History of the Wheel

October 17th, 2016

Do you know what one of the most important inventions of all time is? I’ll give you a hint: it’s NOT sliced bread, though sliced bread IS pretty great. ūüėČ

All jokes aside, the wheel is widely regarded as one of the most important inventions of all time. Some might look at it as nothing more than crude invention thought of by some primitive cavemen. But this generalization¬†seriously undermines just how innovative and sophisticated the wheel is. It is truly a testament to the human intellect, as nothing that exists in the natural world is like the wheel. Though there are some organisms that use “rolling” as a form of transportation, nothing really comes close to the wheel.

If we look around at all of our technological advances, we can see that many of them employ wheels. Where would we be without our cars, bikes, and planes? Not very far. The wheel has greatly increased the speed and distance at which humans travel.

However, it didn’t start out that way: there is evidence to suggest that they were utilized as potter’s wheels before hitting the road. This was back in 3500 BC, and around 300 years later they were used for chariots. Even later than that; 1500 years later to be precise, wheels started having spokes. This was to cut down the amount of material used to make wheels, and it allowed for faster transportation.

Automobile Wheels

Of course, it’s safe to say that most of us don’t ride¬†around in chariots anymore.¬†…And if you do, please show us. But now, when we think about wheels, we think about the rims on our cars. They are more than just a means of travel; for some, they are status symbols. We want our wheels to look good! Manufacturers know this, so they make their wheels look extra nice… have you seen the stock Mercedes GLK rims?

Speaking of Mercedes… Karl Benz was one of the first to utilize automobile wheels on his Motorwagen back in 1885. The wheels on there were wired, like the ones you would find on bicycles. Henry Ford was another one of the first people using automobile wheels. His Model T was using wooden wheels, and it wasn’t until about 1926-1927 when these wheels would be made out of steel with welded spokes.

Starting in the 1930s, magnesium wheels started being produced, gaining great popularity during the 50s due to their light material. After the 60s, commercial magnesium wheels were slowly dwindling and getting replaced with aluminum alloy wheels. Mag wheels had a tendency to corrode easily and they were mostly used in racing. Despite this, mag wheels are actually pretty popular among classic car enthusiasts.

Alloy wheels had already been in production, but they were casted poorly. Improvements in the casting industry came about during the 60s, allowing alloy wheels to take the place of mag wheels in terms of popularity.

However, until about the 2000s, steel wheels were still a bit more common because they came standard on vehicles; one could choose to upgrade to alloys through a more expensive package from the dealer. ¬†You can see this for yourself, too – if you check out some factory wheels from the 90s on our website, you might find that only 2-3 alloy options were made for a particular year, make, and model, and then a standard steel option. For example, the 1995 Toyota Avalon wheels: only 2 alloys, and 2 steels (though, really, it’s just ONE steel wheel with either a black or silver paint option).

Nowadays, it seems that alloys are much more popular and car buyers can choose from many different options, though they still are more expensive. For manufacturers such as BMW and Mini Cooper, you’re going to see a great selection of alloy OEM wheels that were made for each specific year, make, and model. Different styles, spoke numbers, finishes, and sizes… There’s something for everyone!

Now you know a little bit more about our best friend, the wheel. They play a huge part in getting you from point A to point B, so make sure you try not to get any cracks or bends in your OEM¬†rims! If you do, though, we’re here for you!


See you soon,
– Kathy


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