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You have driven over a huge pothole and then feel your car vibrate. How can you determine if you have damaged the rim? What are the symptoms of a bent rim?

A damaged rim is one of the most aggravating frustrations for owners of motor vehicles. While driving on a busted wheel is unsafe in that the tire fails to hold adequate tire pressure, replacing a damaged rim can be a lot more expensive than most owners realize. If you suspect that your wheel might be bent, it is best to take care of the situation sooner than later. Putting off the needed repairs will only create more aggravation down the road.

The symptoms of a bent rim can vary from shaking through the steering column or seat to a loss of tire pressure. The damage can prevent a proper seal from forming around the wheel, allowing the air needed for inflation to escape past the rim.

It can be hard to recognize when a rim may suffer damage. If you have accidentally hit a deep pothole, run off the shoulder, or bounced over a curb, the rim might have become misshapen. A rim must maintain its circular shape to allow the edge of the tire to make a firm seal and hold air to operate correctly.

How can you tell if your rim has become dented or bent? Are there other signs if a visual inspection isn’t making any damage clear? We found that there is a lot more to the world of rims. Like other areas of your car need attention, your rims need your love and devotion.

Table of Contents

What Are the Main Symptoms of a Bent Rim?

While there are many different sizes and shapes of rims on cars today, there are a few ways to diagnose a bent wheel rim and minimize the impact on your wallet..

Vibration Through the Steering Column

A rim that is not perfectly circular will not spin like the other wheels of the vehicle. Whenever the flattened part of the damaged rim hits the pavement, it creates a bump in the ride. If you begin to notice a vibration or shaking coming through the steering column or seats, you have likely developed a problem with one of the wheels. (Either you have an unbalanced tire or damage to the rim. A good repair shop can indicate which problem you are facing).

A bent front rim will produce a strange vibration through the steering column, while a damaged rear wheel often creates a disturbance through the seat. The vibration or shaking will be a constant rather than sporadic since the tire makes a revolution every second or two.

Loss of Tire Pressure

Today, most vehicles on the road have tire pressure monitoring systems that alert drivers to low air pressure. If you notice that your tire continues to lose air, or you walk out one morning to find it flat, have the tire checked. If there is no puncture from a nail or a screw, the leak comes from either the rim or the valve stem. If the steel portion of the rim has separated from its airtight seal around the tire's circumference, the air will escape, resulting in continual deflation. A mechanic should be able to inspect the rim for any sign of cracks or imperfections by overinflating the tire and spraying dish soap around the rim. Any bubbling from the liquid is an indication of rim failure.

A tire does not have to be entirely flat for the rim to be damaged. If you notice that your car feels like you are constantly driving on a deflated tire (sluggish when steering or not gripping the pavement uniformly). A TPMS light that keeps popping on and off may indicate that you need to check the rims of the tires.

Severe Pulling to One Side

Typically, pulling to the right or left indicates your car needs an alignment. (Yes, hitting a pothole can affect your vehicle's alignment.) It can also be a sign of damage to one of the tires. The car will pull toward the direction of the busted rim, so it can give you a head start on your misery.

A Severe Drop in Fuel Economy

If your vehicle seems to be sucking up gas more than it usually does, it is best to have a mechanic check it out. For your vehicle to reach its optimal mpg, the tires must maintain their required pressures. When air escapes from one of the tires, the car’s engine must use more energy to move the damaged tire forward, which means it consumes more gasoline.

Can A Rim Be Unbent, or Does it Have to be Replaced?

Most cars have a rim made of an aluminum alloy (a combination of aluminum and nickel). The metal alloy is lighter than steel and more resistant to the heat generated by the constant motion of the tire. The trouble with alloy wheels is that they are also more brittle, which means they are easier to damage and often harder to rebend into shape. While owners are attracted to aluminum alloy rims by their look, it may also mean that you will pay a lot more to have any damage repaired.

Most of the time, the damage to a rim is minor and easily repaired. If you have comprehensive coverage on your insurance, your expenses may be covered). A good auto service center may be able to fix the affected area and restore the tire’s integrity. The tire shop will also have advanced machinery to assess the damage, unbend the rim and determine if a fix is possible.

Scratches or abrasions to the rim’s surface can be ugly to see, but if the integrity of the rim is intact, you will have to decide whether or not to spend the money for the repair. Repairing scuffs to alloy wheels often requires refilling cracks and then repainting, leading to additional expenses. Again, a tire repair center can advise you of the cost. (Most cities have mobile alloy repair businesses that travel from dealership to dealership or may even come to your place of residence. While a mobile service may be more convenient, you will pay more for it if you choose to use it).

What is the Cost of a New Rim?

If you need to replace your rims, you have a couple of options. Many retailers sell reconditioned rims that are significantly cheaper than brand new ones. While refurbished wheels may save you some money, be sure that they come with a guarantee.

The cost of brand new rims will be more expensive since they have never been used, depending on the choice of metal you want. Steel rims cost less and are heavier than aluminum alloy, but they are not as attractive. Alloy wheels come in all shapes, sizes, and patterns and will undoubtedly add some pizzazz to your car, but you will often pay significantly more than you thought you were going to.

A new set of rims can cost anywhere from a hundred dollars to a few thousand. Your vehicle’s make and model and the size of the tire will also contribute to the cost.

Bent Rim Symptoms

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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