A beautifully presented alloy wheel can finish off a car like a freshly polished brogue completes a suit or perfectly arranged window boxes give a house the edge over neighbouring properties.
Unfortunately, as most drivers know from experience, alloy wheel damage is a very real problem. Parking scrapes from unforgiving kerb stones, shocks from potholes and the harmful deposits that brakes give off mean alloy wheels lead a hard life – and it often shows.
Kerbed alloy wheels are one of the most common grumbles among drivers. Thankfully there are now products that offer protection. But when it comes to tackling potholes, surely there’s nothing a driver can do? You’d be surprised. As we found out from a tyre expert, drivers can adapt their technique to protect a wheel from damage.
How to prevent kerbing alloy wheels: tyres and parking technique
You could change you car’s tyres to another brand with a pronounced rubber rim to prevent kerbs from grinding an alloy wheel to powder. But that’s far from practical, and expensive if your existing tyres have plenty of life left in them.
Some drivers swear by only ever reversing into any parking space that’s parallel to the kerb. They lower the angle of their wing mirror, swing the back of the car in, then bring the front in line gently, with maximum steering lock applied. Proceeding gingerly, they wait for the tyre to gently kiss the kerb, before straightening the steering. But again, that’s not always practical, especially on a narrow, congested street.
Bump and grind: wheel protector kits
There are a couple of products that can be fitted to alloy wheels to help prevent damage from parking scrapes. The best-known is Alloygator, and as you can see from this test, by Auto Express, it’s highly rated.
Alloygator costs £59.94 for four, and is a nylon protective strip that is attached to the surface of the alloy wheel. It creates a barrier between the kerb and the wheel, and comes in a wide range of colours, or black. Fitting should be an easy enough job for those with modest DIY skills. But it’s time consuming as the car has to be jacked up and each tyre deflated to allow for fitment. Expert fitting is also available.
Also consider the more affordable Rimblades Flex (£29.99 for four). These stick to the surface of the alloy wheel, using 3M adhesive tape, so durability may be a problem. Again, a wide range of colours is available.
Pothole plague: preventing alloy wheel damage
The RAC has warned that Britain is gripped by a pothole plagued. Every year, it attends rising numbers of breakdowns that are caused by potholes damaging car wheels and suspension parts. In the last quarter of 2016, call outs of this nature were up by nearly a third. And that doesn’t include cars that lose wheel weights or have their tracking knocked out of alignment.
Steve Howat, technical expert for Continental Tyres, says there are steps drivers can take to minimise damage caused by a pothole. And trying to swerve around it, then catching the hole with just one side of the tyre, will do more harm than good.
He explains: “When driving, maintain a good distance from the car ahead, to give yourself the best view of the road surface. If you see a pothole, don’t swerve, as this could cause an accident. Slow with consideration to other road users and aim to have the wheel and tyre of the car strike directly in the middle of the hole. This will spread the impact across the tyre and wheel and give the greatest chance of minimising damage.”
James is a motoring journalist and former magazine editor at BBC Top Gear and Auto Express. He has scooped, reported on and reviewed most new cars of the past 20 years, and currently contributes to the Driving section of The Sunday Times.