CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Aluminum Alloy Wheels Leaky?

I have alloy wheels on my 2004 Toyota Avalon and have had a hard time keeping tires fully inflated. This is not just the present set of tires but with three sets over the life of the car. Can anything be done short of replacing the rims?

Where do you live? All rims can be subject to corrosion, dirt, debris, road salt etc. which can get to the point where the tire bead doesn’t seat and seal properly on the rims. Mostly this can be resolved by taking the tire off the rim, cleaning and polishing the part of the rim that seats with the tire bead and remounting the tire. It should not get to the point where you have to replace the rims.

There are web sites that sell used and refurbished allow wheels at a huge discount over getting new wheels from a car dealer. If you feel your rims are totally shot, look for replacements on the web.

Are you absolutely sure the rims are leaking and this is not a case of the valve stems, etc leaking?
Just wondering.

Rims with corrosion can be repaired with a product like plastic steel which is used to fill in imperfections and then sanded down. It’s not likely a shop would do this and it would be left up to a DIYer to try this on bare rims and then have tires mounted.

If the rims are leaking and considering the lengthy history of trouble I’d just find another set of alloys; or even steel rims with wheel covers although I know the latter has an appearance stigma.

Are these chrome-plated? Do you drive where there’s a lot of salt? 3 sets of rims is very unusual.

Not chrome plated and not three sets of rims. Three sets of tires. All had trouble staying fully inflated.

Oh, now I understand. Do all 4 wheels leak? How often to you have to add air? Did the tire store replace all the valve stems for each set of new tires?

The first step is to spray soapy water on the tires and find the leak or leaks. Then you can figure out what to do from there.

Usually, the leak is where the valve stem is inserted in the rim. Salt gets under the rubber stem and eats out the drilled hole in the metal. Blow the tire up to 40-50 psi and spray a soap solution on the valve stems and watch carefully… A few alloy rims are indeed porous, they apply a lacquer coating to the inside to seal them. This process is not perfect…

This is common here in Minnesota. Corrossion builds up between the rim and the bead of the tire. A tire shop can take off the tire and get rid of the corrossion around the rim. They’ll know what tools and chemicals to use, they’ve seen this before.

The cooler the temperature, the faster air leaks out.

Uncle Turbo stole the words right outta my mouth. In the NE area of the country with Road salt…it can and DOES…somehow get in between the rims lip and the tire bead… Aluminum unlike steel does seem to be affected by corrosion …and when Al corrodes it tends to actually SWELL…and this swelling can and does actually push the tires bead off the edge of the rim…and subsequently causes a leak in the tire. Steel swells also…but not as much as AL does…AL gets all sorts of Fuzzy and swolen to a major extent…the only remedy is frequent rinsing when salt exposure is expected…such as winter snow coverered roads in the NE…or living near an Ocean…etc Not much you can do about it other than that…and to actually fix it…like Uncle Turby said…remove the tire and wire wheel the rims “lip” so the tire bead can properly seat itself. Also if the vehicle is newer…and under warranty…many auto dealers will replace them for free if you raise a stink…and or the damage happened fairly quickly… My friend had his Jeep AL wheels replaced in their entirety 3x till they told him to go to blazes… Hope this helps…but Uncle Turbo nailed it…this is just my 2c

Blackbird

In Buffalo, I have never had a set of aluminum rims NOT leak That is why the last 2 new cars I bought were models that came with steel wheels.