Q. What are the different methods of making wheels?
A. In today’s marketplace, steel and aluminum are the most common wheel materials. Steel wheels are made in two pieces. The inner piece, which is called the center, bolts on to the car. The outer piece is known as a barrel and receives the tyre. The two pieces are welded together to form the wheel. The other material, aluminum, is by far the most popular type of wheel we sell. Its light weight, superior heat dissipation, and seemingly endless design variations make it the material of choice for most buyers. Aluminum wheels can be manufactured in many ways, and each method offers advantages.
- One-piece cast wheels
Pouring molten aluminum into a mold creates a cast wheel. There are three types of casting methods: low pressure/gravity, counter pressure, and high counter pressure molding (HCM). Each method has its place in today’s market. A wheel manufacturer will select a particular method according to the weight, strength, and finish that they have specified for that design.
- Forged / Billet wheels
The manufacturing process is called forging, while the material used is a billet. Billet is the term used for a solid piece of dense aluminum. The forge, a huge machine that exerts thousands of pounds of pressure on the metal, presses or rolls the billet into its fundamental form. This forging is then machined to a final finish. This results in lighter weight and unique designs.
- Multi-piece wheels
The processes mentioned above can be combined to produce a wheel of a particular strength and weight at a particular price. For example, some wheels have a cast aluminum center, welded to a steel outer, or barrel. Another type of two-piece construction features a billet center welded to a rolled outer (extruded aluminum rolled into a hoop). Still other wheels feature a split outer so that widths and offsets can be made to custom specifications. This last method is the three-piece type construction. In this type of wheel, the center can be cast, billet or forged, and is usually attached to the outer assembly by special screws or rivets.
Q. What does fitment mean?
A. This term refers to the physical specifications of the wheel and the availability of the sizes that will fit a vehicle. So, the fitment specifications for a particular wheel and vehicle include the bolt pattern, the offset, the wheel width and the wheel diameter.
Q. What does FWD and RWD mean?
A. FWD stands for Front Wheel Drive and RWD stands for Rear Wheel Drive. Majority of the time, a FWD wheel will not fit a RWD vehicle and vice versa.
Q. What features should I look for when buying wheels?
A. First and foremost, wheels are purchased for styling the vehicle. Second, decide on the build method and quality. Choose the manufacturing method you want at the price you are happy with. Finish quality is important, so demand a nicely finished wheel. Finally, decide on the price.
Q. What does finish mean?
A. Finish refers to the type of surface treatment a wheel is given. Machined or polished finishes are popular on aluminum wheels. “Machined” is what the wheel looks like after the last shaping procedure (usually a lathe cut) has been completed. An additional step involves passing the wheel through successively finer Auto Service Centers, automated and hand polishing processes. A chrome finish is also available on aluminum wheels, but requires three additional layers of metal treatment (copper, nickel and chrome) to be achieved. Steel wheels have an advantage: chrome goes on in one simple, inexpensive step. Finally, paint goes on everything and can be applied in single or multiple color schemes. Often the powder coating process is used to apply paint, resulting in a heavy, durable finish.
Q. What are the pros and cons regarding spacers and adapters?
A. In most cases, using a spacer (of greater than 3mm thickness) or an adapter means you will be using a wheel that was not designed to fit your vehicle. An incorrectly fit wheel almost always leads to excessive wear on suspension parts, poor ride and potential mechanical failure.
Q. What are hub-centric rings; do I need them?
A. Most aftermarket wheels are manufactured with a center hole that will fit a wide range of vehicles. The hub-centric ring is used to fill any gap that may exist between this hole and the vehicle’s hub, thus centering the wheel on the axle.
Q. What’s the best way to clean my wheels?
A. Probably the single biggest mistake when cleaning wheels is to use super cleaners, which can contain harsh abrasives. Mild soap and warm water is sufficient for routine cleaning. After cleaning chrome-plated wheels, you can apply a non-abrasive wax or cream to prevent surface corrosion.
Q. What’s the best way to install and remove my new wheels?
A. That’s a job that’s best left to your tyre dealer. A combination of special tools and methods are used to install wheels so they deliver the performance you paid for.
Q. I just hit something in the road. How do I find out if my wheel is ok?
A. If you have a vibration or pulling symptom, chances are you may have damaged the wheel. Again, go to the tyre dealer and let him inspect your wheels.