Beware those fancy wheels

South Africans keep their vehicles longer than motorists in most other countries. Our vehicles are expensive and the interest rates so high that it takes up to five years to pay off the loan on your car. It can be even longer if you take a residual value type loan.

In the past, vehicles kept their value very well and you could after a short while get enough on a trade-in to settle the loan and have enough left for a deposit on a new vehicle.

However, with the lower trade-in values, you now have to hang on to the vehicle for longer, and it being the pride and joy of many a man, they feel that it is worth spending some money on the vehicle.

Fitting alloy wheels is the easiest and most effective way to change the appearance of your vehicle. This is especially true for a 4×4, where a mere change of wheels and tyres can bring about that macho look.

However, there are many factors to bear in mind when deciding on a new set of rims. Many people have suffered serious losses or accidents as a result of not knowing all the facts.

The most serious mistake we make is to fit the mag wheels that “look good”, rather than getting the right ones for your 4×4.

Every alloy wheel is designed to carry a maximum load. With all the extras we fit and the luggage we load on top of it, the maximum weight limit is exceeded in many instances.

Make sure there is at least something in reserve for the potholes that keep multiplying on our roads.

The wheel has a centre hole that must fit tightly over the shoulder of the hub in order to centre the wheel. Then the wheel nuts only have to keep the wheel on. But if there’s play, the nuts tend to work loose.
Wheel nuts are custom designed for every rim type. The angle of the nut must be the same as that of the hole in the rim to allow a flush fit. Make sure you have them matching properly.

For instance, wheel nuts designed for a Toyota do not fit Nissan vehicles. The thickness is the same, but the threads differ. Fitting the wrong nut will result in it locking on the stud to the extent where the stud will break before the nut comes loose.

Every wheel has an offset measurement. That is the amount the centre of the rim differs from the centre of the hub. A minus 25 will run 25mm wider than the centre of the hub and a plus 25 will run 25mm more to the vehicle side. The wrong offset will either cause the tyre to foul the bodywork, or it will overload the wheel bearings.

Then every tyre has a specification as to what width the rim must be. Too wide a rim will cause the tyre to wear more on the outside, while too narrow will wear on the centre.

The tyres must also have the correct speed rating. I recently saw a set of very impressive off-road tyres on a Land Cruiser petrol bakkie. They looked very good, but were meant for farm implements and had an 110km/h speed rating. This meant that every time the owner put his foot down in that powerful vehicle, he risked his life.

Looks and price are safety’s two most dangerous enemies.

The most dangerous, however, is a good salesman with not enough stock. He will sell you what he has in the storeroom, rather than making sure that you get the correct wheels and tyres for your vehicle.

Pictured here is alloy rim with three of the five spokes broken, without it having been in any accident or incident. But it could have caused a very serious accident.

The owner of the vehicle went to a dealer and asked for mag wheels for his vehicle. The salesman sold him these wheels and some time later one wheel broke. If he did not hear the noise and stopped, the next corner could have been disastrous.

We sent photographs to the South African manufacturer and asked for an explanation. We also sent the broken wheel to them but as yet, two months later, we have not received any report or explanation at all, making it that much more difficult to trust that manufacturer’s products in future.