A common practice among many young people today is to purchase new rims or “wheels” for their vehicles. These wheels have spawned a cultural revolution, of sorts. In fact, they have even become the subject of rap songs. The larger rims or wheels being placed on some vehicles are referred to as “dubs,” “blades,” “speeds,” “spinners,” and “twenties,” among other names. Many of the rims that are being installed on automobiles are aftermarket products, meaning that they were not manufactured by the automobile manufacturer or were not manufactured specifically for that vehicle by another company for the vehicle manufacturer.
The rims are typically made of aluminum, either forged or cast. The aluminum is often made as an alloy, blended with other materials like magnesium or other non-ferrous metals in order to strengthen the aluminum. The integrity of the aluminum or aluminum compounds used and the manufacturing process employed by the manufacturer could mean the difference between life and death. There have been many reported incidents of the aftermarket wheels collapsing or breaking. Because of the boom in the market, it is expected that many more accidents will occur because of faulty and defective rims. The method used to make the tire and the quality of the manufacturing process can greatly affect the cost of the rims and their safety risks.
While most automobiles are equipped at the factory with 13” to 15” tires and rims, aftermarket rims can be 20” or more. In most instances the wheels that come on a vehicle are wheels that are designed for that vehicle. The aftermarket wheels, on the other hand, are not designed for the vehicle. The larger wheels affect stability and handling of the vehicle. Also, depending on the integrity of the rims, the weight and stress applied from normal operation of a vehicle can cause the wheels to fail in a variety of manners.
Virtually every vehicle manufactured today has computer and electronic systems that are designed to adjust handling and suspension, based upon events that occur with the wheels that come standard on the vehicle. When larger wheels are added to a vehicle, the computer system cannot interpret the data correctly, meaning that the braking action and stability of the vehicle could be impaired. The larger wheels are also shown to increase wear and tear on suspension. All of these factors, from the integrity of the metal to the interface of the tire system with the vehicle’s electronic stability system, can greatly increase the risk of serious bodily harm or injury.
A quick Google® search reveals that there are literally hundreds of options for aftermarket rims and wheels. Some of the manufacturers of these aftermarket rims are from countries like China, where it is unlikely that the manufacturing processes are monitored as closely as they are, or should be, in the United States.
For those who wish to add a set of “blades” or “dubs” to their vehicle, it is recommended that they seek out a reputable tire shop. Modifications may have to be made to the suspension and braking system to minimize the risks associated with the addition of the larger rims. Forged aluminum may also offer better integrity. Our firm will review cases involving wheel or rim failures that result in serious injury or death. If you need additional information on this subject, contact Ben Locklar or Cole Portis in our firm at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com or Cole.Portis@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: Pat Ardis, a lawyer from Memphis, Tenn.; http://www.insideline.com/features/the-danger-of-dubs.html; http://www.ripoffreport.com/Car-Parts-Accessories/Wheelmax/wheelmax-danger-unsafe-produc-f4a4m.htm
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