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Inspecting Your Wheels

Wheel industry test standards & why they are inadequate for modern high performance cars

949 Racing wheel warranty

If you drive your car with a helmet, inspect your entire car regularly

We have always recommended frequent inspections of the entire car if it is used for off highway high performance use or competition. This is not a new thing for race cars, marine, industrial an aviation applications. It has been part of prep and maintenance for competition vehicles of any type for as long as people have raced them. But it can seem counterintuitive to someone that is accustomed to their street car being pretty much indestructible for daily driving. Some choose to think that regular inspections of their vehicle is false narrative promulgated by equipment manufactures that knowingly make bad parts and are just trying to cover themselves. This advice to regularly inspect your competition vehicle was around decades before this little company and the aftermarket wheel industry even existed.

   Components that last a lifetime on street driven car can reach their design limits and fail in competition type use. Hubs, control arms, sub frames, exhaust hangers, miscellaneous brackets, engine mounts, and wheels can all reach their design limit sooner than expected. Impacts, excess heat, higher cornering, braking or acceleration loads from heavily modified cars-can overwhelm OEM or light weight aftermarket components. The aircraft industry performs constant and rigorous inspections on the most highly stressed and critical components. Professional race teams know of this need for regular inspections and therefore many components become consumables in this environment. Pro race teams often “time” out critical parts at the end of the season. This is why you should never buy used race wheels, ever. This finite lifespan for certain components can be a surprise to the weekend warrior new to autocross or HPDE. Not knowing about it, or “not buying it” doesn’t make it less true.

  Since we launched our company in 2006, we had some customers directly contact us to report of their 949 Racing 6UL wheels cracking after extended use on a racetrack or in competition. Almost without exception, the wheels are many years old. In some case, they were purchased used with an unknown history. Reviewing samples, we find the wheels in question were designed, engineered and manufactured properly and to current industry standards. Digging further we find examples of similar LHP wheels from other brands cracking or breaking under similar usage conditions on track or in competition. We have compiled a fair amount of data on fatigue failures from virtually every brand of wheel you can think of. This has led us to review the widely accepted test standards the wheel industry uses, JWL. Read our tech article linked below on test standards.

   We categorize all 6UL wheels as “LHP” wheels (Lightweight High Performance). This is any aftermarket wheel that is both wider and significantly lighter than the OEM wheel fitment it replaces. As with any brand or model LHP wheels used on track or in competition, we recommend careful, regular inspections of the entire wheel surface for cracking, bends, any signs of fatigue or impact damage that could reduce the wheel’s ability to support the vehicle load. A cracked wheel that remains in service could fail catastrophically with the hub portion completely separating from the outer barrel. It is very unlikely that any wheel will catastrophically fail during hard cornering without cracking from fatigue or impacts first. Any wheel that completely fails, had cracks in for a while before it failed completely. Wheels don’t just collapse without having been driven on cracked spokes for a while. A common indictaor is dark gray oxidized areas in the broken spokes, some darker than others.  This describes a failure pattern where one spoke cracked, then maybe months later another, then another. The wheel never once inspected. Finally there are too few spokes intact to support the extreme loads of track use, the wheel lets go and the owner is of course surprised and assumes the wheel with from perfect to not so perfect in one turn. Or the hub fails, or the exhaust falls off, or the radiator bursts. You get the idea. Plenty of warning if the owner had performed regular inspections.

  So perform this inspection on any LHP wheels you use, regardless of the brand. Going further, go through the whole modified car at regular intervals. Tell your friends and help spread the knowledge.

 Statistically, your LHP wheels will probably never crack, regardless of brand. This is not a promise of course, merely a prediction based on available data. Just because it is not very likely however, doesn’t mean you should avoid inspecting your high performance car regularly. You always wear your seat belt even though an accident is very unlikely.

 949 Racing wheels have a three year limited warranty against defects, materials and workmanship. Please contact us if you have any further questions. Click the link below for more information on our warranty. Click the link below to learn more about wheel industry test standards.