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November 24, 2015

OEM Buick Wheel Materials

Most OEM Buick wheels today are made out of steel or an aluminum alloy material. Magnesium wheels are another material; however, no longer produced by original equipment manufacturers, as they are easily flammable. There are differences between the materials and why they certain ones are used.

Weight is a considerable factor between the two different materials available for the factory original Buick wheel. Stock steel wheels are heavier than their aluminum alloy counterparts are. When equipped with an aluminum alloy wheel the Buick is lighter leading to better maneuvering and better gas mileage. Steel does have advantages over alloy wheels. Because of their weight, they make better winter wheels as the extra weight allows tires to have better traction with the snow.

The extra density of the OEM steel wheel affords greater strength making this material ideal for Buick spares. Spares made using steel do not have to be as wide to retain durability saving space in the trunk or undercarriage. Additionally, due to the density, steel wheels are less likely to be severely damaged upon impact.

Due to the difference in material strength and density, the stock Buick steel wheel has a very plain or simple design having several holes or slots or a simple spoke design. OEM Buick alloy wheels however are more malleable allowing for much more intricate designs and patterns such as having 6 "Y" shaped spokes or 5 double spokes. This difference can make identifying the difference visually easier in many cases because elaborate patterns are not found on steel wheels. Note that many steel wheels have plastic covers or "hub caps" with designs in order not to have the Buick wheels look so plain and more like alloy rim styles.

Structural and design differences aside, another difference is how the wheel is finished (the way they are made to look after being cast or pressed). Buick steel wheels mainly come in black or they may be painted silver. On occasion, the steel rim is painted a variety of basic colors. Some come with a chrome finish or a plastic chrome cover that is glued to the wheel (these wheels are called chrome clad wheels). Factory Buick alloy wheels can also have those finishes, but usually there are more options of colors including may different silvers (e.g. light silver, sparkle silver, medium silver, and hyper silver). Alloy wheels can also have additions to the finish including machined or polished. Machined wheels usually have a colored paint in addition to the machining, while polished wheels may or may not have any additional finish.

Even with all of the differences between stock aluminum alloy and factory steel wheels, on occasion it can be difficult to discern the material used. Any tire or OEM wheel professional should be able to figure out the material that a Buick wheel is made of and be able to recommend or obtain a replacement if the wheel cannot or should not be reconditioned.

The Tire Industry Association (TIA) California Tire Dealers Association Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)