CARS.COM — Among the bad noises you can hear in the context of your car, the pain of hearing one of your expensive alloy wheels scrape against a curb because you slightly misjudged a parking maneuver ranks pretty highly. But don't despair right away — unless you scored a direct hit that damaged the wheel structurally, the "curb rash" you caused probably can be fixed and the wheel restored to a like-new appearance.
New cars are increasingly turning away from steel wheels, with aluminum-alloy and all-aluminum wheels becoming standard or available on most new vehicles. This has grown demand for the repair of "curbed" wheels, and some shops and services that provide restoration services will even come to you and do the work in your driveway. The cost can vary depending on a few factors: the amount of damage, the type of metal used in the wheel and whether it's painted and/or has a clear-coat finish. But a repair will generally cost far less than the price tag of a new or used wheel.
The process to repair a curbed wheel also can vary but typically involves removing all dirt, paint and protective finishes. The damaged area has to be sanded down, patched with filler if needed, and sanded or buffed to a smooth finish to remove scratches. Then the damaged area has to be primed, painted to match the original finish and topped with a clear-coat finish.
It isn't a simple fix, but those who have an artisan's touch or are a little daring can attempt to repair scuffs and other superficial damage themselves; do-it-yourself kits are available. Stories from do-it-yourselfers who've tried to get the curbed wheel repaired suggest the finished wheel might not match the others on your vehicle, especially for first-timers, but it might be preferable to the original rash.
If you curb a wheel hard enough, it can result in more than just cosmetic damage, and that should definitely be fixed. Scraping off paint and clear-coat finishes on a wheel will allow oxidation and can cause pitting and corrosion. Leasing now accounts for more than 30 percent of new-vehicle sales, and unrepaired wheel damage will usually trigger excess wear-and-tear charges at the end of the lease term.
Drivers who consistently curb the wheels on their car should consider buying tires designed to protect rims. Typically marketed with names like rim protectors, flange shields or scuff guards, these tires either recess the wheel inside a wider sidewall or feature a protruding flange of rubber around the bead that protects wheels from curbs and even moderate potholes.
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