For cosmetic reasons many tuition vehicles now have alloy wheels. They are now fitted as standard on many new cars and come in many different designs. Pupils tend to pay more attention to the look of a driving school car more than they did in the past so instructors need to take this into account when choosing a vehicle. Alloy wheels are made from softer material than steel wheels and offer better acceleration and general all round performance. There could also be a saving on fuel consumption as alloy wheels are lighter than standard steel wheels.
As they are made from softer material there is a greater likelihood of damage as a result of kerb strikes. New learners will tend to hit the kerb especially in the early stages when practising moving off and stopping. As they cannot yet judge the distance to the kerb instructors need to keep watch and possibly assist with steering. The wheels are easily scratched and putting this right can prove costly when trading in the car. If the wheel rims bend enough owing to kerb strikes the seal between the rim and tyre can be compromised resulting in a slow puncture. Alloy wheels are prone to salt water corrosion so must be kept clean in winter when roads have been salted to prevent icing.
Steel wheels tend to be much heavier than alloys so add to the unsprung weight of a car. This results in poor acceleration and a sluggish feel to the steering. They also lower the centre of gravity of the car giving a much sturdier and sure feel to the overall handling. Fuel consumption may rise as the engine now has to drive the extra weight. The tougher steel wheels can cope with kerb strikes much more easily and any cosmetic damage can be hidden with wheel trims. These tend to be inexpensive and easily replaced if they are cracked. Any wheel trims need to be securely fastened to prevent them coming off and causing danger when on the move.
In winter steel wheels can be a big advantage as the extra weight helps the tyres to bite into snow and ice resulting in a much better grip. The lower centre of gravity from using heavier wheels can give a sure feel to the drive in poor weather conditions and pupils feel much more in control of the car. This can go a long way to helping learners feel secure and prevent lesson cancellations in winter weather.