Why Aluminum Alloy Wheels Crack


Alloy Wheels

There are a number of reasons your aluminum alloy wheels may crack. One of the most common is “hot cracking,” which is the result of high-temperatures during the welding process. Also called hot fissuring, solidification cracking, hot shortness and liquation cracking, it’s ugly and annoying, but it can be avoided. When arc welding is employed, cracking can be eliminated. Aluminum welding gets you started on the wrong foot from the beginning—even if you avoid hot cracking, hydrogen cracking (aka cold cracking) might show up.

Cold cracking can happen when welding low alloy steels and carbon steels. Depending on the type of aluminum you’re using, you might become the victim of cold or hot cracking and, either way, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of this conundrum. When dealing with hot cracking, you need to consider three major issues: The alloy chemistry, appropriateness of the filler alloy, and choosing the best joint decision.

Picking the Right Alloy Additions

To sidestep hot cracking, consider four potential alloy additions: Silicon, copper, magnesium and magnesium silicide. By including trace amounts of one of these elements, which is common, cracking is more likely to occur. The “chemistry” of the alloy, which is dependent upon which additions are used and how much, can be a major factor in cracking. Silicon is the most crack-resistant, followed by a magnesium/silicone hybrid, but all fillers can be crack-resistant if used in the right amount.

To get the best results and resist cracking, it’s best to completely avoid very crack-sensitive materials that are also considered non-weldable. Picking the right filler or addition, while considered the crack sensitivity ranges, is step two. You should pinpoint a filler with a solidification point that’s similar to (or below) that of the base material. Edge preparation choice, root gap to allow for the filler addition, and the creation of a “weld metal chemistry” that’s suitable is also paramount.

Preparing for a Crack-Free Future

Choosing the right filler is just part of the process; you also need to choose one that has additions of grain refiners (i.e. zirconium or titanium). This will best prevent cracks, and complements the makeup of the materials. The actual welding process itself can also be a literal breaking point—utilize the highest welding speed because the faster it’s done, the faster the cooling rate. Basically, the least amount of time you spend in the “hot cracking temperature spectrum,” the better.

When welding, tap into your skill set and use assembling techniques that cut down on restraint, minimize stress and product the cleanest welds possible. A pressure application on the joint during welding can also help to prevent cracks from forming. Generally speaking, sometimes aluminum base alloys are difficult to weld at best—especially for those who aren’t exceptionally well-versed in the properties of the materials. Sometimes arc welding just isn’t possible, and that’s when mechanically joining parts via bolting or riveting is the best approach. No matter which avenue is taken, remember that cracking isn’t “just something you have to live with.” It can be addressed, but it takes knowing the materials and some serious skills to avoid it.

Digital Side Mirrors


Op-Ed by Andy Bunch

You may have heard that digital side mirrors are coming. This is a loose interpretation of equipment automakers have been tossing onto concept cars or adding to limited runs of super-luxury vehicles these last few years. However, most of us who cover the car business have been skeptical. Edison once had his people come up with an electric pen.

Does the world really need one more doodad that must be better because it relies on technology rather than simple physics?

We’ll Lexus has announced that they’re ready to put them into production on their full line of cars and the US is evaluating them for safety, so someones pushing hard for them. My real question was echoed by Stephen Williams in his September article on the topic, entitled “Digital Side Mirrors Become a Production Reality, but You Can’t Get Your Hands on One Just Yet.

“…replacing side mirrors with two 5-inch screens located at the base of the vehicle’s A-pillar is an extra measure of radical….But how much do we really see in our side-view mirrors?”

I’d put his question more as a statement, “it better do something really great if you’re going to continue to train people not to look outside there own car.

Williams eventual support can be summed up in four words, “Bike lanes & night vision.”

But there are other potential advantages. The cameras are designed to be less affected by rain and to reduce road noise. The screens can replace ones already employed for side impact warnings and parking assistance. On the whole, drivers report them as more intuitive than other center-column backup camera screens.

Bottom line they show a wider angle, which has long been a desire of many drivers. How many times do you see people fasten extra mirrors onto their side mirrors, especially when towing a trailer?  Well, that issue could be a thing of the past. These mirrors could add zooming in and out to the adjustments you already make to accommodate the height and taste of the individual driver.

It’s likely these cameras will succeed in gaining mainstream use as early as 2019.

Here’s some video, see for yourself:

The Problem with Cars at Christmas


Looking at yuletide and seeing problems doesn’t seem quite right but as a car driver, you need to be practical. As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder you are much more likely to succumb to drowsiness in your vehicle. This is something all drivers should take seriously.

Starting with Mindset:

We know what you’re thinking, “Bah humbug!”

But knock it off for two minutes and we’ll make it easy for you with a quick list of what might make your commuting more difficult and a couple ideas to make it better.

Instead of thinking like a Grinch, think like a super-hero. Not only are problems more likely, but the situations can become more drastic, more quickly than in other seasons. This is your chance to be the one who’s ready, who makes safety look easy, and who protects the family.


Maybe you are full of holiday cheer. Maybe you love all the fancy decorations you drive past. Maybe you don’t but the person in front of you does. We’ll get back to road conditions in a minute, but it’s important to start off a list like this with the fact that you need more following distance between you and the car in front of you than ever.

Having a flask of hot coffee in the car will also give you a bit of a pick-me-up in a freezing cold day.

It’s not ALL about the Weather:

Many people start getting terrible quality of sleep in the fall. Sunlight, temperature, and activity level all affect the quality and quantity of sleep. Heck, you can sleep too much and become groggier, especially if you’re resorting to a sleep aid.

With the retail season in full swing, most of us are busy at work. Most of us are shopping whenever we can fit it in. AND let’s face it, holiday traffic sucks. Now is the worst time to drive groggy.

This is why it is important to get enough sleep and maybe not work too hard (though this could be easier said than done in the Christmas period). Iron and Vitamin D supplements might help.

Don’t Get Sick:

It’s hard to drive when you’re sick. Running nose, headache, and the dreaded sneeze can really do a number on your ability to operate a car safely. Get lots of sleep (see above), and take vitamin C. Try elderberry extract, ginger tea, and don’t neglect hand washing.

plough-1814954_1920The Effects of COLD Weather:

It might not just be you that’s sluggish in the cold, by the way. Cold makes it harder to start your car in the morning. Believe it or not, this is due to oil being slightly thicker in cold weather and the battery taking slightly longer to react.

The best thing you can do about this is to leave extra time for your journey to start up the engine and scrape your windows. If you do find that you’re getting a late start, just call into work and make amends up front. Most employers we’ve encountered may grumble, but they’d rather have you late than dead.


Some places get fog, others get glint from the sun off ice cycles. The sun comes in at a lower angle and can create a lot of glare…if you live somewhere the sun shines in the winter.

One of the biggest issues we warn of about this time every year is not fully cleaning your windshield. It takes two seconds longer to scrape the whole thing than to try to guess which part you won’t need to see through on your way to work. You may need to apply de-icer to the windscreens and other windows. Chemically speaking, this is known as propylene glycol. The alcohol in the substance is what makes the ice melt.

Road Conditions:

When it comes to de-icing roads this may be done with salt (usually rock salt) spread by dumper truck or snow plow. It may not pure salt – it may be mixed with sand or gravel, or indeed both.

On the west coast, plowing and de-icing are generally done by the state transportation crews. In the Northeast U.S., it’s more common for private individuals to own a plow or attachment to clear roads the community resources don’t get to quickly enough. (One of our writers brags about always trying to buy a house near such an individual so he isn’t late to work in the winters.)

Back to the rock salt on the roads, because it’s not all that reliable, there is a threshold where it will not work at all; the snow will stay on the roads. This is when the temperature goes below -18°C. There are other problems with salt as it is toxic to many plants and animals. This is why calcium chloride or magnesium chloride works better; they create something that has a lower freezing point than salt water.

The best solution in bad weather, or at least the first few days of bad weather, is to work from home. It can create stress of its own, but it beats dying.

If your boss resists letting you work remotely as him/her if you can do it on a trial basis. Then just make sure to make that your most productive day all month. When your boss sees that its safer and more productive you have a 40% chance of doing it again in the next bad weather situation. (BTW in our experience %60 of all bosses are so against remote work that they’d rather you come in late, work slow, and leave early. Yes that’s stupid!)

The problem with remote working is how are you going to do your Christmas shopping? That’s what the internet is for, eh?

The Final Word:

Be sure to carry traction devices and a winter safety kit. You don’t want to break down in the winter with no blanket or flares. Also, make sure to carry a cell phone, even if you just buy some minutes for a pay as you go plan. It’s a good idea to get your car, especially the tires checked before the really bad stuff sets in.


Thanksgiving Weekend: The #1 Day for Auto Crashes


The single day with the most collisions isn’t a heavy drinking holiday.

crash-1308575__340Sadly, the title of “deadliest day of the year” is actually Thanksgiving. Over 500 Americans are killed every Thanksgiving, and that doesn’t include the thousands of others who are injured. Compare that to 102 fatal accidents, which is the daily average on any other given day. While fortunately, most collisions (even on Thanksgiving) don’t result in a fatality, the resulting damage—to people and their vehicles alike—can be extensive.

You’re much more likely to get into a minor fender bender rather than a deadly accident when making a mad dash for that forgotten bag of cranberries en route to your family’s big event. While everyone involved in the minor accident may be okay, the same might not be true of your vehicle. Even a seemingly small tap can cause massive body and bumper damage, especially to a collectible car.

After the turkey’s carved, the stretchy pants are being tested and the pumpkin pie is devoured, you still have one last challenge: Get your car repaired as quickly and beautifully as possible before the next holiday creeps up.

And You Thought the Turducken Would be the Worst Part of the Weekend

isolated-964385__340Since Thanksgiving is a magnet for crashes, that means you can expect a long wait to get into a quality body shop than normal. Plus, many shops are generous with holiday time off. While you’re number 20 in line for a paintless dent removal procedure, you’re having to tool around town with a busted taillight or massive dent. Rely on a local body shop that puts the “customer” back into customer service.

You deserve a collision repair shop that offers free walk-in estimates, a reasonable turnaround time, and friendly, knowledgeable staff who’s seen it all before. Seek out a shop with state of the art technology including computerized paint matching so nobody can tell your car’s paint job is anything but the factory original. Mix in a lifetime guarantee on services and the ability to check your car’s status online, and suddenly that Thanksgiving collision is just a bad memory (kind of like your aunt’s “special” stuffing that just never pans out).

Giving Thanks for Fast Fixes

transport-3146193__340Collisions big and small both deserve an expert touch. From window and glass replacement to custom paint jobs, trust your ride to only the best. Don’t settle for a shop that doesn’t offer rental car assistance or specialize in express repair services. Auto body work is part skill, part talent and part having the right technology at hand. However, once your ride is back in tip-top shape, why stop there? Treat yourself to a little holiday indulgence.

Splurge on some detailing or have a pro install an auto accessory you’ve had your eye on. Get that “slightly off” alignment and suspension taken care of, or repair that torn seat cushion that keeps snagging on your gym clothes. From wheel repairs to headlamp restoration, getting your car in its best shape before the winter months doesn’t just make you feel better, it optimizes your safety on the road. After all, Christmas and New Year’s Eve might not be the deadliest time of year to be on the road, but they’re right around the corner and very close runners-up.



Auto Care Too Scary to Skip


(Note: Thanks for enjoying our post, but don’t forget to set your clocks back this Sunday 11/4 or something really spooky could happen–like losing your job when you’re late for work!) 

Do you really need to fix that tiny crack in the windshield if it’s not spreading and doesn’t impact your vision? Is it really necessary to fix that dent in the bumper if you have no hopes of selling your old faithful for a decent profit? The answer “it depends” applies for many repairs and maintenance, but there are some auto TLC steps that should never be skipped. You might be able to skate by with a scratched fender or dent from losing a shopping cart battle in the parking lot, but other fixes, repairs and maintenance are crucial.

A reputable collision repair shop won’t push you to do anything that isn’t necessary. However, don’t assume that just because an issue looks superficial and unimportant that it is. A good “trust test” is to see if a shop offers free walk-in estimates, and whether or not you get a “sales-y” vibe while there. You should be able to get a preview and estimate of what’s in store without committing yourself (and your cash) to a shop.

Like Whitney Said, Crack is Wack

It might not seem like that crack in the windshield is getting worse, and you may not think it impairs your vision, but both things are probably happening. Just like the crack happened suddenly, it can spread suddenly. It’s much easier and cost-effective to fix a smaller crack than replace an entire pane of glass. Plus, you owe it to yourself, passengers and other drivers to have a clear vision of the road in front of you.semi-trailers-2035151_1920.png

As an added bonus, glass replacement and repair is often much more affordable than you imagine. A lot of the time it will be even less than your deductible, which means you’ll avoid changes in your auto insurance because of it. It’s possible you’ll wake up one morning to find a tiny crack has spider-webbed across the entire pane, so get it taken care of now.

Wheels vs. Tires

These words are often (wrongly) used interchangeably. Tires are the black rubber that actually touches the roads, and wheels are the metal or plastic pieces that hold tires in place. You know it’s paramount to have good tire traction and pressure, but aren’t wheels just for looks? Not at all, and a broken wheel might be causing you to lose tire pressure or even impact steering capability.

Wheels are the frames of your tires and need to be in great working condition at all times. Wheel repairs can help improve safety, ease driving and help keep your vehicle aligned. It’s important that both your tires and wheels are in great shape because when they are flawed they can certainly lead to a sudden accident. If your wheel is dented and pushing into the tire, it can suddenly puncture it while you’re going 70 mph on the freeway with disastrous consequences.

When to See a Pro

For wheels, windshields, frame straightening, alignments, suspensions and headlight repairs, it’s crucial that you get these problems taken care of right away. Even better, if you locate a shop that offers a lifetime guarantee, you’ll rest easy while rocking out on your commute knowing that you’re covered.