Wobbly wheels
September 6, 2005 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Can the machines that tire shops use to remove/install tires bend alloy wheels if not used properly? I need to know before I go complain.
posted by punkfloyd to Grab Bag (6 answers total)
Probably, because every tire place I have gone to in the last 5 years has a big sign "Not responsible for damage to alloy wheels." You could be SOL.
posted by Who_Am_I at 9:49 AM on September 6, 2005

IANAL, but a sign saying you are not responsible does not relieve you of responsibility. It simply deters some from suing.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:00 AM on September 6, 2005

Yes, they can damage the wheels, and it's a liability the shop takes on when they choose to do the work. Unless you signed something saying they're not responsible, it's possible you can hold them liable for damage.
posted by knave at 10:30 AM on September 6, 2005

Newer machines can handle alloy wheels safely, but older equipment designed for steel wheels will definitely damage alloy rims during tire demounting or mounting. Even with the latest equipment, the operator has to understand and use the machine properly.

Depending on what kind of damage you have, and the age of your vehicle, you may find it in your best interest to have your wheels repaired, rather than try to get the shop to replace them. The responsibility of the shop that did the damage depends a lot on local and state laws, and varies tremendously. Here in Florida where I live, the state has some basic business practice protections for auto repair shops in the form of a state law called Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act. But counties and cities are free to add additional local regulations, some of which greatly extend the protections of law for consumers, and require minimum levels of technician training and certification. Here is Broward County's summary of their local requirements.
posted by paulsc at 1:11 PM on September 6, 2005

Thank you paulsc.
posted by punkfloyd at 2:17 PM on September 6, 2005

Who_Am_I writes "'Not responsible for damage to alloy wheels.'"

The damage they are usually referring to with these signs is scratches/gouges and the occasional fracture[1]. You'd have to be grossly incompetent to bend a wheel (alloy or otherwise) with a mounting machine. It's much more likely that a bent wheel is the result of a impact while driving. Tire places know this so whether the shop will make good on a replacement is pretty much a customer service call. They'll assume you're lieing about the timing of the damage but may be willing to deal to keep a customer. Note also that unless you elected to not pay for balancing a wheel bent enough for you to notice would be wildly obvious to the dynamic balancer operator. That operator wouldn't have anything to gain by hiding the existence of the damage as they could claim it was pre-existing. Even a brand new wheel can be DOA.

[1] I've seen a wheel crack caused by simply removing the lug nuts.
posted by Mitheral at 2:25 PM on September 6, 2005

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