It can be hard to decide which type of wheels is best for your car, because both mags and steel wheels have benefits and drawbacks in different scenarios. Mag wheels and alloys are tops in performance and beauty, while steelies are inexpensive, tough workhorses. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each choice below.
Mags and alloys come standard on many cars today, and they offer tremendous performance and cosmetic benefits. Unlike steelies, alloys can be worked in a variety of designs, allowing vehicle owners to customize their cars even more. Magnesium alloys are extremely light, and they allow for quicker acceleration and more nimble performance.
However, alloys tend to be less resistant to impact, and they may crack if they are bent too severely. A mag wheel’s brittleness depends on the amount of nickel and other metals that are added to the alloy; more nickel means more brittleness, while less nickel yields a more pliable wheel. Pressure forging, casting and other construction methods can all affect the strength of an alloy. Mag wheels can be painted, polished, chromed or machined, and each finish has different care requirements.
The weight of brake parts as well as that of wheels and tyres is referred to as “unsprung” because it’s not held up by suspension components. Unsprung weight’s effects on car handling are more substantial than that of above-the-spring weight, and even small changes can have significant effects. Steelies are heavier than mag wheels, and making the switch can leave you with less agility, slower acceleration and a lower center of gravity.
The abovementioned properties can make steelies undesirable for performance applications, but their strength is their greatest advantages. Heavier wheels and a lower center of gravity can be a good thing, especially in slick or wet driving conditions. It takes much more force to crack or bend a steel wheel than it does an alloy, but because of their utilitarian nature, cosmetics aren’t much of an issue for steel wheel buyers.
Steel wheels typically come in sizes of 16″ and lower; there are a few 17″ options available, but 18s are almost unheard of. Therefore, fitting your car with steel wheels will likely involve downsizing. That could present an issue if you’re using larger brake calipers or specialized suspension parts. However, steelies are up to 80% cheaper than comparably-sized mag wheels, and they’re great to have around as a spare set.
Alloys and mags are a great option if it’s great looks and performance that you require—but steelies are great for a daily driver or for a work vehicle. No matter which type you choose, there are many choices available online.