My car is equipped with cast aluminum wheels and the...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1994

Dear Tom and Ray:

My car is equipped with cast aluminum wheels, and the tires seem to need air every week or two. I have been told that this is normal with aluminum wheels. Is it?

RAY: You say you have aluminum wheels, Bonnie. But my guess is you have BENT aluminum wheels at this point.

TOM: While aluminum alloy wheels are lighter and more stylish than steel wheels, they do deform more easily than steel wheels. If you were to hit a New York Size pot hole (one in which there is commercial activity going on), for instance, you could easily dent the rim. That would leave a small space between the rim of the wheel and the bead of the tire. And air could slowly leak out through that space. That's probably what's happening to your tires.

RAY: Moreover, all aluminum wheels are not created equal. There are good ones, and there are cheap ones. And a cheap wheel isn't as strong, and tends to deform even more easily. So you might not even need to hit a huge pot hole to dent it. Running over a Ford Festiva might do it.

TOM: If you keep a close eye on the tire pressure, this isn't a dangerous situation, Bonnie. But if the leaks get worse, or if you just get sick of worrying about it, you can solve the problem by replacing the bent wheels. And when you find out what good aluminum wheels cost, you'll probably settle for some nice, ugly steel ones.

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