The secret ingredient in making car wheels roll (and eventually drive your car) is an internal combustion engine. All modern cars on the street today burn gas to power the motor, which in turn drives the car around. The entire procedure can easily be condensed into several distinct components. The key ingredients are air, fuel and lubrication.
Without proper tires on your car wheels, all of the energy that’s generated by the motor is lost. The tires absorb most of the shocks and vibrations while driving, but they’re not able to overcome the force of gravity. If your car wheels had better traction, you’d be able to accelerate much more quickly. Additionally, without good traction, you won’t be able to stop your car quickly or efficiently.
A wheel is generally made up of at least three basic components. The most visible part is of course the rims. Spokes and nipples are soldered directly to the rim, with the center line running through the center of the wheel (or axle). The inner portion of the tire is called a “disc”, and the outside is referred to as a “bore”. The inside of the tire has a layer of compound mixed in, as well as “grip compound” which serves as a lubricant and heat insulation.
The inner surface of a car wheel is generally alloyed steel. The more often-used alloy is either magnesium or aluminum. The advantage of having alloy car wheels is that they’re very durable, since the harder composition adds a lot of strength to the material. Unfortunately, this also makes them heavy and expensive.
Chrome rims are popular for driving around town, since they’re shiny and reflective. However, alloys have another advantage: they’re much lighter. Lightweight wheels have another great advantage: they are much easier to repair should damage occur. Since chrome rims are typically welded rather than put on with glue, they don’t offer nearly the same lifetime as alloys.
The part that connects the drive shaft to the car wheels is called an “axle”. The most commonly used alloy axle is forged steel, although an aluminum or magnesium axle can also be used. An important distinction between an aluminum and magnesium axle is that magnesium is weaker and tends to break much easier than forged steel. Chrome rims generally use an aluminum axle. Chrome rims are usually cheaper as a result.
A “rim” is the part of the car wheels that touches the road. Alloys tend to be heavier than steel wheels, so they need to have a stronger rim. Chrome rims are almost always forged steel rim, but rims can be made from aluminum or magnesium if you want to be able to use heavy duty rims. Chrome rims are cheaper than alloys, but since they have weaker edges and tend to break more easily, they are not recommended for high usage areas such as parking lots. They do have better looks though, and can really spice up your car’s look.
A “cap” is the part of the car wheels that cover the inside edge of the axle. Chrome rims and alloys also differ in the center bore of their axle center. Chrome wheels with a larger center bore are more expensive than steel rims, but they have the added benefit of being stronger and much easier to repair should a damaged axle ever occur. Chrome hubcaps tend to be the cheapest option, but they are not nearly as durable as steel or aluminum hubcaps.