How Wheel Damage Occurs
Damage can happen to wheels in a variety of ways: hitting potholes, scuffing curbs while parallel parking; even having your tire replaced professionally can come with unexpected consequences. Having curb-damaged rims is like having an unsightly scuff on a favorite pair of shoes: the damage can be a real eyesore. Plus, it can have expensive ramifications if you have a lease return or are looking to sell your vehicle. In some cases, you could need a tire alignment.
Safety First – Rim Repair or Replacement?
So what options do you have? In an ideal world, you would simply replace your damaged wheel and be down the road – but that can be expensive, and most people are not in a position to replace a wheel over cosmetic wear at the first sight of damage. And while it is important to note that there are certainly instances where the injury to a wheel merits a real safety concern and will need to be replaced, most of the time the wheel is still perfectly safe, if a little worse for wear. In such instances, it has become industry practice in the US to cosmetically repair the rim through a refinishing / resurfacing process that restores the wheel to a factory-like condition. But even this approach is not without controversy.
When wheel manufacturers machine that perfectly balanced wheel for the showroom, they do so with remarkable attention to structural safety standards that are potentially compromised as soon as that wheel hits a curb. Unfortunately, the fine line delineating structural from cosmetic damage is not so cut and dry that you could assess it with an untrained eye; it takes expertise that can only be gained through years of experience, and inevitably experts themselves will disagree on which rims are safe for repair, and which are not.
In fact, some experts will never suggest a repair – they claim it comes with too much uncertainty and cannot be recommended in good conscious, ever. Others, of course, will counsel repair so long as the damage is only so bad. But there are no clear guidelines set out that adequately validate one expert’s approach over another’s. And whereas other countries have taken steps to address this discrepancy, the United States has not: as of right now, literally no regulatory repair guidelines have been set to standardize the wheel repair process.
Where to Go for Rim Scrape Repair or Rim Replacement
So who do you trust? Obviously, wheels are being and have been repaired every day all over the world, with no overt signs that this approach is neglectful of anybody’s safety. But exceptions exist: tales of failed wheel repairs are ugly, with stories of wheels collapsing in driveways after unsuccessful repairs, for example. And in an unregulated industry, those paying for repairs to vehicles are less likely to opt for the more expensive solution, even if it is the best solution.
The best reputable companies out there self-regulate: They will only repair wheels requiring less than twenty thousandths of an inch of material be removed throughout the course of repair. What is important is that you take your vehicle to someone that you ultimately trust (the choice is yours), is experienced enough to provide you with an accurate assessment of your situation and that will tell you the truth instead of saying what sounds good in order to get into your pocket book.
And while experts disagree on the best approach to take when it comes to caring for the problem, you do have options. Everyone agrees that replacing a damaged wheel with a new one is ultimately ideal, but because we do not live in an ideal world, other options exist. Our advice is to have your wheels professionally assessed by a trusted industry expert, and to go from there. Most wheels can be repaired for 1/2 the cost of a new one, and for the daring DIY-ers among us, there are even online tutorials for tackling smaller projects in your own garage, once the damaged has been assessed (for a good example, see: http://saturdaymechanic.com/repairing-curb-damaged-alloy-wheels/).
Final Notes on Wheel Repair and Replacement
All in all, pothole- or curb-damaged wheels can likely be repaired without the cost of being replaced. In many instances they can be made to look like-new, saving you hundreds of dollars and gaining you ultimately the same result: A brand-new looking wheel. So before you spend hundreds on a new wheel rim, bring your vehicle in. One of our trained staff will walk you through the repair process, answer your questions and provide you an accurate estimate of the costs of repair. If replacing the wheel is in your better interest, we will say that, too, and can help you with that process, too. Whatever avenue you ultimately choose, you will have the peace of mind knowing you have made an informed decision, and the wheels of your car will once again look new.
To prevent curbed damaged wheels in the future, it may be helpful to become an expert parallel parker!
Use the quick links below to view details on our popular services: