The Pros and Cons of Aluminum or Steel Wheels
Whether they’re aluminum or steel, the condition of your wheels can say a lot about how well you take care of your Volvo truck. A cracked or broken wheel rim, elongated stud and bolt holes and loose or missing wheel fasteners can cost two severity points per violation under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program. And because wheels are one of the most visible parts of your truck, they can quickly bring a roadside inspector’s attention to other potential issues. Keeping your wheels in top shape, and maintaining peak performance, begins with ensuring they are spec’d correctly for your truck’s application and region.
An aluminum wheel typically weighs about 30 pounds less than a comparable steel wheel. Aluminum wheels can reduce the weight of a loaded truck and trailer by several hundred pounds, improving fuel and freight efficiency. This makes them an ideal option for weight-sensitive applications such as bulk hauling, where 500 pounds off your truck and trailer weight can mean 500 pounds of extra cargo – and more money in your pocket.
Although aluminum wheels cost about three to four times more than steel at the point of purchase, they may save you money on maintenance costs over their entire life cycle. Because they’re specially treated, not painted like most steel wheels, aluminum wheels tend to be more resistant to potential corrosion caused by de-icing chemicals such as magnesium chloride and calcium chloride. The American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council estimates aggressive corrosion caused by these chemicals, which have replaced rock salt and sand to clear roadways of ice and snow in certain regions of North America, to be a $4 billion problem for fleets each year. However, several wheel manufacturers have recently introduced specially coated steel wheels to address this issue.
Due to their weight, steel wheels are perceived by some fleet managers to be more durable than aluminum. Thus, trucks in severe applications with oversized, frequently shifting loads – such as transit operations, logging and mining – are often fitted with steel wheels. This helps alleviate issues such as rim flange wear, which is caused by abrasion from the tire chafer and sidewall. A sidewall separation – a potentially dangerous situation where the tread separates from the casing or body of the tire – can be caused when a tire with rim flange wear is demounted and the sharp edges of the flange cut rubber from the bead. In addition, sidewall separations can affect your CSA score.
Conduct a visual inspection of your wheels before each trip, checking for rust, cracks or other damage. Keep corrosion at bay by washing your steel wheels regularly with mild soap and water, or by polishing aluminum wheels to keep them looking bright and shiny. The factory-trained technicians at your local Volvo Trucks dealership will inspect your wheels during each preventive maintenance visit and can even suggest the best wheels for your specific application. Don’t forget to check inventory at the SELECT Part Store™, where you can order online 24/7 for quick delivery and specials on parts and supplies.