Aluminum wheels out of round

I recently took my 2011 VW to the dealer for some free scheduled maintenance. They rotated the tires, changed the oil etc etc. They told me that they measured my wheels and one was very slightly “out of round” so I may notice a vibration but if I did they could straighten the wheel for $140. I asked how this might have happened and was told since these are aluminum wheels simply hitting a big pothole can cause something like this. After thinking this over, it occured to me that a pothole impact with enough force to deform the wheel should have left some telltale signs on the tire. There are no marks on the tires whatsoever. Isn’t more likely the wheel was “out of round” from the factory?

Do you notice any vibration? How did they measure this? An out of round rim would have been noticed before you took it to them.

The wheel in question was rotated from the left front to the left rear. I did not notice any vibration before or after the service. I have no idea how they measured the wheel.

While it’s possible it came that way, that’s one of the most basic things the manufacturer checks when they make a wheel. What size tires/rims do you have? Under 50 series are prone to damage.

225/45 R17

I’d go to a good independent tire/wheel shop and have them check it. They should be able to show you if it’s out of round.

That doesn’t make sense to me. I remember learning some 20 years ago that unlike steel wheels, aluminum wheels don’t bend, they crack, which means steel wheels could go out of round, but aluminum wheels either hold their shape or crack. I could understand if the tire is out of round.

If there is no complaint about vibration and no marks present on the tire/ rim then how and why in the world did a dealer discover this alleged out of round wheel which then led to them measuring it?
And measured with what; a yardstick? Or did they notice this alleged problem during a wheel balance?

It’s possible to deform any wheel with a hard enough pothole or curb strike but I’m on the fence about this one.

It is possible to bend an aluminum wheel without breaking or cracking it, I have seen it done. I chocked it up on a brake lathe to show the customer, and it looked terrible with the lathe running. It is plausible that you could have hit something and bent the wheel slightly without damaging the tire (the inside of the wheel is more prone to this, lacking support from the spokes). However, if you do not feel any vibration, I would not be concerned about it. It is also possible to have a slightly bent wheel and for it to cause no problems apparent to the driver. This could possibly be a profit-generating method they have come up with: look for a slightly out-of-round wheel, inform the customer to “plant the seed” in their mind that something is wrong, when they start feeling the problem that has been planted in their head, they will return to have the problem corrected. I’m not saying this is the case for sure, but it could be.

Roger, I remember those days too but it’s 20 years later. Back in the day they were called mag wheels due to the higher content of magnesium. Today there are 250+ alloys of aluminum in the 5000 series alone. Saying aluminum is like saying get me a soda water ( pop ). All have different properties. A favorite gag is to send a machine shop apprentice to get some “aluminum”. Wheels today are made to allow bending before catastrophic cracking.

Too hard to be more verbose on this little keyboard…

And - Yes! - you can bend a wheel and the tire may not show damage. and vice versa.

This is the downside of low profile aluminum wheels and tires.

You can bend a rim, but in all honesty I find this “find” HIGHLY suspect. Why they owuld have measured your wheels when rotating them is beyond me unless they saw something really out of whack, and you’d feel something that bad when rolling.

Jack up the corners of the car one at a time, spin the wheels by hand, look kat the outside rim edge that the bead sits into and again at the inside edge. Put a thin leather work glove on if you’d like and allow it to “ride” on the edge. If you truely have a wheel “out of round” you’ll see it and probably feel it. If you’re in doubt, visit a shop that will check them and allow you to watch.

Post back with the results. This doesn’t smell right to me. But it should be checked in case I’m wrong and there really is a problem.