Are Aluminum or Steel Wheels Better?
To answer this question, you need to consider the needs and applications of your fleet. With the increasing popularity of aluminum wheels for commercial vehicles, there is debate among fleets on whether or not to switch from steel to aluminum. Both types of wheels have their pros and cons, so it is important to weigh both against your fleet’s goals.
We’ve gathered some information on both steel and aluminum wheels to guide you in your decision while considering the needs of your fleet.
- The average weight of steel wheels is around 78lbs, which is 30 pounds heavier than aluminum. If your fleet isn’t driving in a weight-sensitive application, such as bulk hauling, your fleet may not need to worry as much about the weight of steel wheels. There are also options on the market for lighter weight steel wheels, making the option to cost effectively cut weight available. Some of these options can save you an average of 10-12lbs in comparison to conventional steel wheels.
- Steel wheels have a reputation of being more high maintenance when it comes to upkeep. As per TMC RP 240A, steel wheels need refinished as part of the fleet’s regular truck maintenance schedule. Although the process of maintaining your steel wheels may seem time-consuming, there are benefits. Many dealers use our MILCURE System to safely and effectively refinish steel wheels per OSHA regulations, giving them a coating that will help protect against corrosion. Keeping up with your wheel maintenance will extend the life of your wheels and your investment.
- Steel wheels come standard on many new models of commercial vehicles in North America. The price of steel wheels is very attractive, as they are 3-4 times less than aluminum wheels.
- The draw for fleets to make the switch to aluminum wheels comes from the significant weight difference. At an average weight of 47lbs, aluminum wheels are around 30lbs lighter the steel option. For example, a difference of 30lbs at 10 wheel positions can reduce the overall weight by 300lbs. Less weight at the wheel end allows for flexibility to add weight in other areas, such as cargo, while still staying within legal weight limits. If your fleet operates in a weight-sensitive application such as bulk haul fleets, this extra weight savings can be beneficial.
- Fleets are attracted to the industry misconception that aluminum wheels are fairly easy to maintain. Aluminum wheels are corrosion resistant when they are initially purchased from the manufacturer. Over time, due to wear and road conditions, your aluminum wheels are susceptible to needing maintenance. With the increase in industry demand for aluminum wheels, there has been a focus on how to properly maintain them. It is crucial to remove the wheel for cleaning and inspection to identify potential hazards such as cracks, rim flange wear, and corrosion. Our new IMI ALUMINATOR Aluminum Wheel Cleaning System was developed with both safety and appearance in mind. Just like maintaining steel wheels, maintaining your aluminum wheels properly is vital to extending the life of your wheels and your investment.
- The main drawback of aluminum wheels is their cost. Compared to steel, aluminum wheels can cost up to 3 times more money. For some fleets, the difference in weight from cargo versus the weight of wheels helps to recoup the upcharge.
Additional Aluminum Considerations
- There are potential fuel savings when you’re using this lighter weight option as well. Truck fuel consumption increases with the weight of the vehicle, so by reducing weight with aluminum wheels, you can reduce fuel consumption as well. When combined with low rolling resistant tires, aluminum wheels can reduce fuel consumption by 3% or more. The fuel savings is especially true in applications such as bulk hauling and large fleets.
- Aluminum wheels are often used as a driver retention measure because of their appearance. Polished aluminum wheels new builds pride among a fleet and enhances your company image not only to your employees but to the community.
Choose the Right Wheels for Your Application
Deciding on aluminum or steel wheels for your fleet comes down to choosing the option that is best for the application your fleet is running in. See our graphic below for a side by side comparison!