"747 (Strangers in the Night)" is about a power cut that forced planes in New York to remain in ascent in 1965 with the power outage provoking a Scandinavian flight to detour to Kennedy airport in the dark.
The album received very positive reviews by critics and is today regarded as being a classic metal album helping to define the genre. Eduardo Rivadavia of AllMusic lists the album as "topping the heap of essential Saxon albums, pretty much hand in hand with its immediate successors, Strong Arm of the Law and Denim and Leather,... effectively setting the template for the band's most successful efforts". Canadian reviewer Martin Popoff regards Wheels of Steel as a "qualified classic" and "one of really two or three of (NWOBHM) building blocks"; it is "a record on a mission, willing to take responsibility as spokesvinyl for legions of English punters with a thirst for regular metal guys".Sputnikmusic's Mike Stagno praises "the solid, consistent rhythms that produce the riffy, yet accessible tunes" and Biff Byford's "powerful singing", which make Wheels of Steel "perhaps not one of metal's best albums", but "still a very worthwhile album."
The album eventually went on to achieve Platinum status in the UK.
It was their first album to enter the UK Albums Chart, peaking at #5, and is their highest-charting album in the UK Albums Chart to date.