When your alloy wheels get scratched and peeling, or maybe even bent and cracked, you may wonder if they can be restored, or must they be replaced?
Unlike regular wheels that are usually less expensive to replace rather than repair, expensive wheels can be brought back to like-new condition for much less than the price of a new set. Repairing wheels requires specialized equipment, knowledge of alloy metallurgy and lots of experience, and should be done by a trained professional.
Most communities have companies specializing in repairing wheels. Take your wheels to a wheel repairers rather than a store that sells new wheels, which would rather sell new wheels rather than fix old ones. Before letting a shop work on your wheels, do your "due diligence." Take a good look at a shop, and look at some its finished work before starting. Ask members of local car clubs for recommendations.
A competent wheel repair shop will thoroughly check out a wheel before attempting a repair. This includes checking radial and lateral runout. Radial runout is how much the wheel's diameter varies, which is measured with a dial gauge in thousands of an inch. Lateral runout is measured by repeating the procedure, but with the dial gauge perpendicular to the rim, to measure side-to-side wobble. Wheels can usually be straightened to like-new specifications, unless severely bent.
The wheel repair shop will also check for cracks and other defects, and to do this properly, the wheel should be removed from the vehicle and the tire removed from the wheel. Cosmetic damage such as scrapes, clear coat or paint peeling, discoloration, oxidation and curb "rash" are usually correctable. Minimally damaged lug nut holes can be repaired by first machining then inserting a thin steel insert is installed into the alloy wheel. Sometimes the hole can be welded shut, and then re-machined. The wheel must be replaced if the lug hole damage is too severe. Often, wheels with minor breaks in the bead flange area can be repaired.