I've some frinds that run Subarus and they tell me that BBS forged wheels are an option but at a much higher price (500 plus each) than their regular cast/machined alloys. If you're gettin them for cheap, then good for you !!
Enkei and BBS have been making stock Subaru wheels for +15 years. The nicest/lightest ones being limited to WRX and STi models. Craigslist is usually littered with them but these are, of course, 5x114 car wheels. I don’t know if it’s a common bolt pattern but Nismo Xterra/Frontier are also forged wheels made by renowned wheel maker RAYS that you can find on Craigslist. I’m sure there has to be others but these are the ones I’ve known about. I was able to pick up 5 new 17x8 RPF1’s for $200 a piece which I consider a bargain. Deals are out there.