Rim Straightening: Everything You Need to Know
When a client comes into your shop with a bent rim, they may already be dreading the hefty investment of a new wheel. But in some cases, full replacement is unnecessary. Whether you operate an auto body garage, service shop or work as a mechanic, offering a rim straightening service can set you apart from the competition.
The technology can fix rims, as opposed to making your clients throw hundreds of dollars at a new wheel, which can be more expensive on larger automobiles like trucks, luxury cars and SUVs. Tossing out rims that are merely bent or damaged but otherwise in good condition is not the best resolution.
North American Auto Equipment carries a range of straightening models to help any garage keep up with rim straightening requests. In particular, if you operate in states with horrible roads, our solutions can give you a competitive edge.
What Causes Rims to Bend?
Rims are the link between the tires and axle of a car. When damaged, the results can affect the entire performance of a vehicle. Any substantial impact can cause bends in a wheel, and if you don't take care of it right away, a bent rim can impact the safety measures put in place and cause a tire to leak. Common culprits that impair rims and wheels include:
- Raised utility hole covers
- Road hazards
- Speed bumps
Potholes alone can generate about $3 billion in vehicle damage each year. In the United States, about 15% of rural roads are in “poor condition,” which increases the likelihood of bent rims. The top five states with the worst back roads and their percentage of poor rural conditions are as follows:
- Rhode Island — 41%
- Connecticut — 39%
- California — 38%
- Hawaii — 28%
- Mississippi — 25%
Indications of a bent rim can range from a vibrating steering wheel, vibration in the seat and less handling control to a tire scallop, a decline in fuel economy and a thumping sound while driving. As a result, the damage can result in poor car performance, such as:
- Alignment issues
- Decreased gas mileage
- Flat or blown-out tires
- Poor vehicle handling
- Reduced braking
- Uneven tire wear
- Wobbly wheel at high speeds
Both steel and alloy rims are susceptible to denting, but thankfully, you can straighten both rims with solutions from North American Auto Equipment. Materials for an alloy or aluminum wheel include aluminum and nickel. With less nickel, the rim is lighter, but more prone to dents. More nickel makes it heavier and easier to crack, but more durable against bending.
What Not to Do When Straightening a Bent Rim
Specific methods of rim repair are unsafe and can put the car in danger of further damage. The best practice is relying on experts to perform rim straightening with the proper tools and techniques. But even then, the use of inadequate methods may be apparent.
One thing you should never do is try to hammer out a bend on an aluminum wheel. Back in the day, it did the job for steel wheels to keep the air in the tire. But if you hammer an alloy wheel, it can crack and destroy the material. The rim and wheel won’t be the same or as durable. Hammering a wheel can also be less precise and not relieve the vibration issues. Never treat an alloy wheel as a steel one, because it can cause worse damage to the rim.
Don’t encourage DIY rim straightening with gadgets on the market. Products found online can often destroy a wheel even further. Without the precision of straightening technology, your clients will suffer from further rim problems.
Never continue to drive on a bent rim, either. Encourage your clients to come in for a repair as soon as possible. As mentioned before, a dented wheel rim and increase the chances of the issues spreading to other areas of a vehicle. It also creates a hazardous situation for any driver.
Your technicians and mechanics require proper training on how to operate a rim straightening machine. While the hydraulics perform most of the hard manual labor, your workers still control the entire process. They guide the machine to align the dent and feel for the flexibility of the rim to ensure cracks don’t begin to form.
How to Straighten a Bent Rim and Make Proper Fixes
Using a rim straightener is the best method vs. DIY attempts like banging out a dent with a hammer. The technology keeps the durability of the rim intact and doesn’t sacrifice the safety of the wheel. If a vehicle owner continues to drive on a bent rim, it can cause more fatigue, increasing the chance of cracks. An out-of-round wheel can affect the safety of a car, as well as the smoothness and wear of the tires. Other issues can arise like alignment problems and a decrease in fuel economy.
When you implement the right technique, however, you can save a wheel and inhibit other damages from occurring. Within your shop or garage, make sure your technicians use safe and effective methods.
There are two techniques you can use — cold roller or hydraulic assistance. The cold roller process is not preferable, as it has a higher risk of cracking a wheel, leaving it weaker than before. Hydraulic assistance technology is where an operator places a wheel on the machine’s rack, which centers it. Then, a dial gauge reads the wheel’s accuracy in roundness. Since aluminum is malleable, the straightener heats the alloy to soften it, reducing the risk of cracking. Heat also loosens the crystalline structure of the material, relieving the stress and tension in the alloy the bend caused.
The metal retains a sort of memory, but as the alloy cools back into place after straightening, it resets the memory and strengthens the internal structure. Working with specialized rim straightening tools like hydraulic rams, technicians press out the bends. The hydraulic pressure bends the wheel back into place.
It’s often easier to straighten damage that’s on the inside of a wheel because there are no spokes in the way. Your workers should not only train on how to operate a straightening machine, but also understand the feel of the wheel as it’s being reset, determining when it is soft vs. brittle.
Benefits of using a hydraulic straightening machine include:
- A mechanic can operate a wheel laterally and radially, allowing your shop to straighten bends other technology can’t.
- The heating procedure softens the alloy, which decreases the chances of cracking under pressure that’s required to rectify the rim.
- An operator controls the entire process by having a feel for the material and telling the difference between soft and brittle metal, and when it is about to crack under pressure.
- The crystalline structure of aluminum breaks when heated, making the alloy weak. But once it’s annealed, the material becomes strong again.
- The method strengthens the area once more as opposed to making it weaker through other procedures.
- It can straighten all types of wheels, like aftermarket, factory, auto, racing, classic, etc.
The process of straightening a rim begins by lifting the vehicle and removing the rim from the wheel. Right away, rule out the possibility of the problem being an imbalance issue. An inspection from a mechanic should include measuring the run-out and checking for cracks that may make it unsalvageable.
The run-out on the fixed tire should be between zero and 10 thousandths of an inch from being round. In the case of a bent rim, the gauge will likely spin all the way around, indicating it’s over 90-thousandths of an inch out, resulting in a wobbling wheel. A standard factory-made rim will be between 10 and 30-thousandths of an inch out. If it’s more than 30, repairs are necessary.
If you are working with a steel rim, steps include:
- Fill the wheel straightener with the appropriate oil.
- Remove the tire from the wheel.
- Measure the run-out of the rim.
- Choose the correct center spangle for the rim.
- Place the spangle in the center of the flange and tighten.
- Place the wheel on the machine and tighten the nuts.
- Put the lower support in place.
- Start the main motor.
- Locate the bent area using the metal pointer.
- Use chalk to mark the defective area.
- Stop the rim and use the hydraulic and piston lever to apply pressure and straighten the bend.
- Work on the other side and complete the same process.
- If needed, put the piston under the rim and apply pressure.
- Use the lathe system to get rid of any extra particles.
Using a North American Auto Equipment induction heater, you will need to heat the aluminum rim to between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. We also offer different angles for the pressing process, and a lathe attachment is standard with our straightening machines to help clean aluminum and some steel rims. It’s vital to implement different mechanical tips and angels for the best results, too. If you are operating on an alloy rim, conduct the following:
- Put on the proper spangle.
- Place the alloy rim onto the flange and tighten the nuts.
- Locate the bend and use the handheld heater to warm the area, making it soft enough to manipulate.
- Complete the same procedure as you would for a steel wheel.
Once you straighten the bend, mount, balance and install it back onto the vehicle. You can fix dented or damaged wheels, but not ones that are split or cracked. With North American Auto Equipment solutions, your garage can make straightened rims look new with a fine polish to eliminate scuffs and other marks. Cut a new profile to smoother over any lips or burrs that can cause leaks, and you have a functioning wheel again.
Benefits of Adding a Rim Straightener to Your Garage
Sometimes the idea of buying a new rim may scare off car owners because it’s a hefty cost for what seems like a small dent. But if your auto garage or service shop offers car owners the bonus of straightening aluminum and steel rims, you can support a massive clientele. Supporting them for less money on their end and less hassle on yours is a win-win.
Especially when it comes to vehicles that drive on horrible road conditions, your service will be a go-to for so many. With potholes, road hazards, manholes and other debris in the road, cars can receive extreme levels of rim damage. Pennsylvania is ranked eighth on the top 10 list of states that have poor pavement conditions. Imagine how much worse the other states are and how many damaged rims occur each year.
North American Auto Equipment rim straightener machines can handle a range of rim types and sizes. Our technology can straighten, cut and polish steel or alloy wheels, while some can even withstand up to 30-inch rims. The solutions can help you eliminate the time it takes to source the exact wheels and rims for customers and help save money when possible.
Garages that can service damaged rims are successful because they can serve more drivers. Throwing out rims isn’t cost-effective for anyone. Because our various models can support a range of vehicles, you can help your customers get back to driving safer and within their budget. Taking off the wheel, making a few presses against the rim and assembling the wheel again is simple.
Advantages of having a rim straightener in your shop include:
- Better results
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Keeping clients safe on the road
- Getting rid of other damaging effects
When your technicians fix the rim on a truck, car or SUV, problems such as alignment issues, poor gas mileage, vibrations and uneven tire wear become obsolete. Prices of repairs for your clients will depend on the size of the wheel and location of the dent, along with the number of bends, severity and the type of wheel finish.
Yours will be the one garage drivers can rely on for a convenient and cost-effective fix that gets them back to traveling faster. You can also gain a high return on investment and continue to promote safety for your clients.
Check out Our Rim Straightener Machines
North American Auto Equipment is a hands-on company that strives to provide honest sales to match your expectations. As a family-owned and -operated business, we not only deliver equipment from our warehouse, but we also offer parts for the equipment we sell, along with tech support. Our professionals provide honest, straightforward answers to give you the solutions that parallel your exact requirements.
North American Auto Equipment offers a one-year warranty on parts and a five-year warranty on machines. We work with top brands in the industry and test all the equipment before selling. We know rim straightening machines can be what your shop needs to extend its services.
Browse our rim straightener machines that will deliver fast ROI for your garage or contact a North American Auto Equipment technician by phone at 866-607-4022. You can also message us online. We are always updating our catalog, so be sure to check in often.