The Wheel Straightening Process.

Wheel straightening technology was originally developed for steel wheels around the beginning of the last century. When aluminum alloy rims began to become popular in the United States, many people tried to fix them using steel wheel technology. It didn't work and usually causes even worse damage to the rim. Many people in the auto business still consider it "common knowledge" that aluminum rims cannot be straightened once bent, or that bent aluminum wheels can simply be "hammered out." Neither is true.



Rims get bent every day by impacts, usually caused by potholes or curbs. We use our own proprietary technology, which uses heat, hydraulic pressure, customized tools and metallurgical skill to straighten aluminum alloy, magnesium or steel rims to factory specifications. Our process is both an art and a science, requiring literally hundreds of hours of training before a straightener is qualified to work on ccustomer rims.

Although several different techniques now exist for straightening alloy rims, our proprietary process is superior in several ways; methods that do not use heat, such as "cold roller" technology, typically leave the affected area weaker than before, while our technology has a metallurgical effect on the alloy that is similar to forging steel, strengthening the affected area slightly.


Our technology allows us to straighten rims up to 24" in diameter of all types and styles. We can often straighten difficult bends that other straightening technologies cannot, such as center bent wheels. We straighten all types of auto wheels, including factory wheels, aftermarket wheels, racing wheels and classic cars, including Hudson, MG and Triumph wheels.

Here we see the rim to be straightened. The bend can be seen at the top left, and a closeup is shown below. This is a minor bend, probably from an impact with a pothole, but still enough to cause an annoying vibration in the customer's BMW.

It is almost always easier to bend a rim on the inside, as with this bend, since there are no spokes to support the rim edge. This can make the bend difficult to find without removing each rim and checking the inside edge.

We are fully equipped to take all four rims off your car and check each rim individually for damage, as well as to mount and balance the tires after straightening. Checking all four rims and straightening any that need repair generally takes 1-2 hours, by appointment, or 1-2 days if the rims are dropped off.

We have had customers drive to us from as far away as Prince Edward Island and New Jersey to have their rims straightened here, but we think it's much easier to ship us a rim for repair if you live that far away! We straighten shipped wheels within 24-48 hours of receipt and we charge you what UPS charges us for return shipping.

We can also straighten steel wheels, but we find that most steel wheels are cheaper to replace than to straighten! It is our policy to check the replacement cost of steel wheels to ensure that our customers know what their options are when choosing whether to straighten or to replace their wheels.

Sean, our Shop Manager, mounts the wheel onto a specially designed plate which replicates the bolt pattern of the BMW the rim came from. This allows the wheel to spin perfectly centered on our machine.

The wheel is then "read out" using a dial indicator, showing the straightener exactly where it is bent and by how much.

The wheel is marked to indicate the exact location of the bend. Not all wheels are as simple as this one; some may have multiple bends or even cracks. We can repair most cracked wheels. We use a certified welder to safely TIG weld aluminum alloy. There are also some types of damage that are unsafe to repair, such as cracks on the front face of the rim, or across a spoke. Our policy is that we will not perform any repair unless we ourselves would ride in the car!

The wheel is carefully heated with a torch. Heat softens the alloy, keeping the wheel from cracking during the straightening process. Heat also loosens what we refer to as the "crystalline structure" of the alloy. Without loosening this structure and allowing it to "heal" as it cools, the metal will retain a "memory" of where it has been bent. Our process resets this memory and strengthens the internal structure, or "temper" of the alloy. One of the most important parts of our straighteners' training is learning how to properly heat the wheel to perform our metallurgical magic.
Once the wheel is heated properly, the bend can be straightened using hydraulic pressure and custom-made tools. It requires not only skill and knowledge to straighten, but also a "feel" for the metal, whether it is soft or brittle, that can only be acquired by experience, which is one reason that our straighteners must be trained so thoroughly. This wheel is now straight to within 1/32", less than the width of a human hair. Can you tell from this picture where the bend was?
Even with Sean pointing to the spot where the wheel was straightened, no bend is visible. This wheel will now have a tire mounted onto it, and the whole assembly will be balanced on a high-speed balancer. It will then be installed back onto the car for another satisfied customer!


(c) Copyright 2007 Rim and Wheel Works Inc.
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