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  • Brisbane Wheel Repair - A case study of mobile repair vs CNC repair

    Earlier this month we received an enquiry from a customer who searched for a Brisbane wheel repair company. Living in Indooroopilly, he had scratched his front left hand wheel on 6 month old BMW. He was obviously very disappointed in how this had occurred, and was now determined to have the expensive wheel brought back to new as soon as possible.

    Can a mobile repair match up to a fully refurbished CNC repair? We tested it!

    After speaking with our BMW enthusiast, we determined that The Wheelman was actually the second company he’d called as he’d never had a wheel repaired before, and he wanted to ensure he was getting the right information, the right repairer and the right price.

    During his enquiry with the ‘other repairer’, Mr “BMW” was informed that the only choice he had was to fully refurbish the BMW wheel via a CNC repair. Now I’m sure what the other repairer meant was if the wheel was to be refurbished back to new, this proposition has elements of truth, but at The Wheelman, this is not completely correct.

    We know there are levels of repair that we feel are quite real options, and these should be shared and discussed with the customer and left up to the customer to chose which path they go down. Providing YOU with a choice of repair is our trade mark and our point of difference, and at The Wheelman we take great pride in the fact that we’re the only repairer in Australia to offer our customers that choice.

    This type of customer discussion though, whether it’s in Indooroopilly, Fortitude Valley, Newstead, Paddington Spring Hill or any other suburb of Brisbane, is quite typical in our working week, and it prompted a few of us to discuss the merits of compiling an experiment to determine if what we’ve been preaching for all these years, is indeed possible to be proven true?

    Is the quality of a refinishing repair up to scratch if compared to a full CNC refurbishment?

    So, a little bit of background at this point will help you understand where we’re coming from.

    The Wheelman completes in excess of 200 alloy wheel repairs every week. As above, our motto is to provide the customer a choice in the high quality wheel repair process. Be it a painted wheel or a machine faced wheel, we believe providing a choice of either a mobile repair or a workshop repair, a full CNC or a refinishing repair, fits into the modern day world of hectic pace in every household.

    People simply do not have the time to be without a car for a day, let alone four days, and most of us have better things to spend money on than car repairs, although we understand it’s sometimes a necessity. As long as we can put our name to the quality cues we expect, we’ll keep offering our customer choice.
    Once we’d agreed that we should complete a test scenario on this, we commenced putting structure behind the test to ensure that whatever we believed to be valid points, is more than us just saying ‘this is the case’.

    So a set of boundaries and measurements were put in place to ensure our test held up on its own. After debating the different ways we could go about the test, we identified a simple set of qualifiers. Using the same vehicle:

    • Step 1. Complete a Refinishing repair on an alloy wheel
    • Step 2. Complete a full CNC repair on a second wheel – removed blemishes, paint the wheel, cure it, CNC lathe it and then apply a clear coat. Pretty much back to new.
    • Step 3. Remove an undamaged wheel from the same vehicle, clean it inside and out to provide a comparison to our two repair methods
    • Step 4. Engage the owner of the wheel, an administrator from the factory next door (who had no prior knowledge of the test itself), and myself to complete a blind test as to which wheel is which

    The result was amazing and stacked up well for The Wheelman providing a new lease of confidence to our processes, our training and our finished products.

    Wheel repair test results

    With the wheels leaning up against a wall, and with our judging panel standing at a distance of 1. 5 meters from each wheel, none of the three judges could establish any difference from one wheel to the next.

    With the wheels put back on the car and standing at a distance of 1. 5 meters from each wheel, none of the three judges could identify the difference from one wheel to the next.

    With the wheels put back on the car and allowing a full inspection at close range of each wheel, I was the only judge who was able to identify all three wheels. To do this, I firstly identified the refinished repair (which took some time, so hats off to our technician), I was then able to identify the CNC’ed wheel which left me with the cleaned wheel. And even then, with years of expertise, I was quite nervous to announce my findings as if I was wrong, it would have been a double edged sword result – kudos to the technician but all my years of experience and I still couldn’t identify the right wheels!

    The results also testify as to why, when we receive an enquiry at The Wheelman, we always provide a choice and a recommendation of which process we think suits the wheel, and the level of damage to the wheel. We then clarify that with the refinishing repair, i.e. that the result of the repair may not be perfect and that in good sunlight, on your hands and knees, going around the wheel mm by mm and with a very keen eye, some people can identify elements of imperfection on the wheel.

    But that standing at the wheel, it will for all intents and purposes, reflect an image of ‘just like new’. We may at this point send the customer a set of before and after photo’s so they can see for themselves the quality of repair, or refer them to our website which houses many photo’s of the same ilk.

    The convenience and cost of the refinishing repair then leaves a customer with an informed choice. The fact that approximately 70% of customers chose this repair also testifies to the level of detail and quality we go to, ensuring our customer satisfaction levels remain superior within the wheel repair industry.

    Helping us achieve such high levels of finish, is a very expensive piece of kit in the workshop, namely called our CNC Lathe. I don’t want to shock you with the cost of the machine, but let’s just say it is worth well in excess of $50,000. The fact that we let customers make an informed choice as to their repair with no bias to the $ return on the lathe, is testament to The Wheelman putting customers and our reputation before a commercial return.

    If you require your alloy wheel to be repaired, please remember, there are choices for you that include convenience, cost and quality. Mobile workshops or a bricks and mortar workshop adds to that convenience because we know you’re busy, and we utilise the same tools in both a mobile or a workshop refinishing repair. The Wheelman can typically get to a mobile repair inside of two or three days dependent on your location and we know you’ll be more than satisfied with the repair itself.

    Points of clarification and understanding of this wheel repair test

    What is the difference between a full CNC refurbishment repair and a mobile or Refinishing repair on a machine faced wheel? More and more, new cars are being produced and sold with a machine faced finish to their alloy wheels. So let’s better understand the basic elements to the two types of wheel and the repair options and the testing process utilised in this alloy wheel repair case study in Brisbane.

    Machine Faced Wheel

    A forged alloy wheel. Compressed alloy that is then cut and shaped via a CNC lathe making it stronger yet lighter, but slightly more expensive (although with current popularity and considerable drops in CNC costs, more and more reasonable in price.

    Painted Wheel

    A cast alloy wheel. Liquid alloy either poured or vacuumed into a cast and let to cool. Not a pure process and can be weaker due to the molecular structure being less dense than a forged wheel, hence often poured into slightly thicker castings. Easier and less expensive to manufacture

    A CNC machine is a computerised lathe

    The alloy wheel is locked into the lathe, measurements are taken via a probe and the lathe then removes the top layer of alloy, reproducing the original finish of the wheel. Quite often, the wheel will require some additional work prior to the CNC, including blemish reduction, painting and curing. Once the lathe work is complete, a clear coat is also required to protect the wheel and add to the sheen. Hence taking longer.

    A Refinishing repair is completed by hand

    With meticulous care, the Technician reduces blemishes and recreates the wheel profile utilising a set of air tools. Touch up magic is then applied where necessary prior to a clear coat application to protect the wheel and add to the sheen, bringing the wheel back to just like new. This is completed in most cases, with the wheel remaining on the car and therefore reduces time and cost, providing a convenience to our customers

    Wheel repair training

    The Wheelman Technicians not only receive specialised training, they have to start with raw talent to enable the Refinishing repair. Unfortunately, only one in five technicians make it through the training process as The Wheelman is fully committed to the required level of finish to our product

    Customer profile

    The customer in this test (Murray), who allowed us to complete the test on his vehicle was from Chermside, a suburb of Brisbane. It was completed on his beautiful 2016 Mercedes Benz C250. We explained the situation to Murray and quoted him on our normal pricing, but offered to have the second wheel fully CNC’ed at our expense should he be able to identify the refinished wheel, and or be unhappy with the quality of the repair. We also provided Murray with a Dan Murphy gift card for his participation. In addition, Murray had a bit of fun learning a bit more about the process.

    Independent party

    The administrator from next door was a bit perplexed about the experience, but had a good laugh helping us out. We had not anticipated getting a third judge until the day of the test, so she was unaware of what we were up to until we knocked on her door that morning. We took in a small bunch of flowers the day following the test in appreciation of her time.

    Who is “The Wheelman”?

    We repair alloy wheels, fix mag wheels, have mobile alloy wheel repair capability, fix rims, repair alloy wheel scratches, and or gutter rash to most vehicle makes and models across the greater Brisbane and Gold Coast area. The Wheelman is a small family owned business. We have technicians in most States and capital cities of Australia providing a greater service to all our customers including insurance companies, National Car Dealerships and private consumers alike.