Buying alloy wheels for your car is somewhat like fashion, styles come in and styles go out, 5 thick spokes are the 'big thing' before it changes to a multi spoke with polished edge. Once you look into buying new alloy wheels you will soon realise that they can cost upwards of £1000 (a set of 4 complete tyres).

Now buying used alloy wheels is fast becoming the way to get a slick set of alloys for your car, without bashing your bank balance to much. If you own any post 2000 registration car, the chances are they are fitted with alloy wheels from the factory, but will mostly be 15" or 16". Upgrading these wheels to 17" or even 18" improves the appearance of your vehicle but also the road handling, meaning that more rubber is in contact with the road.

Now the internet is full of used alloy wheels and most of them are accurately described. However there are some which do seem to be good to be true, and most of the time they are.

Follow these simple tips to make sure you get great value for money on your next used alloy wheel purchase.

Genuine or Replica?

Since late 2001, the UK was flooded with replica Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and VW wheels. Most of these were of very poor quality, poor paint finish and not tested to approved EU standards. The cost of a set of these wheels was often the cost of 1 single original wheel, hence why people went for replica wheels.

How do I tell the difference? Well firstly, the finish of a replica wheel is very poor compared to that of an original wheel, the paint feels rough and there maybe dust spots under the lacquer but the main difference is the lack of part numbers and other details on the back of the wheel. Looking at the picture below, this is the back of one of the spokes on a genuine 20" Audi S8 alloy wheel. The part number is clearly visible, 4EO 601 025 AP. The other bits of information shown are the rim size (9Jx20") and the offset (ET45):

Part Numbers on Genuine Audi Alloy Wheel

 

Buckled?

An alloy wheel has to be completely 'round' for it to not to cause vibrations once on a car. Minor buckles, coupled with good quality tyres, can be balanced out without any problems. Wheels with severe buckles are a little more tricky to deal with, the wheels can be straightened but there will always be a slight buckle that remains.

Buckled Wheel

Ask the seller if any of the wheels are buckled. If the price of the set seems to be to good to be true or the seller asks you if want to purchase over the phone or in person, be wary. All honest sellers will put in their descriptions whether wheels are buckled, but best practice is to email them and ask for pictures of the back of the wheels.

Damaged/Cracked

Cracked wheels CAN be repaired. It is done on a case by case basis, but modern welding techniques are very advanced now that any weld that is carried out is more than strong enough to be fitted onto a vehicle.

Cracked Alloy Wheel

Damaged wheels are also assessed on a case by case basis, wheels that have chunks missing from the face of the wheel cannot and should not be repaired as the structure of the wheel will be weakened. Ask the seller if they are damaged and if not ask them if they have ever been repaired.

Scratches, chips and dents can be repaired with a process called Alloy Wheel Refurbishment. The wheel is stripped back to bare metal, repainted, relacquered and baked in an oven, the same process the wheel went through when it was new. For further information on Alloy Wheel Refurbishment, click here.

To sum up, if you ask sellers if the wheels are genuine (if they are being advertised as genuine), are they buckled and are they damaged/cracked you will cover yourself against making a big mistake. Be prepared to NOT bid on wheels if they don't sound right, better to be safe than sorry.