Even though rims are metallic and generally sturdy, they’re not damage-proof and can crack if exposed to excessive impact or pressure. Everyone seems to blame potholes for rim damage. But the truth is cracks can be caused by many other factors as we’ll find out shortly. If you suspect you have a cracked or bent rim, we highly recommend that you assess it when the problem is still manageable.
Is it safe to drive with a cracked rim?
Well, it depends. Extensive cracks can pose a safety hazard if tires let the air out quickly and without warning. On the other hand, a small crack is likely to grow over time and might only need a slight impact to widen. A blowout is more dangerous and can cause the vehicle to lose control and potentially result in a bad accident.
Should you notice any vibrations through the steering wheel, pull-over immediately and have your vehicle inspected by a certified mechanic. You can also contact us here at Motor on Wheels for free advice on other possible issues your car could be facing.
Common causes of rim damage
It’s not always possible to avoid rim damage, but if you want to avoid repairing or replacing them regularly, here are a few things to steer clear from:
Driving on a flat tire
The most common cause of car rim damage is driving on tires that are too low for the road’s bumpiness. Every time you cross a bump, a well-inflated tire should absorb the impact and keep the rim safe. Tires with a too-thin profile for the road might not hold up the bounce adequately, and the resulting impact is absorbed majorly by the rim.
Keep in mind that environmental temperature will affect the tire pressure. As such, be careful with topping up on cold days and also check the inflation when the weather gets warmer to avoid causing blowouts.
Driving over a curb
Sometimes it happens that what looked like a driveway from one side is not, and your car ends up tripping awkwardly. This is common when you’re pulling out of an unfamiliar driveway, probably trying to escape a jammed route.
Whatever the cause, driving off a curb can damage the rim if the height and sharpness are unpleasant enough. If you’re on an unfamiliar driveway, be patient and follow other cars instead of guessing and making this costly mistake.
Also, when parking near a curb, ensure you leave enough room for your wheels to maneuver when you pull out. Naturally, you want to park beside the road for passengers to step out more comfortably. But parking too close will leave your wheels at the risk of falling off the curb. When this happens, it can press your wheel and bend it enough to damage the rim.
Hitting a pothole
Of course, we had to include potholes on this list. The good thing is most of them are avoidable with careful driving. Depending on the depth and sharpness of the edges, they can rip your rim off with the impact especially when driving at high speed.
Sometimes, the damage may not be visible from the outside, so be sure to inspect the inner edge of the rim as well for any dents and cracks.
Symptoms of a cracked rim
The warning signs of a cracked rim are easy to notice. The most prominent of all is a sound that feels like a continuous vibration through the steering wheel. In some cases, it might feel like different sounds coming from the direction of the wheel.
Another common sign is wheels failing to hold pressure for long, thereby forcing you to visit the gas station many times. Finally, if your vehicle is pulling to one side, you might want to check whether the problem is with the tires or rim.
Can you repair a cracked rim?
Yes and no.
It all depends on whether the weld will restore the wheel’s stability and the magnitude of the cracks. Rims that vastly damaged are delicate to weld, and the process can be incredibly time-consuming. Even worse, the wider the crack, the higher the risk the weld will not last long. Most small cracks are salvageable with a proper repair.
Here are three factors to help you determine whether to weld a cracked wheel or replace it:
Location of the crack
An easy-to-repair crack is one on the inboard side of the wheel or the back. A crack on the inside of the barrel or front face may compromise the wheel’s structural integrity, hence not advisable to weld. Cracks that appear near the base of the spoke and the lug area are non-repairable in most cases. Finally, a crack on the backside can be opened up for easier welding.
Direction of the crack
A crack that goes parallel to the spin direction should not be welded as the weld is likely to widen even more over time. Y-shaped cracks or those that turn to the side are an indication your car could lose an entire chunk of its rim if left unchecked.
Skill of the welder
Rims made of aluminum alloy must be welded using the TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) method as it doesn’t burn the surrounding area of the weld. Ensure that the process is completed by an experienced and reputable professional. Avoid Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding as it may burn the aluminum alloy and weaken the rim even further.
Be safe on the road with crack-free rims
Driving on cracked rims should be avoided as the least impact can cause a blowout and result in an unfortunate accident. If you spot any signs of a crack or related damages on your rims, pull over and ask a certified mechanic to check it. They will then determine whether it can be repaired or if a replacement is needed instead.