Car Wheel Repair Can Add Used Car Value

by Don Elliott on February 14, 2012

Bent or damaged car wheels can be expensive to replace. Buying a new original equipment manufacturer wheel can cost $500 to $1,000 dollars—or more. In some cases, a replacement original equipment wheel may not be available for days or even weeks.

One reasonable alternative is wheel repair. Some wheels can be straightened in as little as one hour. Some wheel repairs are better than others. Some wheels can be repaired and others cannot. Most importantly, some wheel repair processes are better than others.

Most car wheels are made of steel or an aluminum alloy. Steel wheels are tough to repair for two reasons. First, steel wheels are generally less expensive to replace offsetting the cost to repair. Second, the steel in steel wheels is weakened when heated for straightening. Some shops will attempt a cold repair (banging the bent wheel with a big hammer) but it is not very accurate.

On the other hand, aluminum alloy responds very well to adjustment. The structural integrity and flexibility of aluminum makes it possible to repair and recondition to nearly new.  At this point, it is important to state that an experienced wheel repair technician should evaluate the damaged wheel to assure that the wheel will be safe after the auto repair.

To repair a bent or damaged alloy wheel, the technician will measure the spinning wheel to establish the amount of damage. Using a combination of heat, hydraulic pressure, and vibrations, the metal is massaged back to the proper specification. The wheel has to be round and not wobble when spinning. A visual inspection is not enough to confirm that the wheel has been returned to an acceptable condition.

Wheel repair is a very specialized business. Not every automotive repair shop or tire store has the proper wheel repair equipment on hand. Some shops sublet the repair to a wheel repair specialist, usually a larger vendor who also sells new and reconditioned wheels.

In most major markets, Alloy Wheel Repair Specialists (AWRS) operate what they call a Mobile Reconditioning Facility, or a wheel repair shop in a trailer. AWRS has over 400 mobile units that make regular visits to car dealerships, collision shops, and tire stores. Their franchised mobile units can complete most wheel repairs on site in less than an hour. At the AWRS website, the service areas are defined and contacts for the mobile operators are listed.

Wheel repair shops, including AWRS, not only repair bent aluminum alloy wheels, but they also provide wheel reconditioning including scratch and scrape repair, stripping and repainting, and simulated chrome coatings. They will also recondition the tire bead seat area. This will eliminate slow leaks,  tire wear, and decreased gas mileage that comes from an under-inflated tire.

Is repairing an aluminum alloy wheel a good idea? It depends on the severity of the damage, but if you can save several hundred dollars by choosing a wheel repair over replacement—and it’s safe—then why not! It is a great example of how you can create a good used car value by knowing your options.


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