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Hooniverse Asks Bonus: Are Steel Wheels Dead?

Kamil Kaluski January 31, 2013 Hooniverse Asks 62 Comments

G500 steelies

Few years ago I came upon the above G500 for sale on an Internet forum. It was love at first sight – someone had the balls, the knowledge, the audacity, and the respect to put a proper set of steel wheels and all-terrain tires on the mighty, but often dub+ wearing, USDM Geländewagen.

The selling price was reasonable too, only $40,000 at the time, and the truck was rather mint. I was ready to pull the trigger on it too, but I was about thirty grand short.

Anyway, after dealing with the aftermath of my wife’s off-road adventures, I started looking around for steel replacement wheels for my MDX. They’re much stronger, cheaper, and can be fixed with a big hammer if they get bent. Try that with your lightweight aluminum/magnesium/carbon-fiber/uranium wheels.

To my surprise, I found none. The after-market winter wheels were 16″ and I have brand new 17″ tires. Wheels off the base Honda Ridgeline would fit, but they are one-inch narrower, and I don’t really want to go that way. The second gen MDX does have a full-size steel wheel used as spare, but the bolt pattern is different.

So, are the days of strong and affordable steel wheel over? Are they really that uncool?


  • I like them. I saw a set on a new white Camaro and it looked great.

    • I also like those "heritage steel wheels" (as GM calls them). Unfortunately they won't fit the V8 cars because of clearance issues with the bigger brakes.

  • Depends on the vehicle. They're still standard on many full size pickups and I wouldn't go with anything else.

  • dculberson

    The base model (or maybe the rental trim) of the current gen Chrysler 300 still comes with steel wheels with plastic hubcaps. That really surprised me.

    That G500 looks really tough. I love it.

  • calzonegolem

    I love steelies. My current car is the only one I've owned with alloys.

  • Devin

    I think they're ripe for a comeback:
    <img src="http://www.redline360.com/garage/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/2013-Subaru-BRZ-RA.jpg"&gt;

    Incidentally, I've got steelies myself, albeit with some plastic wheel covers.

  • JayP2112

    Some new hubcaps cover the steel wheels so well, they look like alloys. Ford has been good about that.

    Steel wheels are heavy and have an effect on MPGs. When manufacturers are trying to eek out that last tenth, they'll reduce the rotational mass. Just wait for the plastic wheel…
    <img src="http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/3/3189/4921/32972460005_large.jpg&quot; width="450">
    Sure looks like a hubcap, huh?

  • Since every NSX seems to have non-stock wheels, I thought for sure there would be one with steelies. No such luck.

    Though that BRZ ^^^ looks hella sweet on steel wheels.

  • oldcarjunkie

    I think the huge wheel sizes we have today make a difference. Take a 13" wheel vs 13" aluminum one – weight difference isn't too bad. Ramp that up 19" and the weight difference is significant. Hard to find any new cars with smaller than 15" rims these days.

    • This is the correct answer.

      My Buick comes with 17 in wheels, and I ended up with an extra tire from the previous owner. After several months of hunting, I found the rare 17 in steel wheel that shares the car's bolt pattern (used on GM minivans one model year only), so I put the two together for a full-size spare. Holy moly, that thing is heavy. It's 53 lb–about 10 lb heavier than the car's regular wheel/tire assemblies.

    • JayP2112
  • M44Power

    Plenty of steelies left in the off road world. Cragar makes some very attractive steel wheels that I've been tempted (at least until I saw the weight) to put on my ZJ.

  • BradleyBrownell

    My last few cars have been on steel wheels. Currently, though, I don't own a single set.

  • BYoung

    I miss them as well. As "all season" tires are a compromise in all seasons in Michigan I've grown accustomed to having two set of tires for each vehicle with the winter snows mounted on steelies. 24 tires/wheels. The Mustang GT ('88) has the 4-lug rotors, further narrowing my options. Steel wheels look perfect on almost any car sporting aggressive winter tires and are an awesome option for many sport coupes if you want the street racer look. You can still find them in Europe. Of course, you can still find 15" tires in Europe as well, including snows. I blame American auto designers/makers for assuming that every buyer wants 22" chromies and 1/2" sidewalls. We don't.


    cars are using larger and larger brakes that necessitate larger diameter wheels and they get heavy fast when they're steel. could you imagine 20" steelies?

    since they're only steel, why don't you find a set in the diameter and width you like and see about having them redrilled to your bolt pattern?

    • Another issue is the cost of the OEM spares for the new MDX… they want over $200 for each one, so that's completly out.

      • Eywolf

        "Wheels off the base Honda Ridgeline would fit, but they are one-inch narrower, and I don’t really want to go that way."

        Have you tried looking into a shop to widen the wheels by an inch?
        It's a common thing to do with steel wheels for the wide 44-46" snow tyres for 4×4's here in Iceland if you don't want to shell out for the expensive custom wide ones…

    • I just found out the hard way that the doughnut spare for my Ford Edge is aluminum. Who knew?

      • danleym

        Your use of "the hard way" is somewhat ironic.

        • I'd like to say "I got a million of them" but it would be more accurate to say "I walk right into them a million times."

  • SSurfer321

    Subie is and always has been on steelies.
    F150 was on stock alloy but now on forged aluminium.

    Check Black Rock steel wheels. They have fitments for some Acura. http://www.blackrockwheelsapplicationguide.com/Ap

  • Preludacris

    Kamil, you should check into some companies that make steelies for racing. They'll build to your spec for around $100 per wheel. http://www.diamondracingwheels.com/index.html

  • Vavon

    <img src="http://imgc.classistatic.com/cps/blnc/120523/135r1/2711e4j_20.jpeg&quot; width="650/">
    As long as these exist, the steel wheel has nothing to fear!

  • Wolfie

    I used chrome wheels and baby moons on a bunch of cruisers over the years,still a good look on the right car.

    • JayP2112
      • Wolfie

        I love the Hooniverse.
        I found a set of original full "Moon discs" In an old scrap yard bought cheap ,because""they got no holes for valve stems".
        Back in my youth,would paint the steelies silver,tap on a set of trim rings and baby moons and ride in style.

  • ptschett

    Steel wheels are alive and well. Some consumers may not even know that their car has them… http://www.hayes-lemmerz.com/steel_wheels.php http://www.sae.org/automag/material/01-2006/1-114


    Nah, steelies will live on. Basically every base model still comes with them from the factory, and the police departments love them because their cheap, strong, and can run over a curb with just a bend instead of a break so a pursuit can continue. the combination of strength and ductility in response to high impact while remaining cheap really isn't matched by any other material, so until we find a material that has those properties at a lighter weight, I think steelies will endure.

    And what pattern is your MDX on? I'm sure you could find some full size spare steelies from something else that would be about the right size. Or like Preludacris said, Diamond makes high quality custom spec steelies for a very affordable price.



      Damn I wish this filter would let me have an ID account.

      • Go to: http://www.intensedebate.com/userDash
        Create account, log in, and make sure that your browser remembers that you're logged in.
        Go to Hooniverse, refresh, and it should automatically sign you in.

        Just think of all the +1 you have been missing.


          Work filter bounces me if logged into ID, doesn't if I just come in as a guest. My life is like a fart 🙁

  • mnm4ever

    It is not the steel wheels that are uncool… its the MDX. For proper off-roaders you will find steelies a plenty. My personal favorites are the simple 10-hole steelies you see often on Wranglers. Your problem will be finding steel wheels that big, most of the off road wheels are 15".

  • I'm also in the pro-steel camp. Even for a nice specimen of an older car, I'd rather get a set of Cragar Soft-8 or D-window steelies than the ubiquitous and rather inoffensive Torq-Thrusts.

    I also favor them on new cars; if I were to buy a new car, I'd buy one of the fancy packages that forces alloy wheels in order to get heated seats and memory mirrors, but then I'd sell the alloys on Craigslist to fund a set of the base steelies and better tires.

    The catch is that many new cars have wheel diameters that are impractical for steelies because they would be too heavy (as Oldcarjunkie mentioned above).

  • Jordan

    Heck I threw a set of 2011 Camaro Steels on my Galaxie (1966) Convertible. I think they look awesome and they were Super CHEAP.

    <img src="http://i1139.photobucket.com/albums/n549/jrdnwheeler/IMG_1212.jpg&quot; width="600">

    • Dude…that's awesome. Didn't know the new Camaros were 5 on 4.5…


        They aren't. All the Zeta cars are on a 5×120 pattern (which is just different enough than the old 5×4.75 (120.65) pattern to cause issues).

        Jordan, where'd you get them re-patterned? They look pretty great on there 🙂

  • I Think Not

    When I went to replace the tires on my 1980 Rabbit, I was dishearted by how hard it was to find cheap 13" tires. 15" is the new base wheel size, apparently, so no manufacturer makes 13" tires in the volumes they usedter, hence the $50/tire cost.

    So, instead of prolonging the misery, I bought a 15×6 steelie+tire package on the interwebs. The steelies weren't a perfect fit, as I needed a 5mm spacer for the tire to not rub on the springs (back) and struts (front), and my gas mileage did noticably drop. Still — I welcome the added grip, and with about 1" of lowering, I think they look quite mean, though they could use some trim rings, for sure.

    <img src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-Nx3rpy7gFk8/UPNUpU29aLI/AAAAAAAADKY/UFmBSHANhpI/s640/P1133280.JPG"&gt;

    • Yea, that's kind of a cool look.

      Okay, very cool.

  • jeepjeff

    As others have mentioned, steelies are alive and well in the off-roading aftermarket. A quick google says that the stock rim size is 17"x6.5" with a 45mm backspacing. You've got the same 5×4.5" bolt pattern as my Jeep, so I know there are 17" steelies out there in that bolt pattern. The backspacing and and width might be a problem (I expect anything less than 8" is going to be difficult to find, since Jeep guys are normally putting a minimum of LT35x12.5 tires on those rims). However, the backspacing on Jeep wheels is going to generally be deeper than 45mm, so you can fix it with spacers (but: there is a long standing debate on JeepForum as to whether those are safe or not).

    That said, I'm still running the stock alloys that came with my Jeep.

  • KaZo86

    Steel wheels aren't going anywhere but they're certainly a price conscious feature, not one of performance of any kind.

    My daily driver '84 Mercedes 300TD sports factory aluminum (forged, i think, based on the design) 14" wheels. 13 lbs a piece, i've never seen a lighter factory wheel on anything, period. In my previous Mercedes, an '83 300D, I drunkenly took a curb at 15 or so mph. Popped the tire, bent the suspension control rod, but the wheel was fine.

    • Guest

      In 1993 special edition Miatas had a sub 10 pound 14" alloy wheel.

  • pj134

    Note sure what bolt pattern and size you're looking for, but Cragars come in a 17×8 or 17×9 depending on bolt pattern.

  • My 2011 Silverado came with silver painted 17" steel wheels. The truck is black, I've debated taking a can of black spray paint to the wheels.

  • On cars from the factory? Probably, on all but the lowest of low spec subcompacts.

    …and the base Camaro, with 17s. I was elated at the idea of a steelie + 6MT equipped base Camaro until I finally sat in one.

    Trucks and (real) SUVs are still sporting them in some cases.

    Aftermarket for 4x4s is huge with steel wheels, as well as older cars.

  • Battles
  • Maybe they're dead from the factory, but the stance/Euro crowd is eating them up. Diamond Racing is probably selling more of their steelies for import applications than they are for actual race cars now.

    <img src="https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTAyMxMePyRzfW43jZ7lULIQqE1Vgtse1rq0PAu1f-1yESC518Fvw&quot; width=700>

    <img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v64/macleanshaun/jurnle/3.jpg&quot; width=700>

    • JayP2112

      In my Tn autox days, there were 3 guys running VWs- 2 MK1 Sciroccos and a Rabbit GTi. All had steam roller wheels from Diamond. Looked pretty badass. And kicked the crap out my me and me little ROStyle wheeled MGB.

  • MattC

    I have steelies on my Base Rav4. One thing I absolutely despise is wheel covers especially ones that try to look like alloys. However, I will gice credit to GM and Ford that have made proper cowheel covers over their respective steel wheels that match perfectly (wheel skins).

    I also do not like the flat black most manufacturers use. I bought my Rav4 used and decided to lose the factory wheel covers. I then prepped them and sprayed wheel specific paint (aluminum in color) and it made a world of difference in appearance. Now all I need to do is find a proper center cap to fit.

  • ChironRocket3

    <img src="http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/539225_4903813385863_1888588146_n.jpg"width="600"&gt;

    I like black steelies (and raised white letter tires, which BF Goodrich has never made in a diameter greater than 15") that I downgraded to smaller brakes in the front so they'd fit. (Come on…it's a Malibu. A Malibu WAGON. I ain't gonna be trail-braking Turn 14 at Road America with it anytime soon.)

    • ChironRocket3

      *I like black steelies (and raised white letter tires, which BF blah blah blah) SO MUCH that i*

      There, fixed it.

  • JayP2112

    I've got a pic (like a real photo) of my old A4 with the steelies and autx tires. I'll see if I can dig it up and post it tomorrow.
    It looked pretty damn good.

  • Ol'Shel'

    Ti would give you the look of steel, with the cost of JDM-only alloys…

  • Maymar

    Every year come October/November, the roads start to fill with cars rocking steelies and snow tires. If nothing else, steelies scream "I have common sense!" I dig it.

    <img src="http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p203/rae1975/164B16AA-F3DD-46ED-9FFA-961E8D4C805D-8885-000004CC3A7D76F2.jpg&quot; width=500 /img>
    But I genuinely like the steelies Honda used on the last-gen CRV. I don't know if it was a factory wheel on anything else (although I've seen enough cars on them in the winter), but it's not bad looking. Distressingly, I know a dealer that'll chrome the things to try and move inventory. It just looks wrong, considering how simple and honest the standard steelie is.

  • Lotte

    I came across these two photos a while back:

    <img src="http://www.challengertalk.com/forums/attachments/f79/53940d1346214289-18-charger-police-wheels-img_0466.jpg&quot; width="500/">

    <img src="http://i202.photobucket.com/albums/aa125/kevdupuis/IMG_0041.jpg&quot; width="500/">
    I think these look fantastic! Same ones on the Charger Stu-Rock posted above. Especially with the trim rings (and I have no idea where they were got because Mopar sure doesn't make 'em). And I learned that the center cap goes on with a whack of a rubber mallet; it is seated on special lipped lug nuts. I really dig steel wheels with a shiny chrome center cap.

  • Jason

    Cragar Wheels at Summit. Search over.