Are crack-repaired wheels safe to drive on after auto body repair?

by Tom Zoebelein - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 2:18 PM

If this was your wheel, would you feel safe to drive on this?

is this cracked wheel repair safe to drive on

What damage can reconditioned wheels cause my car?
Wheels that have been damaged can never really be restored to original condition.  In the worst case scenario, wheel center could separate from the rim, or the rim could split. These issues could impact braking, steering and your ability to control the vehicle and could lead to an accident.

The only time it is OK to simply repair a wheel
The exception to this rule is if the wheel was only scuffed and not significantly damaged or the metal was never harmed. A damaged wheel coating or paint is only cosmetic and easily repairable.  Damage to the metal, however, can structural problems that only become worse with common repair techniques like welding, and may lead to a number of problems. These can come in the form of punctured tires to catastrophic wheel separation failure.    

Another instance where a wheel can be welded and safe is if the wheel has some bad gouges or scrapes along the outer edge. Usually this happens when you run the wheel against a curb when parallel parking, or maneuvering around a tight space. The wheel repair company will weld extra material to the gouged are and then machine it back to flat making for a seamless repair. This is acceptable. However the heat from welding might cause a slight bit of warping.

Why would a body shop use reconditioned wheels?
A cut-rate auto body repair shop might use reconditioned wheels because they’re cheaper than brand-new wheels, which allows the shop to quote a lower price to vehicle owners and auto insurance companies.  A shop that cares more about your money than your safety would only make a poor decision like this.

How much price difference for replacement wheels VS repaired wheels?
New wheels for a car, depending on the size and manufacturer could cost from $150- $1,000 per wheel. Most usually fall in the $400 a wheel range. Repairing wheels usually costs around $75 per wheel depending on the severity.

The location of the crack: A crack on the front face of the wheel compromises the structural integrity of the wheel. The same goes for a crack on one of the spokes. A crack inside the barrel is also inadvisable to weld.

Severe crack in a car's aluminum wheel

Welded wheel risks
Basically, all this is a very good reason to have your wheel welded by professionals if you're going to have it done at all. Which brings me to the final point to consider – a weld will never, ever be quite as strong as the original material.

At our body shop, we like to remind customers that wheels and tires are the only parts of your vehicle to make contact with the road.  This is why it is imperative that they get handled with respect and care.  If your wheels were damaged in an accident, make sure that your auto body shop replaces them with new wheels and not reconditioned ones. At our shop, we never recommend repairing them beyond a simple sanding and painting for typical “curb rash” issues.