You might have heard the terms "cast" and "forged" when shopping for new custom wheels. So, what do these terms actually mean? Cast and forged wheels are the two main ways that wheel manufacturers make their wheels. Here's a quick look at cast and forged wheels and the differences that set both wheel types apart.
Metal casting is a popular and inexpensive way to create various products and aluminum wheels are no exception. The casting process involves molten aluminum that's poured into a mold of the wheel's basic shape. The wheel is released from the mold once it becomes solid and then it undergoes additional trimming and drilling until it achieves its final shape.
The casting process makes alloy wheels easier and less expensive to manufacture, but it also comes with a few downsides. As the molten aluminum solidifies, the process also creates microscopic voids in the material that impacts the wheel's structural integrity. An overly porous wheel becomes more vulnerable to oxidation, pitting, and cracking under use. Some manufacturers cast their wheels by drawing the molten aluminum under vacuum in an attempt to minimize air pockets and create a less porous wheel.
Forged wheels are created through an entirely different process. Instead of using cast molds, wheel manufacturers start with a single, solid billet of aluminum. The billet then undergoes a lengthy forging process that sees the material subjected to extreme temperatures and pressures. The forging process essentially shapes the billet into a specific profile that can be machined into an alloy wheel.
The immense heat and pressure cause changes to the metal's grain structure, making the metal stronger, more durable and more resistant to corrosion. The forging process also eliminates porosity issues that plague cast wheels. Forged wheels also require less material to achieve the same level of strength, resulting in a lighter wheel and reduced unsprung weight.
On the other hand, forged wheels take significantly longer to manufacture than their cast counterparts. The entire process also requires specialized machining equipment, adding to the overall cost of forged wheels.
Which Wheels to Choose
In the end, the choice between cast and forged wheels comes down to personal taste and budget. Forged wheels do offer a performance advantage due to their lighter weight when compared to cast wheels, making them worthwhile in racing applications. However, cast wheels are the more preferable choice if you want style but you're sticking to everyday driving.
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