Donebrokeit SuperDork
10/3/19 10:21 p.m.

I am shopping from some wider wheels and was wondering if there is a point when lightweight wheels give none or almost no improvement in performance with (aluminum) versus steel wheels? What about feel/feedback? I am looking at 15x10 wheels and they have different weights and costs, just trying to rationalize twice the price.


Just to keep the wheel type/use equal let's uses asphalt wheels.


Just looking for people's thoughts on this. 



ebonyandivory PowerDork
10/4/19 3:16 a.m.

I’m also interested in feedback. I’m wondering what lighter wheels will do for my Sierra

frenchyd UberDork
10/4/19 4:08 a.m.

NIn reply to Donebrokeit :

It is simple. What do you value more? Your money or performance?  

To a racer wheels, light weight wheels are a high value. They help the car accelerate, stop, corner and handle rough roads better. We will go past aluminum to magnesium or lighter if possible. 

To someone for appearance it doesn’t matter as long as the “look” is right. 

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
10/4/19 6:01 a.m.

When I was still road racing, I had two sets of wheels with identical tires. One set was 3 lb/wheel heavier and I could feel it. There were enough other variables in my driving that I couldn't point at the extra weight and identify a time cost, but I could certainly feel it everywhere frenchyd identified. 

NordicSaab Dork
10/4/19 6:14 a.m.

GRM did a quick study on this:

I remember my takeaway being that lightER wheels must be better than light wheels, but only marginally given the difference to heavy wheels.  

TurnerX19 Dork
10/4/19 6:48 a.m.

The biggest part of the difference that I have felt is the rough roads part. All of Frenchy's comments are true, but if you only run on smooth tracks I would put the money towards entry fees instead.

frenchyd UberDork
10/4/19 6:55 a.m.

In reply to TurnerX19 :

 while you are absolutely correct about the more time on track being the biggest advantage, if you are buying wheels careful shopping can often provide good used aluminum wheels at the price of new steel wheels.  

Then somewhere down the road your driving skills will run up against someone with the lighter wheels and you will lose.   

Adrian_Thompson MegaDork
10/4/19 6:58 a.m.

You didn't say if this was for track or autocross work.  Based on the frequency of discussions about even motorsport oriented alloy wheels cracking in track work, I've come to the conclusion that unless you can afford $$$ forged high end wheels, I'd go for cheaper to replace steel wheel in future.

RX8driver Reader
10/4/19 7:47 a.m.

One thing rarely discussed about lightweight wheels is stiffness. If the lighter wheel isn't as stiff, then it will flex more under cornering loads and you'll lose some of your camber, reducing the effectiveness of the tire or force a more aggressive alignment, reducing straight line traction. I've seen tests showing that lighter, but less stiff wheels are slower.

frenchyd UberDork
10/4/19 8:13 a.m.

That certainly is prudent. 

Those of us  who lean more towards the competitive side might choose aluminum wheels which have a durable history.  Especially if the vehicle in question is light.  

I think even Steel wheels have limits. I’ve seen enough of those fail to accept that nothing is perfect. 

Nugi Reader
10/4/19 8:17 a.m.

I need to buy a couple sensors and have a go. I am curious now A. How much force is generated by cornering at the rim b. How much the tire deflection affects wheel deflection and c how much the wheel deflects given x force exerted, and how to spread that for testing. 

Here are some less scientific testing and wheel lightening ideas.


Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
10/4/19 8:44 a.m.

Just changed from a set of ugly heavy 17" wheels and tires to a set fo 14's on miata hollowspokes..  I estimate the difference to be 10-15lbs per corner lighter.  The car is now tail happy and needs stickier rubber..  that's all I got.

Kreb UberDork
10/4/19 9:06 a.m.

Seems to me that if your aluminum wheels are flexing to any significant extent they will fail relatively soon. Aluminum is much less fatigue resistant than steel. 


Vigo MegaDork
10/4/19 9:35 a.m.

The diminishing returns mostly come from how quickly wheels get more expensive beyond a certain 'common' level of lightness. Lighter is better with wheels and that basically doesn't stop until the wheel is just fragile, but unless it's a Koenigsegg there is a financial calculus that may prevent the leap to, for example, carbon fiber wheels in pursuit of the next lb of weight loss. For a given size of wheel (17x9, etc) there is a rough number below which you are not going to go without spending loads of money. 

frenchyd UberDork
10/4/19 9:41 a.m.

Very well stated! 

iceracer UltimaDork
10/4/19 11:36 a.m.

When you see the beating those steel wheels nascars use, kinda makes you wonder.

Lots of two wheeling when bouncing off the curbs at the roval.

 Then we don't know how long they last.

slowbird HalfDork
10/4/19 11:43 a.m.

In reply to iceracer :

Nascar tires also have those big floppy sidewalls to absorb a lot of the blow. laugh

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