Piston Slap: Focusing on Steelies, Unsprung Weight?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
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piston slap focusing on steelies unsprung weight

Mark writes:


I just ordered a new Focus ST, pretty much the only way to get the zero-option set up I wanted. Can’t wait for it to arrive. The car’s not here yet, but the questions are. This time, a wheel & tire question for your consideration.

While we don’t get a massive amount of snow here in Southern Illinois, we do get some. I’ve learned the hard way that relatively wide, low profile summer tires and all-seasons are bad news in the winter. I’m ready to go the winter tire route, so I wanted to get your thoughts on wheel choices for winter tires in a minus-1 size.

The cheapskate in me thinks steelies look good in a retro/purposeful way (and better than most cheesy aftermarket alloys) and they are a whole bunch cheaper than aftermarket alloys. But then I saw how steelies are on the order of 10 lbs per wheel heavier. Do you think the extra weight would make much difference in ride and handling? I’m not exactly hypersensitive, but I can tell when a set of tires are crap or when a car’s suspension tuning is all out of whack.

What’s your take, or Sanjeev’s thinking, for that matter: Is unsprung weight much of a factor in a street-driven car’s ride and handling?

Sajeev answers:

Both Sajeev and Sanjeev are disappointed with you!

A REAL cheapskate embraces Ford’s recent history via 16″ alloy Thunder/Cougar/Conti/Mark VIII/Fusion/Windstar/ Sable or Taurus wheels of the same bolt pattern. I betcha the FWD Ford’s offset is good enough to just bolt right on, too.

Oh yeah, that’s just perfect. I’m sleeping like a stone tonight, knowing that the wholesome Taurus Oedipus Wrecking goodness that really spun my crank in TTAC’s early days – fits on Ford’s latest Hot Hatch.

But if you wanna sell yourself short, likely spending more for a set of newer steelies, the Internet is cool with that. And what of the steelies’ extra unsprung weight?

Take it from the guy that added a ton (from the stock 15×7 “turbine” to aftermarket faux-Cobra 17×8.5″) to losing 40-50lbs ( 15×7″ steelies to forged Alcoa 15×7“), you get used to the difference. It’s subtle, much like comparing the same dish made in different restaurants. The lightweight Fox instantly felt big body AMG Benz-esque over expansion joints and sweepers with slower, “smoother” inertia transfer from a standstill. The Ranger did the opposite: sluggish with unresponsive steering to…uh, somewhat less sluggish and kinda jittery steering feedback sometimes?

This conversation parallels the whole dancing about architecture thing: irrelevant regarding winter tires in nasty weather.

If you are driving hard enough feel a significant “this restaurant added mangoes to my hamburger!” difference, you’re probably defeating the purpose of driving conservatively in bad weather. Or you are on a racetrack, not enjoying coffee on your morning commute.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

[Image: Shutterstock user WDnet Creation]

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • AZFelix It's just the tip. We promise.
  • Merc190 The way I exceed the EPA range is driving with some common sense: looking down the road at lights and not accelerating just to stop sooner, not accelerating harder than the vehicle in front of me, not tailgating, letting my speed drop slightly uphill and gaining it back downhill (traffic permitting). Sometimes I even switch the engine off early and coast into a spot to get a little arm workout as a bonus!
  • Teddyc73 Interesting when you consider EVs are being forced on us from Democrat politicians who fall well short of truthfulness, ethics, competence, and common sense.
  • Parkave231 I'd rather they remember how to manufacture the things they have before adding more trims and options.
  • SCE to AUX "as if 775 lb-ft of torque in a pickup isn’t enough"Exactly. How about doing something hard instead, like getting your electric truck to meet 'truck' expectations first? That would sell better than a Raptor-like truck.