Are you thinking of upgrading your car’s rims? Well, you cannot make the right choice without learning about the different types available today.

Beadlock, split, and safety are the three types of car rims you can find in auto shops today. Safety rims are used in passenger vehicles, split rims are for heavy-duty vehicles, and beadlocks are for off-road traveling. These rims come in different materials, including steel, alloy, and chrome.

The rims fitted in your vehicle are more than just showpieces to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your vehicle. They are responsible for offering better stability and acceleration and ensuring wheel and tire safety. The types and materials of the rims used in your vehicle will play a part in its performance.

As someone who carries an undying passion and in-depth understanding of everything related to cars, I can guide you through the different types of car rims and the materials used to manufacture them.  

Types of Car Rims

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Types of Car Rims

A rim is the outer circular part of a car wheel, which is used to mount the inside edge of the tires. The rim you choose for your vehicle will significantly affect your handling of the car and its overall performance and look.

Here are the three types of car rims that you can get for your vehicle:

Safety Rims

Safety rims are inarguably the most popular type of car rims. These rims are installed on passenger vehicles produced by the manufacturers. Safety rims feature inward bumps that ensure their grip on the tire bead.

These bumps enable the wheel to hold the tire even without pressure. But they do get assistance from tire pressure and will not work optimally when your tire is inflated.

Split Rims

These rims are multi-piece features used in heavier vehicles. They have locking rings or a side ring that enables them to hold the tire in place.

They are ideal for tires with a large diameter, which is why they are installed in the tires of utility transport vessels, such as large trucks, tractors, forklifts, and other heavy-duty vehicles.

Split rims can be dangerous if separated suddenly. The wheels attached to them carry an explosion risk. It’s why they are not typically used in passenger cars.

Beadlock Rims

Beadlock rims are distinctive, heavy rims used in off-road vehicles. They have the impressive capability to keep underinflated tires in place. They do so by physically clamping the tire bead to the rim.

Since off-roaders underinflate their tires for improved flex, at the same time, underinflated tires present a bigger risk of coming out of the rim. Using beadlock rims will help off-roaders drive over obstacles without the fear of losing their wheels.

It’s not legal to use most beadlock rims for road travel since you cannot take the risk of the bolts that hold the tire coming undone. With that said, some beadlock rims are Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant.

Additionally, beadlock rims have recommended pressure ranges to ensure smooth driving on varied terrains, such as gravel, sand, and mud.

Materials for Car Rims

Auto manufacturers use numerous materials to produce car rims. It’s why you must learn to tell one type of rim material from another.

Here’s everything you need to know about the types of materials used to make car rims:

Steel

Steel rims are the most affordable and durable rims available today. They are often called factory-fitted rims because of their past popularity. Even though they cost a lot less than rims made from other materials, steel rims are significantly heavier than contemporary rims.

These old-school, standard rims have given way to lighten metals that increase the vehicle’s fuel efficiency. However, you can still find them on 17-inch wheels since they are impressively cheaper (about 80%) than rims made from other materials.

Most steel rims are powder coated or painted black to preserve their finish and prevent them from rusting. It gives them a rather unappealing look.

Despite their clunky appearance and weight, steel rims are incredibly durable. It’s why they are used on heavy-duty vehicles and semi-trucks that carry heavy loads and need the optimal towing capability.

People who want durable wheels use steel rims but cover them up with wheel covers to improve their appearance. With that said, modern manufacturers have started using alloy and chrome due to their improved aesthetic appeal.

Aluminum & Aluminum Alloy

Aluminum and magnesium alloy rims might cost a little more than steel rims, but they are significantly prettier and lighter. Alloy rims deliver the best bang for your buck since they also cost less than forged or chrome rims.

Today, most manufacturers prefer using alloy rims over steel ones due to their lightweight and their versatility in finishes. You can get them in chrome, machined, or polished finishes. Additionally, their light weight ensures faster acceleration and reduced stop motion.

Another positive aspect of using aluminum alloy rims is that they will put less strain on your vehicle while giving it an aesthetic look. Aluminum and magnesium alloy rims are quite durable as well.

However, aluminum-nickel rings are susceptible to cracking and bending, especially when compared to durable steel rims. But they will improve your car’s performance due to the reduced unsprung weight.

Spinners

Spinner rims originated in the 1980s and came into prominence in the late 90s and early 2000s. Popularly known as spinning wheels, these rims were commonly used in foreign movies and music videos. They were available in various colors, including red, white, and black.

Spinner rims have an outer face designed to keep them spinning even when your car stops moving. These rims do not affect the performance of your car. They were purely designed to enhance a vehicle’s aesthetic appeal.

Today, these rims are going out of fashion as they are needlessly expensive. Moreover, some US states have banned their use due to the safety risk of these rims getting detached and hurting bystanders or damaging other vehicles.

Chrome

Chrome rims aren’t as common as steel or alloy rims. But they are quite trendy due to their shiny look. These rims are typically used by individuals looking to enhance the aesthetic appeal of their wheels without focusing on their performance.

Chrome-finished rims are easily scratched and start looking old fairly quickly. Chrome rims aren’t made of chrome; they only have a chrome finish. It means that you can apply the finish to alloy, steel, and forged rims.

Even though they aren’t scratch-proof, chrome rims are excellent at resisting rust. But since the finish includes some hazardous chemicals, some US states have banned their use. Moreover, applying a chrome coat to your rims can be quite expensive. Chrome rims will also require extra care compared to powdered or painted rims. Otherwise, their finish will fade over time due to oxidization.

Carbon Fiber Rims

Carbon fiber rims are the lightest rims that you can find in the market today. However, they are also the costliest, and not everyone can afford to buy them. They are the latest type of car rim and are so expensive because their manufacturing is limited so far.

If you want to upgrade your wheels with these rims, you will have to shell out more than a few thousand per rim. Ford Mustang GT350R comes with sleek carbon fiber rims that promote impeccable acceleration and quick braking.

These pricy rims are made from pieces of carbon fiber arranged on top of each other with a resin injected into a wheel mold. This resin is then pressurized and baked to create a carbon fiber wheel.

The manufacturers then cut out the lug nut and valve stem holes and put the wheels back in the oven to cure. The finish is then preserved with a clear coating.

Forged or Cast Rims

When looking for new vehicle rims, you might come across the terms forged and cast. They refer to the rim preparation method. Forged rims are made by superheating the metal to boost its strength. The wheels are then milled or machined into their final appearance.

These rims are typically a lot stronger than alloy or steel wheels. However, they also cost more than these two types of car rims. You might find 1-piece, 2-piece, and 3-piece forged wheels in the market. The number of pieces indicates how many pieces of metal were used to manufacture the wheels.

On the other hand, cast wheels are prepared by pouring molten metal into a mold. When the metal cools down, the manufacturer removes it from the cast/mold and polishes it for the final look. These wheels are not as strong as hardened forged wheels, but they cost less than them.

Rim Size & Specifications

Before purchasing new rims, you should remember that the rims and tires should effortlessly fit into each other to ensure optimal vehicle performance and road safety.

Here are three requirements you should keep in mind to find the right types of car rims for your vehicle:

  • The size of your rim and tire should match in diameter. If you have a 17-inch tire, your rim should be 17 inches in diameter as well.
  • If you’re going for larger rims, you will need to decrease the side profile of your tire to ensure the appropriate outer diameter.
  • Make sure the rim bolt pattern matches the wheel hub to ensure that everything fits seamlessly. Otherwise, you will put yourself and others on the road in danger.

Which Type of Car Rim is the Best?

Even though alloy and steel rims are the most favored rims in the market today, your rim choice will depend on your specific needs. If you’re looking for aesthetic appeal, you can opt for chrome and alloy rims. For excellent performance at a reasonable price, you should go with alloy rims. But if you want durability and affordability, your best option is steel rims.

The heavier your wheels are, the more unsprung weight your vehicle will have, which will ultimately affect its handling, acceleration, and braking. On the flip side, a lighter rim will ensure smoother and faster acceleration and ensure smooth braking in shorter distances.

So, the best car rims for you will depend entirely on your budget, weight requirements, and aesthetic preferences.

About THE AUTHOR

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

Read More About Charles Redding