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Old 04-03-2006, 07:50 PM   #1
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Question Aluminum or Steel

Ok, There are untold volumes of material contained within this forum. But I don't see what I'm looking for.Heres my question. Is there a substantial difference between the steel wheels furnished by airstrean in the early 90's an the aluminum wheels of the same time frame?. I'm thinking of upgrading to aluminum wheels, but only if the improvement is equal or better. Is it a paper or plastic thing? Or does one stand out over the other. I know aluminum looks better. But which one is better.
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Old 04-03-2006, 07:58 PM   #2
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In General...

In general, steel wheels will bend whereas an aluminum wheel will break, if subjected to a sudden harsh impact. Based on that, for pure performance applications in a trailer, steel is probably better.

That being said, polished aluminum looks WAY better! (although I just returned from Jackson Center and have to admit that the baby moon hubcaps on the black steel wheels on the new Bambi look sharp).

On a high performance car, you generally want to minimize the unsprung weight. That is, the weight that moves with every bump. So, most high performance cars have aluminum wheels. In the old days they used to make them out of magnesium, hence the term "mags". Only problem is that magnesium is highly flammable and if you overheat the brakes you could light the wheel on fire. They say magnesium fires generate their own oxygen (I guess it's some alloy with oxygen in the chain). I haven't tried it personally, but have heard it claimed that you could light an old VW engine block on fire (they used to be magnesium), throw it in a pond, and it would continue to burn under water. Be pretty cool if it's true

At any rate, on a trailer, the unsprung weight issue is going to be next to nothing. And, the aluminum alloys they use for making trailer wheels are more than likely not 7000 series or something super strong like Boeing would use. So, the wheels wind up being much thicker than a comparable strength steel wheel. End all result is that there's probably not that much weight difference. In fact, I've seen car mags (aluminum actually) that were heavier than normal stamped steel wheels.

Anyway, they're both rated to carry the load so you can pick whichever you like and be OK. If you go after market, just watch the load ratings. I've seen many different aluminum aftermarket mags that are rated at 3900lbs per wheel. I found some online trailer wheel place that had them. Do a google search and you'll find all kinds of them. American Racing makes an Outlaw II that looks like the new ones on a bunch of the Airstream models that is rated at 3400lbs (in a 16" wheel....forget finding anything good in a 15").

Hope that helps,
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Old 04-03-2006, 07:59 PM   #3
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Aluminum wheels tend to resist being bent more than steel wheels, but also can crack more easily, and can be tough to balance. Steel wheels are easier to balance, but can be bent or knocked out of round more easily than aluminum wheels. They also rust more easily than aluminum wheels corrode.
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Old 04-03-2006, 08:03 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimGolden
Only problem is that magnesium is highly flammable and if you overheat the brakes you could light the wheel on fire. They say magnesium fires generate their own oxygen (I guess it's some alloy with oxygen in the chain).
That is what highway flares are made of, Magnesium. That's also what has been determined to have cause Ricky Nelson's DC3 to go up in a fireball like it did, was because a lot of Magnesium had been used in its construction. Not that it's on topic, just a reinforcement of why we don't want Magnesium wheels on our coaches.
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Old 04-03-2006, 08:27 PM   #5
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Thanks for the help. I think I'll go aluminum.
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Old 04-03-2006, 09:03 PM   #6
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Aluminum or Steel

bill
Before you buy new wheels may I suggest that you look at this thread;

http://www.airforums.com/forum...res-16506.html

It goes into depth the tire problems the travel trailer community is having with 15 inch special trailer tires.
I upgraded to 16 inch and B. F. Goodrich Commercial T/As and Eagle Alloy Model 058;

http://www.aewheel.com/eagle_alloy_wheels.cfm?id=23

Any way, take a look at the forum on tires. Make your own decision.
Brakes last longer because the aluminum dissipates heat better than steel.
Jim
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