Custom Wheels, More Than a Fashion Accessory
To some, a car is just a car, but to many it's much more. Your car, or truck, says something about you … your aspirations, your taste … your statement to the world of who you are, where you're going and that you want to get there in style. For those folks that want to make their car their own, the best place to start is with custom wheels.
No one wants to be rocking a new outfit and then throw on an old pair of shoes, and that's the reasoning for many automotive enthusiasts who replace their factory wheels with a stylish set of custom wheels. Also referred to as alloy wheels, custom wheels can have a dramatic impact on the appearance of your ride. However, there are other reasons beyond aesthetics as to why many choose to swap their original wheels for custom wheels.
One reason for making the move to custom wheels is the reduction of the unsprung weight of the wheels. Unsprung weight is the combined weight of all components connected to the wheel, which includes the custom wheel and tire, as well as the brakes, wheel bearings and a portion of the weight of the half shafts, springs and suspension links.
With lighter alloy wheels you end up with reduced unsprung weight compared to steel wheels. Alloy metals provide greater strength and dramatic weight reductions over ferrous metals such as steel. Today, it is hard to find a high performance road car or world class racing vehicle that doesn't benefit from using alloy wheels.
Why is unsprung weight an issue? Keeping the unsprung weight as low as possible helps your car or truck maintain optimum road contact. The higher the unsprung weight, the slower your suspension will react, thanks primarily to the inertia created by the weight of the wheel. Alloy wheels, being lighter than most steel wheel applications, help reduce unsprung weight, allowing the suspension system to react more quickly to road surface imperfections, thus maintaining better traction and helping your vehicle become less susceptible to road shock and cornering forces.
By reducing unsprung weight, alloy wheels provide more precise steering input and improved cornering characteristics. The added strength of a quality alloy wheel can also reduce tire deflection in cornering. This is particularly critical in a car equipped with high performance tires where lateral forces may approach 1.0g.
In addition to handling improvements, adding alloy wheels and lowering unsprung weight has further advantages. Keep in mind that the wheel, which is a moving part, builds up inertia more than a stationary part, like the axle. More inertia requires more energy to speed up, or slow down. The lighter rotational weight of alloy wheels can reduce the overall weight of your vehicle, all of which can provide a slight increase in acceleration, braking and fuel economy.
As mentioned above, the reduced weight of the vehicle and will improve brake performance, but there's more than just a lighter-weight issue that will help the brakes. Most alloy wheels are designed to dissipate brake-heat build up more efficiently than their steel counterparts. The metals in alloy wheels are excellent conductors of heat and improve heat dissipation from the brakes.
Besides the alloy material they are made from many custom wheels are designed with additional slots that allow better airflow over a greater surface area, allowing cool air to flow over the brake calipers and rotors. Better brake performance can help reduce the risk of brake failure and increase their life expectancy.
Another important consideration for many custom wheel buyers is the plus concept. Plus-sizing your wheels and tires is an excellent option to improve both the performance and appearance of your vehicle. Plus-sizing ... using a larger diameter wheel with a lower profile tire ... maintains the overall diameter of the tire, helping maintain accurate odometer and speedometer characteristics.
Performance-wise, a shorter sidewall tire delivers gains in quickness in steering response and better lateral stability. On the appearance side the visual appeal is obvious; most alloy wheels are a better look than the black sidewall of the tire, thus more wheel + less sidewall = a very attractive look.
All-in-all there are many reasons why you might like to invest in a set of custom alloy wheels. They will require an initial cash investment, but depending on how much you spend, you could find that they save you money in the long run with improvements in fuel economy and increased brake-life. Be honest with what you need, factor in your budget considerations, and you'll be flying high when it comes to keeping your vehicle well grounded and looking good.
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