March 22, 2021

Alloy Wheels – The Complete Guide

Our complete guide to alloy wheels can help you understand what they are, how you can customise them to suit your style and your car along with  how you can maintain them through professional repair and refurbishment.

What are Alloy Wheels?

Alloy wheels are wheels that are made using a metal mixture, hence the name alloy. The alloys are usually a combination of multiple metals and elements, typically aluminium, or sometimes magnesium or nickel.

This alloy is usually stronger and lighter than pure metals and produces better heat conduction and cosmetic finish. They are far more customisable than other wheels, such as steel, and can be made or designed to suit your specific car.

Alloy Wheel Repairs

Accidents that damage alloy wheels happen all too often. High kerbs, potholes and uneven or loose road surfaces can cause damage to alloy wheels easily, and often create scuffs, dents or chips that are best repaired by a professional.

Maintaining your alloy wheels protects the car’s general aesthetic and helps to preserve its residual value. It is also cost effective as it reduces the necessity for buying brand new wheels.

The most common alloy wheel repairs are repairs of dents, chips and cracks – these are classed as repairs as they can affect the overall performance of the alloy wheels and are potentially dangerous to drive with. Scuffs, scratches and scrapes tend to be classed as refurbishments as these are works that help maintain the overall appearance of the alloy wheels.

How much are alloy wheel repairs?

The cost of alloy wheel repairs depends massively on the extent of the damage. Basic scrapes that need sanding and repainting will obviously cost less than extensive chip damage.

If you want more details regarding the cost of alloy wheel repairs, get in touch with one of our repairers by using our town search function here.

Where and how are alloy wheels made?

Alloy wheels are made in a factory that has the appropriate equipment and machinery to melt metal mixtures. The alloys are melted and then cast in a mold specifically designed for this process.

The alloy wheels can then be adapted to suit the customers or company’s needs – this includes a process called tilt milling, which allows customisation of the wheel face, spokes, the barrel and the mounting face.

How are alloy wheels refurbished?

The refurbishment of alloy wheels typically follows this process:

  1. The alloy wheels are cleaned in order to properly inspect and assess the damage.
  2. The tyre is taped off to protect it from any treatment. The tyre can sometimes be left on the car, usually during the refurbishment of minor damage. It is sometimes taken off for larger projects.
  3. Scuffs and scrapes are sanded down to be smooth and filler is used in any chips. Cracks are repaired by welding the metal back together, if possible.
  4. The alloy is then primed and either painted with a colour-matched paint, wrapped or powder coated (as per the customers choices).
  5. Alloys are then all treated with a coating to prevent rust and further damage.

How much does alloy wheel refurbishment cost?

The cost of alloy wheel refurbishment depends on both the size of your wheels and their current state. Alloy wheel refurbishment will, more often than not, be cheaper than the cost of a replacement. It is more cost-effective and better for your car to take care of your existing alloys than to continually replace them.

Contact us for more information about having your alloy wheels refurbished by using our town search function here.

Alloy wheel specifications

How much does an alloy wheel weigh?

This can depend massively on the type of wheel, the size and the make. There are plenty of lists online that note down alloy wheel weights for different cars. On average, alloy wheels can weigh between 4 and 12 kilograms. This is sometimes exceeded by larger wheels, but the most common weight for standard sized vehicles is around 8-10kg.

Are alloy wheels painted?

Yes, they can be. During repair and refurbishment, scuffs are buffed out and painted over with colour matched paint. This ensures consistency on your alloy wheels and keeps the original look, minus the damage.

Alternatively, alloy wheels can be customized in different ways:

Alloy Wheel Wrapping

Alloy wheels can be wrapped, which is a non-permanent customisation method. It involves applying vinyl to the alloys to cover them – this can be any vinyl of your choosing.

Powder Coating

This is a technique that uses a spray on paint formula to coat the alloy. The powder spray settles dry and is heated to form a gel coating. It is then lacquered for greater protection. Powder coating can also come in a variety of colours and finishes.

Diamond Cutting

This process requires the use of CNC machinery to cut away a thin layer of the alloy to create a shine. This shiny finish is then protected by a lacquer.

Are alloy wheels made of aluminium?

Alloy wheels are made of an alloy of aluminium – they can sometimes be made with a mixture of magnesium or nickel. The aluminium is blended with other metals and/or elements and then poured, in a molten state, into an alloy wheel mold.

Are alloy wheels lighter and/or stronger than steel?

Steel wheels are made from an alloy of iron and carbon. They are heavier, therefore can decrease a car’s performance in relation to acceleration and fuel consumption. Steel is stronger however, so steel wheels are more resistant to damage than standard alloy wheels.

Will alloy wheels void my insurance?

It is vital that you check all of the modification information that your insurance company provides you. If you are still unsure what classes as vehicle modification, then contact your insurers.

Alloy wheels can be an innocent change but insurance providers may still need this verifying – if you don’t declare necessary modifications, you could be subject to losing your insurance in the event of an accident.

It is unlikely that your insurance will be voided due to alloy wheels. Most companies state that your premiums won’t go up either, but it is always best to declare and check. Some insurers see alloy wheels as a theft risk as they can increase the value of a car, or a crash risk as they can slightly alter your car’s performance. This is why it is important to declare your alloy wheels.

Do alloy wheels increase fuel efficiency?

There is evidence to suggest that alloy wheels can increase fuel efficiency. Alloy wheels are lighter than steel wheels so can slightly reduce the weight of a car, therefore less fuel is used to power the car.

These changes are minimal and the wheel swaps have to be like-for-like for changes to occur. For example, opting for an alloy wheel because they are lighter could improve fuel consumption, but if the tyre is of a different size or make, the weight changes could balance out and cancel out any decrease.

Alloy wheels vs diamond cut

A diamond cut alloy wheel has had the top layer of metal taken off through use of a CNC machine, the lathe. The lathe removes existing paint and cuts a thin layer off the alloy to leave a shiny finish. Diamond cut alloys are high-shine and create a pleasing aesthetic, often associated with higher-end vehicles.

The issues with this method however, are that scuffs and cracks are far harder and more expensive to repair, as only so many layers can be removed from the alloy. This process also always has to be done with and repaired by specialist equipment, so it is a more extensive process than standard alloy wheel refurbishment.

Standard alloy wheels tend to be cheaper, easier to fix and more customisable. The only difference is, you will not be able to get the luxury, shine finish that comes with diamond cut alloys.

Are alloy wheels worth it?

Alloy wheels are worth the investment and the time if they are a feature you desire for your car. The changes in performance may not be huge but the additional features that can come with alloy wheels make them a great choice for your vehicle.

Pros:

  • Generally more appealing than steel alloys
  • Widely customisable through various different methods and finishes
  • Lighter, therefore improving acceleration, speed and mileage
  • Available in a wide range to ensure compatibility with most cars
  • Relatively easy to repair and refurbish

Cons:

  • Can be expensive depending on style and modifications
  • More prone to scuffs, scrapes and chips
  • Softer than steel so are susceptible to more serious damage
  • Changes have to be declared to insurance companies, meaning prices may change

Alloy wheels are a great investment for those who have the budget and want to customize their vehicle. Over time, alloy wheels may save you money through performance changes due to weight – this can often justify the cost for many people.

The endless customisation options are desirable for many car enthusiasts. Alloy wheels can be made and adapted to how you want them and can be easily changed, repaired or refurbished when necessary.

If you are considering alloy wheels, thinking about your customisation options or are looking for a repair, get in touch with alloy wheel specialists such as ourselves.

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