GM Has Strict Guidelines for Refinishing Wheels

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In a recent “position statement” that almost every car manufacturer publishes, GM reported that it does not endorse any wheel repairs that involve welding, bending, straightening or re-machining. Only cosmetic refinishing of the wheel’s coatings, using recommended procedures, is allowed.

Assessing the Damage

In evaluating damage, it is the GM certified shop’s responsibility to inspect the wheel for corrosion, scrapes, gouges, etc. The shop must ascertain that such damage is not deeper than what can be sanded or polished off. The wheel must be inspected for cracks. If cracks are found, discard the wheel. Any wheels with bent rim flanges must not be repaired or refinished. Wheels that have been refinished by an outside company must be returned to the same vehicle. The shop must  record the wheel ID stamp or the cast date on the wheel in order to assure this requirement.

Aluminum Wheel Refinishing Recommendations

With chrome-plated aluminum wheels, re-plating these wheels is never recommended.

With polished aluminum wheels that have a polyester or acrylic clearcoat on them and the clearcoat is damaged refinishing is possible. However, the required refinishing process cannot be performed in the dealer environment, but many body shops like us can do the work by OE standards.

With painted aluminum wheels that are painted using a primer, color coat, and clearcoat procedure.  refinishing is possible if the paint is damaged .As with polished wheels, all original coatings must be  removed first. Media blasting is recommended.

With bright, machined aluminum wheels, painting is an option to re-clearcoating polished and bright machined aluminum wheels. Paint  will better mask any surface imperfections and is somewhat more durable than clearcoat alone.  When using any of the painting options, it is recommended that all four wheels be refinished in  order to maintain color uniformity.

Refinisher’s Responsibility — Outside Company

Important: Some outside companies are offering wheel refinishing services. Such refinished wheels will be permanently marked by the refinisher and are warranted by the refinisher. Any process that re-machines or otherwise re-manufactures the wheel should not be used.

A refinisher’s responsibility includes inspecting for cracks using the Zyglo system or the equivalent. Any cracked wheels must not be refinished. No welding, hammering or reforming of any kind is allowed. The wheel ID must be recorded and follow the wheel throughout the process in order to assure that the same wheel is returned. A plastic media blast may be used for cleanup of the wheel. Hand and/or lathe sanding of the machined surface and the wheel window is allowed. Material removal, though, must be kept to a minimum. Re-machining of the wheel is not allowed. Paint and/or clear coat must not be present on the following surfaces: the nut chamfers, the wheel mounting surfaces and the wheel pilot hole. The refinisher must permanently ID stamp the wheel and warrant the painted/clearcoated surfaces for a minimum of one year or the remainder of the new vehicle warranty, whichever is longer.

Important: Whenever a wheel is refinished, the mounting surface and the wheel nut contact surfaces must not be painted or clearcoated. Coating these surfaces could affect the wheel nut torque.

Why This Matters to You

To keep your warranty in effect, you need to follow GM’s requirements for using the right parts and reconditioning processes. Only companies that have the right training and skills to do this work will be endorsed by GM. Refer to this when the time comes to recondition your wheels based on type, and get everything documented and approved before proceeding.

Volkswagen Says Use Only OE Parts for Wheel Reconditioning

Image of Volkswagen

If a body shop tells you that a non-OE part or unapproved repair process is acceptable to recondition your wheels, refer to Volkswagen’s position statement on the subject.

Volkswagen’s position statement on this topic is short and clear. “A reconditioned wheel or any wheel not approved by Volkswagen may cause unsafe vehicle operation, including loss of control which may result in injury or death of the vehicle occupants or other drivers. Volkswagen approves only wheel repairs which are limited to surface sanding and cosmetic refinishing processes that remove and replace only paint coatings. Any wheel near the area of collision damage should be thoroughly examined to ensure that the wheel meets the original safety specifications. ”

Use a Preferred Process to Guarantee a Safe and Quality Repair

Wheel conditioning is a repair procedure by which a damaged wheel surface is repaired to eliminate collision damage. It may include heating, filling, straightening, welding, and removing wheel substance, as well as reshaping, or re-plating.

Also known as “remanufactured” or “refurbished,” reconditioned wheels have likely been subjected to one or more of the following—re-machining, re-plating, welding, heating, bending, straightening, reforming, material removal or the addition of new material—in an attempt to repair the wheel.

What This Means to You

If your VW reconditioned wheels do not adhere to the exacting specifications of Genuine Volkswagen Wheels, they are not an acceptable method of repair on any Volkswagen vehicle.

A reconditioned wheel or any wheel that is not completely approved by Volkswagen “may cause unsafe vehicle operation, including loss of control, which may result in injury or death of the vehicle occupants or other drivers. Volkswagen approves only wheel repairs that are limited to surface sanding and cosmetic refinishing processes that remove and replace only paint coatings. Any wheel near the area of collision damage should be meticulously examined to ensure that the wheel meets the original safety specifications determined by VW, according to the carmaker.

It’s Also the Law

The Code of Federal Regulations, U.S.  Department of Transportation, contains section 570.10 regarding Wheel Assemblies. Based on section (a) Wheel integrity, state governments that have mandatory vehicle safety inspections require that vehicle wheels do not have any indication of repair by welding.

Failure to follow these instructions may adversely affect structural integrity and crash safety performance, which could result in serious personal injury to vehicle occupants in a crash.

VW OE Parts are Only Approved

Recycled, salvaged, re-manufactured, aftermarket, and reconditioned parts (including body parts, wheels, and safety restraint components) are not authorized by VW of America. VW parts are designed specifically for your vehicle and using anything else can leave you unprotected and without a warranty if you choose to use sub-par parts manufactured by a third-party. In almost every case, your reconditioned wheels will

If your wheels get damaged and you allow a shop to use non-OE parts, it involves a lot more than cost and quality, and that’s why we only use OE factory parts. It includes the safety of you are your passengers and ultimately, other people out on the road. Volkswagen wheels are designed to specifically for your VW, so cutting corners or compromising parts and/or collision repair processes can easily become a safety issue. In addition, it can void your warranty and your insurance company will likely opt to not cover the reconditioning repair.