Most people generally know what the rims are on a vehicle. But sometimes they can be confused with hub caps or confused by alternate words that people call them (nicknames).
Since the word rim can be used in many different non-automotive contexts, to make sure we all understand and know what an automotive rim is and what it is made of, keep reading.
What Are Rims Made Of?
Rims are generally made out of steel, magnesium, alloy, aluminum, or a combination of those materials. It’s a safe bet that if you have a vehicle that has low options, especially if they include hubcaps, you probably have a steel rim. If you have a high optioned vehicle, you probably have alloy or aluminum rims.
Ever wonder what rims are made of and why they might be important to an average driver or an avid gear head? Read on, because every driver should know a little bit about their rims!
What Materials Are Rims Made Of?
Steel Rims: Steel Rims are the cheapest rims in the bunch. You will find these rims usually on cheaper vehicles or lower-trim level vehicles. If you’re looking for a set of cheap rims and style that doesn’t bother you, this is the way to go.
The disadvantages of steel rims are the weight. The weight of driving with heavier wheels on your car can hurt your handling and gas mileage, not to mention, you would appreciate a lighter tire if you have to change your own tires.
Wheels also have the disadvantage of not being able to dissipate heat very well. This impacts your brake system since the brakes are right behind your wheels. Not many auto parts last long when exposed to long periods of heat.
Aluminum Alloy: Alloy rims are made from aluminum and magnesium. What they offer is a lighter weight component and better heat distribution for your brakes. They are also easier to come up with designs that are a little more intricate.
Aluminum alloy rims and aluminum parts became very popular through racing technology.
The strength aluminum can offer while still being a lightweight material quickly moved aluminum alloy wheels on the fast track to being a popular choice of rims in all kinds of different types of automotive genres.
What Are Chrome Rims Made Of?
Contrary to popular belief, chrome rims aren’t actually made of chrome, they are usually made of aluminum alloy then coated with a chrome plating.
The disadvantages of chrome rims are they do not stand up well to oxidation, and small imperfections can be noticed very easily. The advantages of chrome rims – you sure can make them shine!
What Are Painted Rims Made Of?
Painted rims are a lot like chrome rims, except they receive a coat of paint instead of a coat of chrome plating.
You are also more likely to see coats of paint on both steel and aluminum alloy rims instead of just mostly aluminum alloy like chrome.
Steel rims will also be cheaper and easier to paint. So you are more likely to see a painted wheel on a low-optioned vehicle.
The process of painting an aluminum alloy wheel is much more difficult but is still done often, even on high-optioned stock vehicles.
What Are Polished Rims Made Of?
Polished rims are made of aluminum alloy, but unlike chrome or painted wheels, they do not get a plated finish.
The rims get sanded all the way down to the alloy. Then a special compound is used to bring out the shiny look of the alloy.
Polished rims are not as shiny as chrome rims, but they do look great and have a lot of advantages. Polished rims will be technically lighter than chrome rims that have a solid shiny plating on them.
They are also re-polishable. When chrome rims start to go bad, they can only be stripped down and replated (expensive).
When alloy rims dull, they have no plating that pills off. A nice new polish and they will look brand new again (inexpensive).
How Can I Tell If My Rims Are Steel Or Aluminum?
Three of the simplest ways to tell if your rims are steel or Aluminum are if you have hub caps and steel wheels.
If wheels are light, you have aluminum rims, if they seem heavy, it’s because they are steel.
The other way you can tell if your rims are steel or aluminum is in the design.
If a wheel design is really basic and even just painted black, it is probably a steel wheel. Aluminum rims come in a much more intricate and cutting-edge design.
What Are Cheap Rims Made Of?
The cheapest rims you can get are steel rims. They may not be fancy, but they do have an advantage over aluminum alloy.
Steel wheels are much tougher and can stand up to more wear and tear.
What Are Fuel Rims Made Of?
Fuel Rims are a fairly new off-roading style of rims. They are made with aluminum alloy material and built by using the forged method.
They are not inexpensive, but they are worth the money when it comes to longevity and style.
What Are Bike Rims Made Of?
Whether you are talking about bicycle rims or rims for a motorcycle, most all bike rims are made of aluminum alloy.
Bikes in all cases are supposed to be light machines, so it only makes sense to use the lightest possible components.
What Are Race Rims Made Of?
Generally, under most circumstances, racing rims will be made out of aluminum. The lightweight aspect of aluminum makes them highly sought after in the racing world.
But in some cases, like possibly off-road rock climbing sports, steel wheels might be recommended to hold up against the terrain.
What Are BMW Rims Made Of?
BMW rims are alloy-based rims. They have always had some of the most stylish rims from decade to decade because they outsource their OEM style rims to big named companies that are known for being able to incorporate a sporty style with a luxury look.
BBS Wheels, Borbet Wheels, Cromodra Wheels, and Ronal Wheels are just some of the brands that the BMW Corporation has used throughout its many successful years.
What Are Telsa Rims Made Of?
Just because the Telsa EV vehicles kind of seem like they are in a class of their own, their rims are made out of aluminum alloy as well.
But just like the car, they have some very attractive and expensive options to choose from. Like BMW, Tesla also outsources their wheel manufacturing to other custom wheel companies.
The OHM wheels company uses a specialized rotating forging method to straighten the alloy and make the rims lighter. Unplugged Performance and Element Wheels join in on the success and or competition as well.
To find out more about tires, you can also read our posts on whether or not tires come with rims, how long do Bridgestone tires last, if you can put 15-inch tires on 16-inch rims, and how long do Pirelli tires last.
Rims aren’t all made from the same material and or made the same way. There are also advantages and disadvantages your rims may offer you.
Two of the biggest differences between rims would be price and strength. How do you find out which rims are best for you?
Get with a wheel specialist to explain what exactly you are looking to get out of your purchase, and they can guide you in the right direction.