What Are the Signs of Wheel & Rim Damage

The wheels on your car or truck do more than just keep your tires inflated and look good after a carwash. Those wheels are a vital part of your vehicle’s safety features, helping with fuel or range efficiency, maintaining alignment, minimizing vibrations in your steering wheel, and maximizing tire life. A bent rim or broken wheel can cause a long list of safety issues and add up to extra repairs. Here’s how to spot wheel damage, what can happen when a wheel is cracked or bent, and what to do if you spot damage on your wheels.

Signs of Damage

Your wheels can take a lot of punishment. But cracks, chips, dents, and bends do happen. Especially with roads full of unavoidable potholes, curbs that jump out of nowhere, and de-icer used to make winter commutes safer. To check your wheels, remove the hubcaps (if you have any) and look for these possible issues.

Wheel scratches

Wheel chips and scratches

Cracks, Chips, and Scratches

While small scratches are common and won’t often affect your overall safety, scratches that turn into chips and cracks are a cause for concern. If you spot cracks or chips in your wheels (below the paint or powder coating), get to Les Schwab for a free evaluation. For your safety, you may need to replace the affected rim(s).

Bent wheel

Bends and Warps

If you have steel wheels, it may be possible to bend them back into shape after an accident. However, aluminum wheels cannot be straightened and must be replaced. Want to learn more? Get all the details about steel and aluminum wheels.

Rusty wheel


When water gets into small chips and pits on your wheels, rust (corrosion) can form over time. Especially if you come into contact with de-icer used to make winter roads safer. If you spot rust on your wheels, get to Les Schwab. We’ll take a look and offer suggestions, including special wheel cleaning products.

Aluminum Wheel Lipping

This type of damage is not easy to see. However, when hauling a lot of weight, a sharp edge can develop on the lip of aluminum wheels. That edge could tear or cut the sidewall on your tires. If you’re maximizing your loads over long distances, consider switching to steel wheels to avoid this issue.

Strange Sounds

Stop by your nearest Les Schwab if you hear or feel clunking, thumping, grinding, scraping, whining, humming, roaring, popping, or clicking coming from any of your wheels. These could be a sign of a serious wheel problem that should be checked by our technicians. If the noise gets worse, pull over and replace the damaged wheel with your spare.

Performance Damage Signs

Whether it’s a crack, chip, or rust, wheel damage can cause several safety and performance issues. If you experience any of these indicators, make an appointment with your local Les Schwab.


These include wobbling, shaking in the steering wheel and seats, or vibrations that can be felt over any of the wheels. If the vibrations get worse as you speed up, get to Les Schwab so we can check it out.

Uneven Tire Wear

Is one or more of your tires wearing down faster than the others? The solution could be as simple as a tire rotation. But it could also be a bent wheel.

Pulling to One Side

A bent rim can cause your vehicle to pull to the right or left. Alignment issues can also cause a pull. If your vehicle consistently pulls to one side, get to Les Schwab for a free pre-trip safety check.

Loss of Tire Pressure

If your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is showing one tire with low pressure, you could have a bent or cracked wheel or rim. Fill the tire back up with air and monitor it for a week or two. If it deflates enough to trigger the TPMS again, visit your local Les Schwab for a quick inspection.

Reduced Fuel or Range Efficiency

Bent or cracked wheels can affect your overall MPG or EV range. If you notice a significant change in your fuel or efficiency, stop by and we’ll check out your rims, alignment, tires, and more.

Car with a deflated tire on a car jack

The Dangers & Risks of Wheel Damage for Drivers

While small nicks and chips in your wheels aren’t always a cause for concern, bent rims and large cracks can be dangerous and costly. These include:

Loss of Control

Bent and cracked wheels can cause tire balance and alignment issues. If left unresolved, your steering and overall performance could be affected.

Tire Failure

Bent or cracked wheels can allow air leaks. When tires become too deflated, heat buildup can cause them to shred and fail.

Braking Problems

When wheels are damaged it can directly affect how well your tires grip the road. This can have a big impact on how fast your car stops when you apply the brakes.

Suspension Damage

Over time, your shocks and struts will take an extra beating if your wheels are damaged. By fixing wheel issues, you can add life to your suspension and safety to your next outing.

What To Do if You Suspect Wheel or Rim Damage

If you spot large cracks, pits, or bent rims on your car or truck, the trained professionals at Les Schwab are here to take a look. Acting quickly is good for your family’s safety. It could also save you money in prematurely worn tires, damage to your suspension, and added issues to your wheels.

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