With the state of the UK’s roads, cracked alloy wheels are an increasing problem for drivers. You may not know a wheel is badly damaged until you inspect it closely. But if you do spot a crack, what can you do about it?
Can you repair cracked alloy wheels?
The simple answer is probably not. The more complex response is that it depends where and how extensive the damage is. The structural fidelity of a car’s wheels is fundamental to its safety so it’s not worth messing about with this. If you or the professional inspecting the cracked wheel have any doubts at all, it’s best to throw the damaged alloy away.
A wheel that’s noticeably bent through impact should be binned. If there’s more than one crack, or any crack is more than an inch long, it should be thrown away too.
How do you repair a cracked alloy wheel?
This requires some knowhow, some specialist tools and more than a little skill. First of all, the damaged area is ground out. The professional will then weld that section. If the repair is small enough and done properly, it should be strong enough for everyday use. In most cases, it will cost a fraction of the price of a new wheel.
Who can repair cracked alloys?
Unless you’re highly proficient with the relevant welding skills, this is a job best left to the professionals. And even then, you must be sure that they know what they’re doing. Ideally, they’ll guarantee their work and will be happy to offer references from customers whose wheels they’ve already fixed.
How do you know if your alloy is cracked?
The wheel is unlikely to collapse because the tyre will be holding it together. But you might notice one tyre is losing air pressure quicker than the others. If the wheel is bent, the car’s steering may feel a bit funny. Either way, it’s important to take the wheel to be checked as quickly as possible before a sudden tyre failure.
Why do wheels crack?
Bear in mind that in most cases, a car’s wheels are supporting a tonne or more of metal, plastic and you. The wheels are also under pressure from the tyres that wrap tightly round them. And they have to withstand the punishment of whatever surface you’re driving over.
If your wheel goes into a pothole it will need to come out again. As it does this, the weight the wheel usually bears isn’t spread across the tyre’s contact area with the ground. Instead, it is focused on a specific area of the wheel and tyre. Very often, the flex in the tyre’s sidewall will absorb this (it may damage the tyre, but that’s another story). If the impact is too great for the tyre to absorb, it will be transmitted to the wheel. And they’re really not designed to have that much pressure put on them.
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.