Should I Get New Tires Put On My Wheels Before Or After I Have Them Repaired?

At Salt City Wheels, wheels and rims are our jam, so seeing avoidable damage to otherwise beautiful rims frustrates us endlessly. Our cover thumbnail for this article shows some of the damage that can happen from a third-party tire installer. Check out Salt City Wheel’s repair work in our Gallery:

Thank goodness our skilled mobile wheel repair experts have the experience and know-how to fix this damage and restore your wheels to their former glory!

We’ve had countless clients come to us with wheels covered in unnecessary scratches as a result of over-enthusiastic or lackadaisical tire-installers. So we decided it was time to set the record straight about a commonly-asked question: should I get new tires put on my wheels before or after I have them repaired?

There is arguable logic for both camps. After all, you might reason that the tires need to be taken off to be able to fully assess and even repair a damaged wheel. But then of course they have to be put back on again, risking damage to your freshly-repaired rim from tools, rough handling and possibly inexperience.

From the other side of things, you could argue that a wheel can be at least surface-repaired with the tire still on, thus minimizing any potential damage from manhandling the tire off and on again. But if things are done this way and there is deeper damage, you risk short or long-term problems from an insufficiently-repaired wheel.

So what is the actual answer? Prepare yourself for some delicious wheel geekery…..!

The reality is that taking tires off and putting them back on is always really hard on the wheels, even in the best of circumstances. This is especially true of low-profile and an increasing number of runflats. Runflats have a much stiffer sidewall to improve vehicle performance, so it takes more pressure (read: easier and more extensive wheel damage) to take a tire off. So even if circumstances are otherwise ideal, tire changes can cause damage to wheels. 

With one exception (which we will cover in a moment) it is ALWAYS best to get have new tires put on BEFORE they are repaired - it would be such a shame for them to get all scratched up after you’ve just had them made all pretty and perfect.

The sad and frustrating reality is that not every tire shop is as careful as they should be. Removing and replacing tires is hard grunt work, so a lot of the time it’s new, inexperienced trainees assigned to do this job. It’s amazing to us how often the same damage is on all four wheels - so rarely do new installers pause after one damaged wheel to figure out what they’re doing wrong so as to avoid the same damage with the next wheel. We can nearly always fix the damage that results from poor or careless tire removal and replacement, but it’s much nicer for you if you can avoid it.

So how does this damage generally happen? On every tire machine, there’s a device called a ‘duckhead’ (sounds cute, right?) that goes against the wheel to remove the tire. If you’ve ever had to replace the inner tube on your bicycle wheel, it functions similarly to the flathead screwdriver you use to separate the outer tire from the wheel. The duckhead pries the tire over itself to get it over the rim, so the duckhead obviously has to run across the surface of the wheel. These are not floppy forgiving tires like a bicycle and a duckhead is not small and maneuverable like a flathead. Additionally, if it’s an old duckhead that has manhandled many tires and mangled its surface into a rough, pitted mess in the process, or if it has no protective pads, these factors alone can easily scratch a wheel, in addition to the the metal-on-metal grinding madness that the duckhead itself introduces. 

Sounds like scratches are a foregone conclusion, right? Well, not necessarily. Reading a tire shop’s reviews on Yelp or Google Reviews can give you a good idea of their track record, but in general, a tire shop that is taking tires off and putting them on all day every day is often your best bet for the most careful, skilled tire removal and replacement. In our experience, most Discount Tires shops have a pretty good record of not hopelessly scratching up your wheels. But no matter how good the shop is, mistakes can and will happen - and sadly, more often than not. Even manufacturer or dealership service centers can’t always be relied upon to be gentle or careful - remember, this is essentially a grunt job in a shop, so it’s always the newest, greenest, lowest-paid mechanic trainees who end up doing the work. Just because you take the vehicle to a BMW or Mercedes dealership doesn’t guarantee that your wheels will escape lightly. If damage does occur while the tires are being taken off or put back on, it’s rare that a shop will own up to causing the damage and pay for repairs. You may be able to give yourself some degree of protection by taking a photo of each wheel in the shop and before any work is started, making sure the mechanic or whoever has checked you in sees what you are doing. The photos will be date and time-stamped, and the vehicle is inarguably at the tire shop, so any damage after that time will clearly have been caused by the shop staff. 

So the bottom line is: if you are planning to get new tires, have them put on BEFORE any wheel damage is repaired. You’ll save yourself so much unnecessary stress and a second, wholly-avoidable wheel repair.

And what is the one exception we promised you? If it’s not just surface damage and a wheel is actually integrally bent (ie from driving over a pothole), we will have to pull the tire off. The reason for this is that we have to heat the wheel up in order to push out the bend and rebalance the wheel. The kind of temperatures that are able to reshape metal would obviously damage a flammable, meltable rubber tire. Therefore, in this instance, it’s better to do a wheel bend repair first and then replace the tire AFTER. 

Often a bend is bad enough to damage the bead of the tire so it can’t sit flush against the tire. When that happens (when you sail across that ghastly pothole), the air will immediately go out of the tire, which will either require it to be replaced or at the very least removed while the wheel is repaired and then reattached. Our mobile wheel repair experts will be able to tell you on the spot if a tire needs to be replaced. And if it does need replacing, just make sure to have that work done after the bend repair.

Is your brain now exploding from the sheer marvelousness of so much wonderful new wheel knowledge? Ready to have us put it into action on your mangled wheel? Give the Utah mobile wheel repair experts at Salt City Wheels a call today at 801 425 3044 to schedule your FREE wheel repair consultation.