Alloy wheels can suffer corrosion for a wide variety of reasons. How it’s treated depends on the cause of it. In some cases, repair might be a simple do-it-yourself job. In others, the wheel will have to be shot blasted to get rid of the corrosion, then completely repainted.
Why do alloy wheels corrode?
Probably the main reason for alloy wheel corrosion is brake dust. Every time you hit the brakes, particles in the form of highly-corrosive dust fly off. Moisture causes this dust to stick to the wheel where over time it burns into the wheel causing pitting and eventually corrosion.
Another thing that causes corrosion is when the wheels are kerbed. Rubbing the wheels against the kerb when you park causes the protective clear coat to be rubbed off the wheel. This then allows water and air to react against the metal in a process called oxidation. The result causes the paint on the wheel to bubble up.
It is possible impurities crept into the process when the wheels were initially painted, resulting in problems further down the line. And some cleaning products can damage wheel coatings, leading eventually to corrosion, if they’re not properly rinsed off the wheels.
First thing’s first
Depending on how old your car is, it’s worth checking with its manufacturer to see if there’s ever been a recall for wheel trouble. Problems with the paintwork on alloy wheels has resulted in various recalls by manufacturers.
How bad is the corrosion?
We’d suggest you find a reputable company that specialises in alloy wheel repair. Most operate a mobile service and there’s a very good chance they’ll be able to repair them on the spot.
To do a thorough job, they will take the tyre off the wheel. They will then remove the wheel’s damaged paintwork, taking it back to the bare metal. The wheel will then be primed, painted and given its protective lacquer coat. Most professional outfits will even have a mobile oven in their van for curing the repaired wheel’s paint.
In the most extreme cases…
Most reputable operations say they can do around 95% of repairs on site. But in extreme cases, the wheels may have to be taken away to be shot blasted or dipped in acid. This will completely remove any corrosion and once the wheel has been repainted it will be as good as new. Some companies will offer a process called powder coating. This gives a very durable finish which many think is less susceptible to damage than traditional painting.
How much does it cost?
This depends on the size and state of the wheel. A simple repair to one small wheel (under 18-inch) will probably cost from about £40. But the larger the wheel and the more extensive the alloy wheel corrosion, the more it’ll cost to repair. A large, very damaged wheel could cost upwards of £200 to repair. One thing’s for sure: repairing or refurbishing a corroded alloy will cost less than buying a new wheel from a manufacturer.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.