In the US, wheel repair, specifically severely damaged wheels, started as a direct result of the insurance business. The first companies offering repairs did so from machine shops where they utilized welding and tracer lathes. Polished and painted wheels were then re-polished and re-painted to make the job complete. This repair process is referred to as re-manufacturing. Today’s shops, however, utilize sophisticated CNC lathes and, like the OEMs, they powder coat versus wet paint. Two of the early companies that provided re-manufacturing services have grown into multi-million dollar businesses and account for over 100 million USD in annual sales. Their specialty is core exchange programs –purchasing damaged cores from salvage yards and re-manufacturing them. Over the years they have accumulated tremendous inventories exchanging wheels held in inventory for damaged cores. Several hundred smaller companies around North America account for an additional 400 million USD in annual gross revenue.
Early pioneers offered on-the-car repairs, a process including sanding and crude paint matching on damages up to the tire wall. Early repair processes were slow and often neglected damage to the wheel’s interior. PDR technicians emerged as a mobile alternative to shop- based providers and “on-the-car” repair services. The mobile wheel repair industry was born and with it came created technologies that deliver shop- based quality cosmetic wheel repair in a mobile environment.
Just as the wheel has evolved, so will the concept of wheel repair. Complex designs and materials in alloy wheels are sure to continue, and so is the development of the tools and methods design to repair them. As a PDR Technician, you have the golden opportunity to make your own history. Heck, you may be the guy that comes up with the next great alloy wheel repair that will change the way we work with and look at alloy. While it’s said that the wheel industry has completely spun out and there is no more room or technology that would or could develop the next great wheel, I think if you want to, you can decide to do anything you want. Dare to dream.