Does Wheel Weight Matter?
March 1, 2021
It’s easy to take for granted the impact a set of aftermarket wheels has on a car, but they are one of the most exciting and easiest mods you can add to transform your car's appearance, ride, and potentially its performance.
Whether you're an avid autocross enthusiast, a car show enthusiast, or just a daily driver, wheel weight can make a difference in your steering response and handling. Companies like Artisa ArtFormed, Enkei, Volk, and Konig make dedicated light-weight and track-focused wheels for this very reason.
Discussing wheel weight and if it actually matters tends to be a controversial topic for enthusiasts from different segments of the car community, but I'm here to say that yes, wheel weight does indeed matter, for most applications. Let's dive into why this is.
This topic can get a little technical so let's simplify things and review a few important Physics terms. I promise it's not so bad.
Unsprung weight: Weight that is NOT supported/carried by your car's suspension | Examples: Wheels, Tires, Wheel Hubs, Bearings
Sprung weight: Weight that is supported/carried by your car's suspension | Examples: Chassis, Body, Transmission, Engine
Rotational Mass: Describes how easy or difficult it is to rotate an object (accelerate), like a wheel, or stop it once it from rotating (braking for example) | resistance to change
- Light Weight Wheel Basics
- Popular Lightweight Wheels
- Do you need lightweight wheels?
Light Weight Wheel Basics | Why it Matters
So, why does wheel weight matter? Wheel weight has everything to do with unsprung weight or rather rotational mass. When something like your wheels is lightweight, this reduces your rotational mass making it easier on your engine to push that weight forward.
When the unsprung weight of your car is reduced, this helps with steering and cornering responsiveness; this is the biggest benefit of lightweight wheels, especially for autocross and other motorsport enthusiasts. Light wheels can also improve MPG which is a plus for everybody.
Now, the biggest controversy over this topic is that a lighter wheel doesn't make that big of a difference overall.
This isn't completely wrong, however, reducing unsprung weight, like wheels, tires, and some suspension components is still one of the most effective methods of weight reduction for handling improvements compared to sprung weight.
2lbs of unsprung weight reduction will offer better handling than 2lbs of sprung weight reduction.
To put it into perspective for people who go to the drag strip, roughly every 100 pounds shed = a tenth of a second off your time. That may not sound like a lot, but if you know, you just know. Every second and tenth of a second count.
But wait, I can already hear people saying "100 pounds! Light wheels can't shave off that much weight". You're not wrong BUT let's say you have a 30lb wheel (120lbs total) and you switch to running the Artisa ArtFormed Titan which is around 18.7lbs per wheel (74.8lbs total), you've already saved 45.2lbs which is basically two wheels.
I mean, you can certainly rip out all your interior and get rid of creature comforts like A/C and power steering, but a set of lightweight wheels can help to accomplish essentially the same thing without sacrificing comfort.
The biggest takeaway with lighter wheels is that you'll improve handling, braking performance, and steering even if it's a marginal difference.
What makes wheels lightweight?
So what actually makes wheels lighter? Manufacturing processes like Enkei's MAT process and Artisa's ArtFormed Technology as well as the actual design of the wheel are what make a wheel lightweight.
Artisa's ArtFormed Technology uses a rotary forged process and weight reduction barrel construction to...well reduce weight. Using a strong aluminum alloy material, their wheels are shaved of unnecessary weight on the back-pad, through spoke millwork, and a bowl-cut hub design to make them as light as possible while still maintaining a high level of strength and durability through barrel grain realignment.
As far as the design goes, Artisa ArtFormed wheels have achieved something that no other aftermarket wheel company has before with their light-weight Deco Directional design work. Artisa creates a left and right-side mold for every wheel model to ensure their directional designs turn the same way; a design they coined "Deco Directional".
Normally, directional wheels by nature are heavy, but they were able to create wheels with an average weight of 20lbs which is incredibly light for the average aftermarket wheel.
Popular Lightweight Wheels
There are some wheels that every enthusiast has seen or at least heard of before, and if you haven't, well you probably haven't been to enough car shows. Here are a few of them.
The Titan is the lightest wheel from Artisa coming in at 18.7lbs which is insanely light. This particular wheel is designed for the sports coupe market and features a beautiful Deco Directional 6-spoke design. The Titan is one of the lightest and strongest directional wheels ever made.
Artisa ArtFormed wheels only launched a few months ago, but I can guarantee that you'll see this wheel at every car show you go to in the next year or so.
The Enkei RPF1 is a notorious wheel from Enkei and for the car enthusiast community because it looks good and is exceptionally light at around 19lbs for a 18x10.5.
This wheel is a very popular choice for track-focused builds. I've seen the RPF1 at the autocross track so many times now, especially on Miatas.
The Hypergram from Konig is a staple lightweight wheel in the car community. The Hypergram is part of Konig's Flow Formed series with an old-school motorsport-inspired design that weighs around 19lbs for a 18x10.5.
The Volk TE37 is the most iconic wheel of the Volk Racing line and the new and improved TE37 Ultra Track edition is one of the lightest and strongest 20-inch rotary forged wheels on the market coming in at only 19lbs.
Do you need lightweight wheels?
The answer to this question really depends on what type of build you have or would like. If you want to build a dedicated track car, 100% yes, invest in some lightweight wheels.
You will feel a difference on the track, even if it's more steering response. That still counts for something.
What do you think about wheel weight? Does it really matter? Why or why not? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!