A bent rim does not directly affect alignment, however, consistent driving on a bent rim over a long period of time is likely to lead to alignment issues.
A wobbly roll resulting from the irregular shape of the tire affects the wheel in the long run leading to alignment issues.
It also follows that a bent rim is a sign that the wheel has just suffered a tremendous injury and should be checked. Sometimes, it is just a bent rim, at other times it isn’t.
A torn rim. You know there’s no way the alignment on this wheel isn’t skewed.
A bent rim is a usual occurrence, what is unusual is for it to affect alignment.
However before we delve deeper into this subject a quick distinction is in order: there’s a difference between the rim and the wheel, although some use the two words interchangeably.
The rim refers to the outer edge of the wheel that attaches to the tire. In other words, the rim is simply a part of the wheel. The wheel is the whole metal or alloy body on which the tire is attached.
By now one can begin to imagine how a bent wheel isn’t likely to cause disruptions to the alignment of the wheel.
How is this so?
Come along and find out, will you?
Major things that affect a car alignment?
It is the wheel itself that may cause disruptions in the alignment of your vehicle.
The wheel itself is attached to rods that are in turn connected with the steering and each other.
Once again, it is possible for the whole wheel to be bumped out of alignment upon impact with a strong force.
Now, note that this impact point may be anywhere on the tire area that includes the rim.
Here are the instances when this may happen:
Impact with a deep pothole
A sudden drop into a deep rut or pothole is likely to impact heavily on the wheel causing it to bend.
If the pothole is deep, the tire strikes the side of the hole, depending on the angle, and on the pressure of the tire, the rim may bend too.
But, be assured that such a force that is strong enough to bend the rim must have caused great damage already to the wheel.
Except on rare occasions and by some freak chance would the rim impact with the side of the pothole, bend, while the whole wheel remains intact.
This is more like a boxer’s wrist, his knuckles are more likely ruined before he feels it in his wrist.
Hitting the shoulder of the road or curb
This may happen where an inexperienced driver tries to park improperly along the curb. An alignment issue would occur if the tire hits the side of the road at a wrong angle.
Yes, the rim may end up bending, but whether this would affect the alignment depends on the impact on the whole wheel.
Depending on the angle of impact, the wheel may lose alignment and the rim may remain intact. The rim may bend, and the alignment remains intact.
From the foregoing, a bent rim isn’t as damaging to alignment as when the wheel itself suffers a strong impact.
What other things can a bent rim affect?
A bent rim is not just a sign that your wheel has suffered or that your alignment needs checking.
A bent rim affects other things in your wheel and your driving experience as a whole.
It affects tire pressure
A bent rim is like an open mouth at night when you sleep and breathe through it.
Your tire can begin to lose pressure when it begins to leak through the bent area of the rim.
The tire should tighten against the rim, if it isn’t, then trouble is just waiting somewhere down the street.
A bent rim means a broken seal between the rim and the tire. Untrapped air leaks out and your tire loses pressure.
It affects the tire life
A bent rim contributes to faster tire wear. The sidewall in the area where the rim is bent can begin to bulge as it loses elasticity. This leads to a wearing down of the tire in that area.
The sidewall begins to crack because it loses foundation in the strength that the rim provides.
The tire is weakened and is more susceptible to puncture in that area as the rubber becomes tender.
A bent rim contributes to uneven wear. Following a bulge in the area that has lost grip with the rim, that tread and grooves in that area of the tire wear faster than the rest of the tire.
A relatively new tire soon needs changing after a while.
It affects your brakes
This is the case if the bend in the rim is severe. Again, a severely bent rim goes deeper than the eyes can see. A severely bent rim means the wheel is badly damaged, misaligned.
And this greatly affects the brakes. This will be apparent in the way your car stops after you step on the brakes. The car pulls to the side as it stops.
This may lead to accidents when you need to stop abruptly at a stoplight or to avoid hitting another car that stopped suddenly.
A bent rim affects driving pleasure
A severely damaged rim mimics a flat tire. It may make sounds like a flat tire when in motion.
It affects the handling of the driver as it seems like he is losing control of the steering wheel, no matter how subtly.
The car pulls to the side. If this persists it may lead to a real flat tire when it blows out.
How long then can you drive on a bent rim?
You can drive for as long as 1 to 100 miles if the impact on the bent rim does not lead to a car tire leakage or disrupt your driving efficiency.
However, if the bent rim causes a huge impact that could impede your drive efficiency, then, don’t do it.
If the bend is minimal, and a subsequent leak is too gradual to notice, then you can continue to use the rim for longer.
As we have established earlier, a bent rim doesn’t necessarily spell grave danger for your alignment.
If after you have taken the car to the repair shop and the professionals say the alignment is intact, then you may overlook the situation with the bent rim until such a time when you really need to change the wheel.
It is hard to say if you can continue to use the rim for a week, a month, or a year.
It is a different case if you were out at night and you had a blowout that required you to drive with a torn tire and rim.
You know of course that you are going to change the rim when morning comes. It was an emergency. Here we are talking about a fully functional tire.
So, if the tire continues to roll, the brakes catch, then, by all means, relax.
What are the signs that your bent rim needs to be repaired or replaced?
Several options are open for exploration. As you can already glimpse, what you do about your bent rim depends on the severity of the bend.
You may be able to repair a bent rim, that is, technicians at the repair shop may be able to straighten a bent rim without much fuss.
However, if it is cracked, or so bent out of shape, they will recommend that you change the wheel.
Moreover, the following signs are symptomatic of problems with your wheel and steering network following the incident of a bent rim:
Constantly deflated tire
This is a sign that you need to get the bend in your rim straightened out. And it is not hard to know why your tire keeps deflating.
The air is leaking out of your tire where the rim is bent away from the tire. The seal is broken on your tire. If the bend is not too severe, the tire shop guys may be able to repair it.
But sometimes, trying to straighten it may cause eventual and lasting damage to the rim or tire.
Sudden difficulty handling your car
If this difficulty began after the appearance of the bend in your rim, then it may be why your car is suddenly handling strangely.
Since the bent rim is causing a leak in your tire, there is now an imbalance in the pressure of the four tires.
It reflects in the way the car turns, stops, and negotiates corners. You’ll notice the brakes don’t work in real-time, it seems to roll on for seconds more than usual.
The culprit is your bent rim. It may need repairs.
If the bend is very obvious
If the bend in your rim is obvious, you can bet it’s something you should worry about. Some bends in the rim are so slight it takes the trained eyes of a professional to point it out.
And some bends are hidden behind hubcaps. But in a situation where the hubcap is pushed out by the bend, or the bend is so obvious other commuters are calling your attention to it, then you need to repair it.
Further, a severely obvious bend may even require a replacement.
Vibrations while driving the car
Even a small dent that looks negligible to the eyes is enough to disrupt the regular ride that tires give.
While in motion, there is a normal vibration that hums through the vehicle. But an experienced owner of the car can tell when there is a new sort of vibration.
The bend in the rim is sure to cause a vibration every time that area makes contact with the pavement.
This vibration travels through the steering wheel into the driver’s hands and it is not a pleasant feeling it leaves in his mind.
A vibration like this leaves a foreboding feeling of danger. If this happens you need to repair or change the rim.
Reduced gas economy
An irregularly shaped circle runs slower than a proper one, it is the same with a rim that is bent. It doesn’t run properly. It drags when it shouldn’t.
There is a disagreement between the tire acceleration and the engine work. Hence the car uses up more gas to get the vehicle to move as fast as it should but gets nowhere with the effort in the end.
In the long run, more gas is expended on travel. When you have noticed a rise in how much you spend on gas then it is time to take the bend in your rim seriously.
It is important to note that if the bend is not properly straightened out by a professional, the problem of the gas economy will persist.
A scallop is a benign situation where the tire has worn spots or cups on the circumference of the tire that are tender to the touch.
And a bent rim is one of the causes. So when you notice your tires developing scallops then know you need to repair the bend.
Sometimes, the bend is so minimal as we have said before, but the cumulative effects of the slight bend could lead to scallops.
It becomes obvious when the tire starts to make annoying sounds while traveling. And you can also see these unsightly scallops around the area of the bent rim.
Furthermore, you’ll notice the lack of balance in the tires, it is in fact the imbalance that perpetuates the scallops.
A bent rim does not just diminish the aesthetic of your vehicle, it can lead to life-threatening accidents.
It is important to pay close attention to your rims. Add checking the condition of your rims onto your car care list.
If you find a bend in your rim, do not be slow about paying attention to the effects of its existence on your car and driving experience.
Depending on how severe the bend is, be prepared to put priority on the importance of life and limb over the eventual financial result of repairs or replacement.