While the dents and dings inflicted upon most parts of your vehicle’s exterior are fairly obvious after an accident, you may not as easily notice the damage suffered by a part critical to your safety—your wheels. Today’s steel and aluminum wheels are frequently cracked, scraped, gouged, bent, or otherwise damaged in a crash, and unfortunately for an increasing number of vehicle owners, their damaged wheels are being replaced with reconditioned wheels during auto body repairs. Also known as “remanufactured” or “refurbished,” reconditioned wheels have likely been subjected to one or more of the following—re-machining, re-plating, welding, heating, bending, straightening, reforming, material removal, or the addition of new material—in an attempt to repair the wheel.
Such repairs are strongly discouraged by automakers, however, as they may damage the wheel’s structure and possibly cause the wheel to fail, and a number of them have issued written statements to collision repairers and estimators (see below) warning them of the potential dangers. Not all wheel repairs are necessarily unsafe though—the carmakers say cosmetic sanding and polishing are OK as long as they remove only the wheel’s coatings and none of the wheel’s metal. If yours need more work than that, however, replacing them with new wheels is the only way to be sure they’ll meet the original specifications. As you go through the process of getting auto body repairs to your car or truck, make sure to check with your repairer and/or insurer whether they’re using reconditioned wheels during the auto body repairs—the safety of you and your passengers may depend on it.
Below are some before and after photos of how much material is removed in the reconditioning process of auto body reconditioned wheels. You can see by the readings on the dial caliper the measurements that are taken and the difference.