At some point in time, your wheels are going to take a beating. From general wear and tear to that one time you messed up and curbed them, once you see the scratch or dent on your wheels, you can’t take your eyes off it.
What can you do?
When a wheel becomes damaged, you can either have it fixed or have it replaced. Knowing what to look for, and what outcome you’re looking for, you can decide which option makes the most sense for you.
Wheel or Rim?
When trying to understand your car, you may find that some people call this part a wheel, and others call it a rim.
So which one is it?
The wheel is the entire metal assembly that holds your tire, while a rim is just the outer edge of that assembly, closest to the tire.
While many wheels are one singular piece, some multi-piece wheels arrive as separate components which can be swapped or adjusted. These parts often include the hub, spokes, barrel (or bowl), and rim. When you scratch a wheel on something such as the curb, the rim is often what gets damaged.
As some people said they “scratched their rims” others assumed the entire assembly was a rim, and hence the confusion.
Inspect Your Wheels
Depending on the damage to your wheels, you may or may not notice a difference in your driving.
Deep dents or out-of-round issues may lead to road vibrations and should be addressed immediately. Even small, non-felt damage could lead to further issues and should be found and resolved earlier than later.
Take a look at each wheel first from a distance, looking for any out-of-round shape. Your wheel should be completely round, while your tire itself may not be simple due to the weight of the vehicle.
Next, take a look along the rim or edge of the wheel for any dents or paint chips. It helps to run your hand around the edge.
A common stress point is along the spokes, especially where the spokes connect to the rim or inner hub. Check these spots, along with the entire wheel for small cracks or worn spots.
Determine Your Outcome
Depending on your vehicle, you may want a different outcome to a repair.
For some people with a simple daily driver, the idea for a bit of mismatched coloring, or being able to see that a repair was done may be alright. For others who have spent a lot of money to make their vehicle look nice, a new finish may be a must.
Understanding Your Wheels
To understand what repairs are possible, you should understand what material your wheels are made of, and what coating your wheels have.
Wheels are typically made of 2 primary metals, aluminum, and steel.
Aluminum wheels weigh far less than steel wheels, making them an ideal choice for many new vehicles. Steel wheels are more cost-effective and tend to be more durable, making their way onto many SUVs and trucks.
The simplest way to check the material of your wheels is by conducting a magnet check. Steel is magnetic, and holding a simple refrigerator magnet near the wheel will cause them to stick, while aluminum is nonmagnetic and will simply fall to the floor.
Forged, Casted or Billet
When purchasing aftermarket wheels, you will see three primary manufacturing methods including forging, casting, and billet.
Forged wheels Involve metal being heated, and stamped into its initial shape. From this point, the part will move into a CNC cutter to receive its final shape. Forging is cost and time effective, making it a popular option for runs, or the production of a set of wheels.
For mass production, casting remains a popular option. This involves an initial mold, heating metal to a melted liquid form, and pouring it into the mold. These wheels are then cut to the final shape. Casting is often considered a less precise method and does have limitations to designs due to the fluid movement within the mold.
Billet wheels are at the upper side of the market and involve taking a block of material that was specifically manufactured for purity, and cutting the wheel from this block. The material is said to be tightly binding and extremely strong but required expensive and highly time-consuming methods to create a wheel.
Depending on the manufacturing process, you may consider the potential fix outcome. Cast products often bend easily, but weld repairs will not properly bond, while CnC parts are known for their purity and may be more difficult to repair.
When considering repairing a part, and during your inspection, you’ll need to determine if a wheel would need re-coated due to the damage.
When metal bends, it stretches. This means in many cases that the coating or paint over the top is unable to flex at such a rate, and will begin to chip or break away.
Chrome remains a popular coating for many wheels, while extremely durable and chip resistant towards standard use, a bent wheel could cause flaking. Chroming parts is an acid-based product that is very timely and quite expensive. The part will need to be stripped to allow an even chroming.
For many years, wheels were painted to match a car. Painted wheels can be sanded down and painted to match the originals. Depending on the age and use of the car, the new paint may appear more vibrant compared to the older rims.
Powder coating has raised in popularity due to its cost-effectiveness and quality resistance to scratches and damage. If a rim is bent and the coating damaged, the wheel would need to be sanded down before respray.
To make the best choice for your vehicle, it’s important to understand the damages.
When metal bends, it stretches. Bending a metal back and forth will cause it to rip, like a soda tab. With that in mind, you don’t want to fix too severe of bends since it may lead to other damage.
Cracks in rims will continue to expand over time and should be repaired or replaced immediately. Large cracks, even when repaired could cause small microscopic movements which will lead to further damage.
Surface repairs must be considered when price comparing options. Different coatings may have varying costs in your area. You should reach out to any chroming, paint, or coatings shop to not only get a repair but create an understanding and slight bond with the shop owners.
Buy or Repair
If you're okay with minor inconsistencies, repairing a wheel may be the best option for you. If you want a like-new appearance, then purchasing a new wheel is your best option.
There is no guarantee a wheel repair will be accomplished, or that you won’t have future damage. If your wheel is losing air due to the damage, you should consider buying a new wheel.
As a buyer, you should always price compare and weigh your pros and cons. If a repair is $180, and your stock steel wheel on your car is $200, are you better off buying a new wheel or having yours repaired? Keep in mind that metal doesn’t simply bend, or bend back.
Coatings often add a hefty price tag to repairs. Ensure your quote from the repair shop either includes the new coating fee, or that you have a local shop that‘s willing to do the work.
If your plan is to replace a wheel with a different size, always replace all wheels attached to a given axel. For example, if your car has a rear-wheel drive, if you replace the left rear with a different size rim, you must also replace the right rear wheel. This is to reduce damage and wear on the differential.
Putting new shoes, or nice wheels on your car can be quite costly, and the idea that one would become damaged can seem out of the question, but bad road conditions or an unsuspecting curb could lead to a need for repair.
This damage may be a great opportunity to change out your aging wheels for brand new ones.
With the cost of new wheels being a major consideration, Rent-A-Wheel allows customers to pay for wheels over time, offering free shipping, installation, and balance at their dealer locations. This means online shopping for your must-have wheel from the comfort of your home.
Purchasing from a reputable dealer also ensures your product will remain in stock in case something happens. While the blowout sales sound amazing, if you need a single wheel for replacement, they may no longer be in production. In these instances, you should consider purchasing a 5th wheel as a spare, or purchasing from new stock.
For many, wheels are about showing off your style and looking good. If you want a perfect outcome, purchasing new maybe your best option.