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Clad wheels: Handle with care or else!

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Clad wheels require extreme care during mounting and balancing. Without it, a dealer will pay the ultimate price: replacing the wheel.

“It looks like a nice chrome wheel but it’s plastic,” says Jim Ramsey, CEO and president of Lamb Ventures LP, which does business as Lamb’s Tire & Automotive in Austin, Texas.

Plastic clad wheels are a recent phenomenon dealers are struggling with, according to Scott Farr, wheel service and equipment business development manager for Bosch Automotive Service Solutions LLC.

“Clad wheel proliferation is pretty extreme right now. There’s not a day goes by in a shop in North America where they’re not confronted by some type of cladding.”

A clad wheel is an alloy wheel with a delicate chrome-painted plastic cover bonded to the face of the wheel. The clad wheel covers cannot be removed, repaired or replaced. If they are damaged during balancing or mounting, the wheel must be replaced at the dealer’s expense.

Clad wheels affect both the balancing and mounting processes. For example, pressure cups and cones cannot be used to balance a clad wheel. Traditional cones can also cause damage to this cladding when they drop far enough into the bore of the wheel to contact the plastic cladding.

Tire changing also carries special considerations, says Pete Liebetreu, senior product manager at Hunter Engineering Co. For example, when bead breaking with a side shovel changer, it is important to be careful or the cladding face can crack when placed against the back pad.

For tips from Bosch and Hunter on how to safely service clad wheels, see “Clad wheels: Handle with extreme care” online or in the digital or print version of the September issue of Modern Tire Dealer.

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