Alloy Wheel Basics

Alloy Wheel Basics - Straight Talk from an Alloy Wheel Specialist

Alloy Wheel Basics

For a lot of people, alloy wheels are all about adding style and flair to a vehicle. And it’s true, alloy wheels can be crafted into elaborate designs with beautiful details—real head-turners when you take your ride out on the road. But what about the practicalities of alloy wheels? In this article, we’ll share information from an APR alloy wheel specialist about their advantages, disadvantages, and what you should know if they need to be repaired.

What, Exactly, are Alloy Wheels?

Alloy Wheel Basics - Photo of a gold and silver alloy wheel on a white vehicle. Simply put, alloy wheels are made from a mix—or “alloy”—of two or more metals. Most alloy wheels are made primarily from aluminum and magnesium, which makes them much lighter than standard, steel wheels. Because they weigh less, they require less energy to rotate, and they dissipate heat more effectively. Alloy wheels can also be manufactured in a much greater variety of shapes than steel wheels, offering a profusion of detailed styles and intricate patterns.

Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Alloy Wheels

Alloy Wheel Basics - Photo of a purple and silver alloy wheel on a black vehicle. The first thing most people look for in alloy wheels is eye appeal. You want a design that looks great on your car, but there are a few practical considerations, as well. Will that beautiful, elaborate design match your wheels’ lug nut pattern? And remember, some designs hold up better than others when you run them over potholes, curbs or just rough stretches of road, so you should consider your average driving conditions before making a purchase. With so many designs available, it’s also important to make sure those new wheels will be compatible with the brake disc and drum configurations on your vehicle. A good alloy wheel salesperson will confirm that, and they’ll check the rotational dimensions of the wheels to make sure they’ll function properly on your car or truck.

The Advantages of Alloy Wheels

For many alloy wheel owners, sleek appearance is all the benefit they need. But, as we hinted at earlier, there are some practical considerations, as well. Here are the three main advantages of owning alloy wheels…

A More Enjoyable Ride

Alloy wheels offer better handling and road-grip than steel wheels because their lighter weight means less inertia to overcome as they make contact with the road surface. Their lighter weight also slightly reduces stress on the vehicle’s springs and suspension. And because you’re reducing the mass being bounced around by bumps in the road, alloy wheels provide a smoother ride.

Better Fuel Economy

Looking at your wheels, you may think the decrease in wheel weight not would have a huge effect on your car’s total mass. However, reducing rotating weight has a larger effect on fuel economy and performance than reduced nonrotational weight. In a recent study, it was found that 82 pounds of reduction in wheel weight gave the same result as a 132-pound reduction in total vehicle weight.

Better Brake Performance

Photo of alloy wheel on a vehicle showing brake pads and discs behind it. Since alloy wheels are lighter, their heat dissipation is superior to steel wheels. The reduced heat helps improve brake performance and decreases the possibility of brake failure.

The Disadvantages of Alloy Wheels

Of course, alloy wheels are not without their drawbacks. While an aluminum/magnesium alloy offers better performance than steel—and it can certainly crank up a vehicle’s beauty factor—there are a couple of disadvantages to be aware of. 1. Less Durable than Steel Steel can withstand significantly greater impacts than alloy without cracking or bending, so it does a better job of standing up to rough roads and severe driving conditions. 2. Alloy Costs More The manufacturing methods used to make alloy wheels are more expensive than those used for steel wheels. Higher costs also come into play when you have to repair an alloy wheel. They’re more intricately formed than steel, and considerably costlier to repair.

Be Cautious When You Clean Alloy Wheels

Alloy wheels are often clear coated to protect their finishes, just like your car’s paint, so wash them with a soft sponge, mild soap and water, as you would the rest of the vehicle’s finish. Don’t use polishes, abrasive cleaners or abrasive pads. If you take the vehicle to a car wash service, make sure they don’t use acid cleaners, which are fine for removing grime from steel wheels, but they can really dull alloy wheels. Stiff brushes and cleaning pads should also never touch the finish of alloy wheels.

Alloy Wheel Maintenance

Okay, so there are a few disadvantages, but alloy wheels still offer better handling and fuel efficiency than steel. The only other downside is that they’re not cheap, so it’s important to protect your investment. Here are some tips: 1. Rotate Your Wheels Periodically Alloy is tough stuff, but it will have to endure significant wear and tear; it’s a fact of driving life. Different wheel positions on the vehicle may receive different kinds of wear, so it doesn’t hurt to rotate your tires every time you get an oil change, to even things out. 2. Keep ‘em Clean Every driving day adds new layers of dirt, dust and road grime; it’s unavoidable. But dirt “wears in” over time, embedding itself more deeply into the grain of the wheel finish. Alloy wheels should be washed at least once a month and after road trips, if you want to keep them looking great. Make sure to hose off dirt and grime before applying soap, as it can scratch the finish. And once each spring, after the harsh, winter weather has passed, it’s a good idea to remove the wheels and give them a thorough, all-over cleaning.

Alloy Wheel Repair

Photo of a technician removing an alloy wheel for repairs. An average wheel repair costs between $50 and $150, which is far less expensive than a replacement. It’s a very specialized process, so avoid the temptation to use a DIY wheel repair kit. These kits seldom include the range of tools and variety of finishes needed to return a wheel to like-new condition. Alloy wheel repair is also a bit of a craft, not a task to be undertaken without experience. Some repair jobs literally cannot be done with DIY kits because they require expensive, specialized equipment that most of us don’t have. The fact is that professional alloy wheel repair doesn’t cost that much more than many of the kits out there, but professional repair comes with a guarantee, so you know it will be right. When you have the inevitable run-in with curbs or flying gravel, and your alloy wheels need refurbishment, give us a call at (316) 262-8888 or bring the vehicle in. We’ll take care of you, guarantee the work, and probably cost less than you expect.

The Hidden Health Benefits of Auto Detailing

The Hidden Health Benefits of Auto Detailing

The Hidden Health Benefits of Auto Detailing - Photo of a young woman holding her nose and looking distinctly displeased while sitting in the driver seat of a car.

As the saying goes, “We live in our cars,” and a recent study by the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety has proven it true. They found that 87 percent of Americans drive and on average spend an hour and half a day in their vehicles. That’s a lot of time behind the wheel, and in that time most of us eat, drink, and give rides to pets, children and other carriers of germs and allergens. We clean and vacuum the surfaces inside our vehicles, but we seldom think about the air quality. Reports have shown that harmful allergens live and thrive inside the ventilation system and passenger cabin of almost every vehicle on the road. Considering the amount of time we spend in our vehicles, this can translate into a real health risk. In this article, we’ll explore the effects of these microscopic hitchhikers on air quality, and we’ll learn how air quality can be improved with professional interior auto detailing.

Sick Car Syndrome

Studies conducted by the University of Michigan concluded that automobiles are some of the dirtiest environments we encounter in everyday life. University of Arizona microbiologist Chuck Gerba identified pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella and MRSA in samples taken from cup holders, dashboards, seats and steering wheels. That’s because every time you turn on a fan, harmful mold spores and microorganisms are spread throughout the nooks and crannies of the passenger compartment. “Cars are the moldiest of all forms of transportation,” reports Dr. Gerba, “because people aren’t really cleaning or disinfecting these areas.” Everyday toxins, mold spores, road dust, germs, and other pollutants are drawn into the car through the fresh air vents. Once inside, fungus and bacteria can grow in the interior evaporator of the air conditioning system. Not only can odors emerge when the air conditioning is turned on, but so can germs and dust, causing passengers to experience cold-like symptoms, whether from allergies or actual germs. This occurrence is commonly known as “sick car syndrome,” and symptoms can include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, sinus inflammation, fatigue, and asthma attacks. The same studies have found that the air inside our cars is often worse than the air we breathe at work or at home. With modern ventilation systems, which create air-tight passenger cabins, a vehicle can be a perfect incubator for germs. Researchers have discovered that climate control air blowers further increase passenger levels of germ exposure because the dark, damp environments of ventilation systems are perfect places for mold, bacteria, and viruses to thrive. The amount of mold and the length of exposure determine the potential severity of adverse health effects. Getting rid of all the germs is the only for sure way to prevent sick car syndrome.

Interior Detailing is the Answer

Regular deep cleanings and interior detailing can remove these contaminants. Interior detail specialists can reach spots inside vents and in the seams of the interior where dirt and microorganisms flourish. They also apply protectants that make it much harder for germs to get a foothold in the vehicle.

Coatings and Protectants

Coatings and protectants used by detailing shops are effective at protecting interior vehicle surfaces, not only from stains and spills but also microbes, for up to 90 days. If you apply your own protectants, be sure to use only water-based products, as silicone-based protectants leave oily residues that actually attract dust, which can harbor microbes and defeat the purpose of cleaning.

The Hidden Health Benefits of Auto Detailing - Graphic illustrating that germ and mold cell membranes are physically ruptured upon direct contact with protectant-treated surfaces.

Pet Hair Removal

It’s worth the money to have a specialist deep clean your vehicle’s interior if you have a pet that frequently rides with you. Pets carry germs on their paws, fur, mouths and other openings, so every time they go for a car ride, they leave microscopic invaders behind. UK researchers have revealed that cars used to transport children and pets have much higher bacteria counts than those that don’t. Ironically, children and pets have the greatest risk of potential infection when riding inside contaminated vehicles. Detailing shops provide specialized tools to remove pet hair in even the most difficult-to-reach spots.

Odor Elimination

Odors usually indicate the presence of germs or mold and should be dealt with swiftly to prevent microbes from finding their way onto—or into—your body. Professional detailers use industrial deodorizers to permeate fabrics and penetrate air passages to eliminate the sources of odors. For deeply ingrained smells, including strong pet odors, technicians employ ozone purification machines that entirely eradicate bacteria, mildew, mold, and offensive smells from the car’s upholstery and ventilation systems. When the job is done, the ozone harmlessly dissipates, leaving no toxic fumes in the vehicle.

Drive Safe and Stay Healthy

Air pollution inside vehicles is recognized as a major threat to human health by the World Health Organization. If you have noticed any offensive smells when you turn on the air conditioning, or you’ve experienced any of the symptoms of sick car syndrome, professional interior detailing will cure the problem. To keep your vehicle air quality safe all the time, we recommend detailing every four to six months. This keeps germs from establishing cultures, and the “new-car feeling” you get after a professional detailing job makes your drive time even more pleasant.

When Is Minor Collision Repair an Option?

When Is Minor Collision Repair an Option?

Assessing the amount of damage your vehicle has received in a minor accident can be tricky. What appears to be a small dent may conceal more substantial damage beneath the surface. But generally speaking, if none of the engine components are damaged, no fluids are leaking, and there’s no apparent malformation of the frame, you may not need to pay the premium prices of a full service body shop. In this article, we’ll cover the differences between major and minor collision repair shops—including the dramatic cost differences between them—and we’ll clarify the types of work they do.

When Is Minor Collision Repair an Option? - A paintless dent repair technician corrects a vehicle dent inside a minor collision repair shop.

What is Minor Collision Repair?

Most people think the term “body shop” has only one meaning, but it can actually describe two different types of operations:
  • Full-service body shops that can repair body, frame, glass and mechanical damage.
  • Minor collision repair shops that specialize in damage affecting only the body of the vehicle.
Full-service shops take in the big, ugly wrecks because they have mechanics on duty and frame-bending machines in the shop. They’re also happy to take in the smaller jobs, but they still have to charge rates consistent with their high overhead costs. Minor collision shops not only have lower overhead, they also tend to deal with less insurance paperwork and do more pay-out-of-pocket repairs. This reduces bookkeeping and red-tape costs, so you can usually expect to pay less at a minor collision shop for the same work, assuming your damage is repairable by these methods. And paying out of pocket can sometimes save you hundreds of dollars in the long run, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.

Types of Major Collision Damage

You’ll probably need to contact a full-service shop if you have any of these types of damage:
  • Bent frame
  • Suspension damage
  • Engine component damage
  • Broken windows
  • Trunk or doors that will not close
  • Dangling parts
  • Fluid leaks
  • Deployed airbags
  • Broken or missing lights

Types of Minor Collision Damage

This is the type of work APR does. We’ve chosen not to invest in the “heavy equipment” used by full-service shops because many, many repairs can be done without it, and for those jobs, we’re often able to save customers a lot of money. Here’s what we can fix:
  • Large dents
  • Bumpers and other plastic parts
  • Paint scuffs and scratches
  • Most hail Damage
  • Door dings and parking lot dents

Repair Methods

Small dents can often be quickly repaired by pushing out dents with Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) tools, preserving the original paint. Minor scratches are buffed out. Deeper damage is filled with putty and re-painted using state of the art, color- and texture-matching methods.

Should You File an Insurance Claim for Minor Collision Repair?

Every situation is different, but in some cases, minor collision repair can actually cost less than your insurance deductible (the amount you have to pay out of pocket before the insurance company will pay the rest). Minor collision shops can leave literally hundreds of dollars in your pocket compared to full-service facilities. Even in cases where your deductible is higher than the repair cost, bear in mind that if the damage is reported to your insurance company, your monthly rates may go up in the future. These accident-based rate increases penalize you for up to three years, so even a $30 per month increase over 36 months adds up to $1,080 out of your pocket. If this is more than the cost of the repair—and you have the cash on hand—it may make sense to pay for the repair now in order to save money in the long run.

Definitely Take the Smaller Jobs to a Minor Collision Repair Shop

When you just have a parking lot door ding or hail dents, a minor collision shop is a no-brainer. PDR removal of a small dent may only cost $50. Small touch-ups range from $50 – $75. Even a bumper panel can usually be repaired for around $250. That’s not chicken feed, but it’s many times lower than a full-service shop’s price tag for the same work. Questions? Give us a call at (316) 262-8888. We’ll do our best to help.