When you’re regularly driving on bad roads and at some point realize that one wheel is no longer rolling evenly, it can be hard to know what exactly the rim damage causes were. Everyone blames the potholes and, admittedly, they’re pretty bad but here in NYC, we drive over a dozen potholes a day just to get to work and back so which one was it? Did one of your familiar commute potholes finally become fatal, was it just a bad break, or was there a new awful pothole you went over recently that caused the damage? The fact of the matter is that it might not have been a flat tire. There are a number of road conditions and, yes, driver mistakes that can result in rim damage, a problem that only becomes more likely with low quality, broken, and downright porous roads.
Driving on a Flat Tire
The first and honestly one of the most likely causes of rim damage is working with tires that are too low for the roughness of the road. Every time you go over a bump, the springiness of well-inflated tires absorbs that bump and keeps the hard metal of the inner wheel and rim safe. If your tires are flat or if your tire profile is too thin for the roads in question, then the bounce factor won’t be enough to absorb the impact and something hard is likely to hit your rims. It’s important to understand that as the temperature changes, heat increases the inflation level of your tires and cold will decrease it. Consider driving carefully or topping up on cold days and remember to check for over inflation when the weather warms up to avoid blow-outs.
As for low-profile tires, while it may look sleek and drive smooth on the few nice roads, if you want to drive your vehicle in anything other than ideal conditions, stick with big cushy standard profile tires and consider looking for improved durability, considering what the car will be dealing with.
Going Over a Curb Where a Driveway Should Have Been
We all make this mistake from time to time and sometimes it absolutely looked like a driveway from the one side but when your car drops suddenly with an unpleasant impact onto the lower pavement, you realize that maybe it wasn’t a driveway after all. Or maybe it was supposed to be a driveway and the pavers either messed up the job or the road as since, somehow, moved further away than it should be.
Whether you’re pulling out of an unfamiliar gas station or just trying to escape a traffic jam at what looked like a good opportunity, if you happen to drive off a curb, the height and sharpness of the drop will determine whether or not your tires can absorb the shock and if your rims take damage. The best way to avoid this one is, of course, to not go over curbs but if you’re not sure if a section of pavement is a driveway or a curb, watch where other cars are leaving and follow them instead of guessing.
Salted Winter Roads and Corrosion
One of the sneakiest forms of rim damage, especially if you don’t give two shakes for the finish on your rims or hubcaps, is corrosion. Driving through chemicals and corrosive substances can cause this, but the most common cause is salted winter roads. Salt may increase the traction on roads and melt ice but is actually terrible for almost every surface it touches including both the road and your wheels. Over time, depending on the metal alloy, the salt and other corrosive environmental factors can eat away at at your rims until they are no longer even and it can even cause the seal with the tires to break.
If the corrosion gets too bad, you will need rim repair even if you don’t suffer a road impact but, chances are, that the weakened state of the corroded metal will simply make each upcoming pothole and curb more likely to cause a problematic bend or crack in the wheel. To avoid this problem, keep an eye on your rims. Remember to check them out at least once a week. Scuffing is survivable if you don’t care about appearance but pitting and an appearance of uneven wear should be checked out and repaired. This will help you catch signs of corrosion before it risks making your rims weak or uneven.