Rims are easily damaged by curbs, potholes, and other hazards you may encounter while driving. They are also rather expensive to replace, particularly in newer cars.
If you notice that any of your rims are bent, you may be wondering whether you can straighten them to avoid major costs. There are many factors that go into it and we’ll take a look at them here.
Can You Straighten a Wheel Rim?
The simple answer to the question is yes, you can straighten a rim. A repair center will be able to bend the rim back into shape and get you back out on the road. While that’s true, straightening the rim isn’t always the right thing to do.
Let’s take a look at the factors to consider and why you should get your rim straightened as soon as possible.
The easiest way to detect whether you have damage to your rims is to notice a different driving pattern after hitting a driving hazard. It can be more obvious as you may have a flat tire, damaged wheel, or an alignment issue if the damage is more significant.
Decreased fuel efficiency, increased vibration in the tires, and loss of control over the tires may also indicate a bend in your rims.
While these problems can also occur with balance issues, it’s recommended to check the rims for any damages while you are checking tire balance. However, a bent rim typically causes more problems than a balance issue. If you aren’t sure which of the two problems are causing trouble with your wheels, bring your vehicle to an expert who can inspect it more closely.
However, you may not notice anything strange with how your vehicle drives after an incident. In this case, you should proceed to the following step and observe and feel the rims with your hand to see if there is any structural anomaly on them.
Assessing the Damage
The first thing you do to determine whether you can or need rim straightening is to assess the damage. Look at the wheels closely to see if they are scratched or bent. Make sure to check on the inside, too.
Internal damage is difficult to detect from just looking at the wheels from the outside, so you’ll need to take off the wheels for this. When they are off, roll the wheels slowly, as this will show any bend on the rim. Hopping, changing direction, or not rolling straight may all be the signs of a bend on the inner side of the rim.
Sometimes, when an accident happens in low light conditions, you may think the damage is lower than it actually is. For this reason, it’s best to do the checking in broad daylight where you can see any issues with the aesthetic or the movement of the wheels.
If the rim is only scratched or slightly bent, you won’t have any trouble fixing it. Fortunately, most rim damages fall into this category.
If the rim bend is more serious, you may need to replace it entirely, although this depends on several factors, as you will see later on. In case you aren’t sure whether your rims are bent or scratched, you should consult an expert about it. They’ll let you know how extensive the damage is so you can determine how to proceed with fixing it.
The Material of the Rim
The first factor to determine whether a rim can be straightened is the material it’s made of. Rims made of reinforced steel are typically easy to fix, and with the proper technique, they can end up as good as new.
Wheels made of aluminum alloy can be a different story. Depending on the strength of the alloy, you may risk damaging it even more but most times, aluminum alloy wheels can be fixed quickly and easily too.
In any case, the key in rim repairs is to preserve the structural integrity of the wheels. Whether your rims are made of aluminum alloy or steel, it only makes sense to straighten them if this means the wheel can be put into service safely.
Fixing aluminum rims with a severe bend may be cheaper than replacing the wheel but this can depend on the severity. Steel is harder to bend but also, steel rims are usually much cheaper. Due to these two factors, it’s often the best idea to simply replace a steel rim.
For severe bends, it often makes sense to replace rather than repair, especially for steel. While you may physically be able to straighten a steel rim, the resulting lack of structural integrity means it would be a pointless exercise.
Type of Vehicle
Even the type of the car can determine whether its rims can be fixed. Vehicles that have exposed rims are more prone to rim damage than others. Consequently, the damage on their wheels will also be typically more extensive. Cars designed with more coverage for the rims are more likely to avoid curb rash and further damage.
If your vehicle has exposed rims that get damaged, you may not be able to straighten them and will have to replace them. If this happens, it’s a good idea to look into rim protection solutions to make your wheels less vulnerable on the road.
The Danger of Driving With Bent Rims
While drivers often dismiss minor rim bends as an aesthetical issue, it’s important to note that even these can cause serious damage to the vehicle. Damaged rims can cause a wheel to turn unevenly, changing the vibrations your car picks up from the road and altering its driving pattern. It can also damage the tires, disrupt the driveshaft, and, ultimately, damage the vehicle’s axles.
Over time, the seemingly minor issue can grow into damages that may be too costly to repair. All this can be avoided by straightening the bent rim in time. Once you notice any issues with either vehicle’s driving pattern physically on the rims, make sure to address them as soon as possible.
Whether you can straighten a bent rim depends mainly on the extent of the damage. In some cars, the damage will be extensive even after hitting a small hazard while at other times, you will see only a scratch.
The material of the wheels also plays a crucial part in determining whether it can be repaired. If you aren’t sure how damaged your rim is, it’s a good idea to take it to a professional who can look at the damages and determine how much it will cost to fix them.