Car clinic: Does a scratch on the alloy mean the whole wheel needs changing?

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Car C;inic: Wheel replacement

Q. I’ve slightly scraped the front-left alloy wheel on my Volkswagen Golf GTI. Do I need to have the whole wheel refurbished? And, if so, how long will I have to do without my car?
DR, London

A. If you hit a kerb hard, you risk puncturing the tyre, buckling the wheel or throwing out the tracking, or wheel alignment. But if the damage is as light as you say, the car should not be dangerous to drive. The scuff will spoil its looks, though, and once the protective lacquer coating has been breached, corrosion will follow, so it’s worth fixing.

For minor cosmetic damage, try a mobile repair company such as Wicked Wheels ( or ChipsAway ( Either can come to your home or workplace and repair light scuffs and scratches, including spraying to match the original finish. The price depends on the work required, but typically it’s between £80 and £100.

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If the damage is worse than a light scratch — if you can feel an indent, say — the wheel may need full refurbishment. This involves removing the lacquer, putting the wheel through a series of chemical cleaning processes and then either smoothing out any imperfections on a lathe or, where chunks are missing, welding in extra metal before applying a new lacquer coat.

This process is as time-consuming as it sounds, which is why Pristine Wheels ( will swap your damaged wheel for an already refurbished one while it works on it. Prices for a GTI start at £83, plus £14.40 for tyre removal, refitting and, if it is needed, balancing. The head office is in Milton Keynes, but Pristine works with agents around the country to provide almost national cover.

To prevent future damage, consider a set of AlloyGators ( These tough nylon rings fit round the edge of the wheel and protrude outwards to guard against expensive scuffs. They are available for wheels of up to 21in diameter, come in 10 colours and cost £59.94 for a set of five.

Read also: As good as new: how to repair alloy wheel damage

Sunday Times Driving car clinic expert: Dave Pollard

Dave Pollard has written several Haynes manuals and has tested just about every car-related accessory – read more from Dave here.

Email your question to or write to Car Clinic, Driving, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST, with a daytime phone number, your address and as much detail about your car as possible. We can’t reply in person, so don’t send original documents or SAEs. Advice is given without legal responsibility.