Aluminum alloy wheels have a tendency to crack if they get hit hard enough. How hard is enough depends on a couple of factors – how brittle the alloy is, the design of the wheel and the tire’s aspect ratio being the most important. Usually a good deep pothole or raised manhole cover is what does it. Cracks are extremely dangerous, and not just for the obvious reason that they can let the air out of your tire. There’s also the fact that they can let the air out of your tire very quickly and without warning.
Here at Houston Wheel Repair we see people all the time who had a small crack in their wheel, one so small that it was covered and sealed by the bead of the tire, so that the tire was not leaking. Sometimes I would have to convince these people that the crack needed to be dealt with even though it was not an immediate problem. The issue is that a crack like that is going to grow, and it will usually not even take as hard an impact to widen it as the impact that originally caused the crack. If the crack turns to one side, or splits into a shape, there is the possibility that you could catastrophically lose an entire chunk of wheel.
There are some important issues to take into account when deciding whether to weld a cracked wheel:
The location of the crack:
The direction of the crack: Most of the time, a crack on the back side of the wheel will cross the flange and bead area at right angles to the direction the wheel spins. This type of crack can be welded, because it can be opened up to accept the weld. The skill of the welder: Aluminum alloy must be welded with a process called TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding. I’ve seen many aluminum wheels that were MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welded, and it’s a disaster. The bead is much thinner and weaker, and the process burns the heck out the surrounding alloy, weakening the entire area around the weld. Wheels should only be welded by an experienced welder who knows TIG welding, as well as knowing how to deal with wheels specifically.
Ideally, the wheel should be straightened before welding. An impact that will crack a wheel will almost certainly have bent it as well, and trying to substantially straighten a wheel after welding stands a good chance of breaking the weld. Most of the time the electrical current used to weld will also warp the wheel very slightly, requiring some minimal truing even afterwards, but this is much more easily done if the wheel is straight before the weld occurs.
After the wheel is welded, there will be a large bead of solder to deal with. That bead must be made completely smooth at least in the area where the tire contacts the wheel, or the tire will be making imperfect contact and will leak. Some shops will grind the bead down and smooth it out on ONE sides, or even smooth the whole area with a computer numeric control lathe, usually in preparation for repainting or remaining the wheel. Here at Houston Wheel Repair we will smooth the inside and the outside of the barrel this process takes more time 20 to 30 minutes more per wheel but the look of the finished product is worth it, other wheel repair shops will take shortcuts to save time and labor and cheat you as the consumer.
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. Here at Houston Wheel Repair we have welded literally thousands of wheels. The vast majority of those wheels held up just fine, but there were always some that took a good hit in the same place and popped the weld. Usually we were able to simply reweld these wheels. At Houston Wheel Repair Our technicians have over 22 years of welding experience combined and we weld wheels for over 50% of the wheel and tire shops in the Houston area. Cut out the middle man and bring your wheel directly to the source and save yourself some money. We also offer SAME DAY or While YOU WAIT SERVICE.