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How strong are Alloy Wheels?

There are a number of factors that impact the ‘strength of the wheel”, see Comparing Wheels section with regards to the different materials used for wheels. With alloy wheels the larger the wheel the less strength it has as a general rule. This is also compounded by the fact that larger wheels come very low-profile tyres which offer limited protection against impact. In some cases, manufacturer wheels designed to use run flat tyres can also be more prone to cracking.

The strength of a wheel tends to be on the side with the spokes so often a crack is on the back side of a wheel and so hard to spot without removing the wheel. This often means that people drive around with a cracked wheel. It is best to get it checked out if you do have an impact or you are losing pressure because it can be dangerous.

Why Alloy Wheels?

They deliver performance benefits when compared to steel wheels, as they are often a lot lighter per wheel. By less weight, it means that they’ve quicker acceleration and with faster stopping. In risky driving conditions, alloy wheels are better able to dispel heat away from brake constituents than their steel counterparts.

How are Wheels damaged?

There are quite a few ways you can damage your alloy wheel, but they all basically centre around impact, such as impact with kerbs, speed bumps, potholes and other debris on the roads.  The impact itself may well damage the tyre too or the tyre might just survive but the shock to the wheel may bend the wheel or start a crack in the wheel that will need repair.

Bends and cracks will naturally vary in size. Some impacts can literally destroy the wheel, but it is more often it the case of a bend often at the backside of the wheel which is not visible to the naked eye and smaller cracks that may not even be noticeable right away. A larger crack may well start leaking air quite quickly or deflate the tyre almost immediately, smaller cracks and bends can lead to a slow loss of pressure.

Additionally, if a bent wheel is not repaired it is very likely to crack, as it starts off with bend but with the constant fatigue of the wheel on the road … thump, thump, thump – will result in it cracking.  It is best to get it checked out if you do have an impact or you are losing pressure because it can be dangerous.

Is it possible to repair Alloy Wheels?

Repairing a bent or cracked wheel by straightening and welding is a common practice, but not all bends and cracks are repairable. The damage is not always easily seen and a bend in the wheel may look very slight, but on inspection, hidden fractures may be discovered, this is why it is so important to x-ray damaged wheels.

Small bends on the backside of the wheel are typically easy repairs. Bends on the front side (styled side) of the wheel are much more difficult as the design of the wheel may interfere with repair processes.  The location of the damage will also determine whether it is safe to repair, and if extra welding would be required in the case of a cracked or chipped wheel.

The main factors are the location of the bend and/or crack and how badly damaged the wheel is.  If a bend is severe, it may cause the wheel to be bent from the centre, these types of bends are non-repairable, and a wheel replacement is needed.

Diamond Cut wheels cannot be repaired as often as other alloy finishes because if too much of the face of the wheel can be cut off, it will render the wheel unsafe.  See more about Diamond cut wheels under the Wheel Finishes section.

Your wheels are a safety critical component of your vehicle, it stands to reason that when your alloy’s need some TLC it is done through a SABS accredited facility that complies with the SABS SANS1158 Standard.  Always check that the alloy wheel repairer/refinisher is compliant, your safety and that of your loved ones is never negotiable.

What is Kerb Rash?

A kerb rashed wheel is just as it sounds, a wheel that has sustained damage from a kerb. This type of damage is fairly common, parking and hitting speed bumps being the main culprits.  A kerbed wheel does not usually result in a structural issue, or in other words, will not cause a vibration.  If the wheel has been slightly damaged from a kerb the repairs would be cosmetic, unless it has special finishes such a diamond cuts, custom paint jobs or hypersilver etc as the finish is much more difficult to replicate when touching up. Deep damage may require welding which will result in the wheel needing a full refurbishment.

Will scratched alloy wheels rust?

No, technically alloy wheels do not rust, they do however corrode, which is similar but slightly different from rusting. Whereas rust creates a brownish orange colour, corrosion causes whitish patches on the alloy wheel.

A scratch can cause alloy wheels to begin to corrode. This is because, while alloy wheels have a special protective finish designed to prevent corrosion, a scratch can cause this finish to be pierced and corrosion can get through the gap, allowing the alloy to be damaged. Once the protective lacquer coating has been breached, corrosion is very likely to follow.

Does an alloy wheel need to be fully refurbished for a scratch?

If you can feel an indent in your wheel, it may need full refurbishment. This process includes having the lacquer removed and putting the wheel through several chemical cleaning processes. Before the new lacquer coat is applied, the imperfections will be smoothed out or extra metal welded in as required back to OEM specifications.

What signs are there when you have a damaged alloy wheel?

There are a number of symptoms your vehicle could indicate if a wheel is damaged depending on the severity angle and size of the dent and/or crack

Visibly Bent Outer Lip

Road hazards can cause damage that is not noticeable without closer inspection.  If you have hit any road hazard, it would be a good idea to inspect the wheels for any signs of dents or bends The reason checking for a visible dent is our final tip is because it does not always work but people expect to trust the evidence of their senses. Potholes come in a lot of different shapes and sizes and can damage your wheels in an equally diverse variety of ways. A visible dent on the outer lip is only an indicator sometimes. Others, the dent might be too small to see but big enough to cause a problem or on the inside of hidden inside of the wheel instead.

Unusual Vibration Through the Steering Wheel

Vibration is the most likely symptom of a bent wheel. This is because a bent wheel is no longer perfectly round and perpendicular to the ground so when it rolls, it also vibrates. Vibrations at high speeds like the kind of rotation speed wheels get up to on the road, turns into a hard shake. When transferred through the body of the vehicle, the driver can feel the vibrations. Depending on the severity of the wheel dent, this vibration may show up all the time or only after reaching certain speeds.  If you are feeling a new vibration through the steering wheel after hitting a pothole, kerb or other road hazard, one or both front wheels are most likely bent.

Unusual Vibration Through the Seats

Front-wheel dents are often the easiest for a driver to spot because the steering wheel is something firm and compact that we hold onto.  The seats are slightly less attuned but can give the same information for the back of the vehicle. If you are feeling a strange and unexpected vibration through the soft seat of the vehicle or if your passengers report something similar, then it is entirely possible that one of your back wheels was bent.

Signs of Shimmying at Any Speed

Vehicle shimmying is the feeling of the vehicle wobbling back and forth, influenced by a bent wheel. If your vehicle has started to feel wobbly at any speed, slow or fast, then there is something wrong with at the very least a wheel if not your entire alignment which can be both dangerous to drive with and costly to repair.

Steering is Unresponsive or Unpredictable

In a perfectly undamaged and properly aligned vehicle, your steering is perfect. The vehicle responds smoothly, however, with a bent wheel, the vehicle can stop responding in the ways you expect. If the vehicle turns to slow or suddenly too fast, there can be a problem because the dent is skewing the wheel’s ability to turn accurately.

Tyre Squealing at Normally Safe Speeds

Tyres do not only squeal as a result of speeding they also squeal because they are rubbed against the pavement instead of rolling over it as they should.  If your tyres have started to squeal at safe turning speeds, this is a sign that something may be wrong with your wheels or tyres. The squeal is most likely caused by the wheel dent preventing the wheel from turning and rolling smoothly in the direction you want it to go.  This results in friction and that unpleasant sound.

Loss of Air Pressure

Just like the other symptoms, not everyone with a bent wheel loses tyre air pressure, but if your tyre is flat after a pothole or you are facing a constant air-pressure loss problem, the most likely cause beyond a defective tyre is that the wheel is out of shape. If it is warped too much by the dent or a crack, then the seal with the tyre can break allowing the tyre to leak air and become flat.

Pulling to One Side

Another symptom that your wheels may be damaged is that the vehicle pulls to one side whilst driving. Pulling to one side is caused by a thrown alignment which can happen either on the hard impact with the edge of a pothole or after driving with a bent wheel.  When this happens, the bend causes an extreme vibration, and that vibration can pull your alignment out of order.

Fails on a Balancing Machine

If you have concerns about your wheels but cannot see any damage when inspecting them, you can have your tyres balanced.  If they do not balance, your wheels can be properly inspected as the wheels will be off your vehicle and far easier to check the entire wheel for any damage.

Comparing Wheels

What is an OEM Wheel?

OEM means Original Equipment Manufacturer when referring to auto parts. Those are components that are assembled and installed during the construction of a new vehicle.  Aftermarket parts are made by companies other than the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Those aftermarket parts might be installed as replacements once the vehicle comes out of the factory.

Between alloy and aluminium wheels, which is better?

The fact is that forged aluminium wheels are more durable, but they are lighter than alloy wheels. In other words, carbon fibre aluminium wheels are much more lightweight when compared to other alloy wheels, they are however more expensive and more fragile. Alloy wheels, on the other hand, comprises of aluminium and magnesium, which makes them sturdier and cheaper.

What is the difference between an alloy wheel and a steel wheel?

Aluminium wheels (sometimes called alloy wheels) are built with a blend of aluminium and nickel. The majority of wheels today are cast aluminium alloy, meaning they are made by pouring molten aluminium into a mould. They are lightweight but strong, withstand heat well and are generally more attractive than steel wheels. They come in a very wide variety of finishes and sizes. Aluminium wheels are a good choice for a balance of performance, cost, aesthetics, and fuel mileage.

Steel wheels are made with an alloy of iron and carbon. They are heavier and more durable but not as fuel efficient. Because of the way they are made — cut out on a press and welded together — they do not offer all the aesthetic spoke choices of other wheel types. Wheel Collision does not repair steel wheels.
For information on the wheel finishes we offer see Wheel Finishes Section

Can I get powder coated alloys diamond cut?

Yes, all our Diamond Cut allows wheels have a powder coat base. This can be painted a colour to accentuate the effect of the cut.

What are the benefits of power coating wheels?
  • The finish is better and more durable.
  • Achieves a longer lasting result compared to painting alone.
  • Creates the most even finished surface (horizontal and vertical) because the powder is sprayed and heated without drips or application traces.
  • Powder coating is an environmentally safe process because it produces few volatile organic compounds.
Does powder coating prevent corrosion?

Unfortunately, not but the finish is durable and lasts longer than many other processes.

Can I get a cosmetic repair (onsite) powder coat?

No. Powder coatings are a workshop applied using specialised equipment. The equipment includes an electrostatic spray gun, spray booth and an oven to bake the coating. On site application is not possible given the hot curing cycle required to fuse the coating.

Caring For Your Wheels

How should I care for my powder coated alloys?

Pollution, dirt, grime and salt can all accumulate on a powder coated surface. To clean a powder coated surface, carefully remove any loose deposits with a wet sponge and then use a soft non-abrasive brush or cloth in combination with a mild household detergent solution to remove dust, salt and other residues. Finally rinse all powder coated surfaces with clean water.

In areas where contaminants are more likely, especially in coastal or industrial areas, a cleaning program should be carried out on a more frequent basis.

How should I care for my diamond cut alloys?

Diamond cut alloy wheels need specialist care and servicing, so we advise that they are cleaned at least twice a week with a car sponge and wheel cleaner to keep them in top condition. Over time, water can seep in and damage your wheels; however, our specialist technicians are experts and can re-service your alloys when required. Keep an eye out for milky patches on your alloys, which may be an indicator that water has started to seep under the lacquer.

How should I care for my polished alloys?

With no protective top coating, these wheels require regular cleaning, polishing and waxing to keep them from oxidation and pitting.

What should I avoid when cleaning my alloys?

Drive-through car washes, high-pressure washing and cleaners which contain very harsh acids, could damage the paint and or topcoat, and void your wheel warranty. Never use tarnish or rust removal products or bleach.

Wheel Repair Specialist placing a car wheel in an X-Ray machine for straightening