Made in China? Wheels Buyers Beware

Wheel disks exports from China are very popular in the automotive aftermarket, largely due to their low price. For example, experts say in 2016 Russia imported about 1 million Chinese-made wheel disks.  But extensive expert  testing and evaluation show that these wheels are not worth even their low price, and may pose a risk to consumers who buy them.

wheel disks

10 out of 12 Brands Failed Testing

Tests conducted jointly  by the Russian Aluminum Association, a consortium of producers, suppliers and consumers, and experts of the independent laboratory of MADI (the Moscow State Automobile and Road Technical University) show significant structural and performance deficiencies among the more than 100 most popular aftermarket aluminum wheels delivered to Russia by China.

Impact testing evidenced pronounced substandard, dangerous manufacturing and performance results including separation of the rim edge, separation of the disk from the rim, cracking in the rim edge under normal pressure, and through-thickness cracks.


The tests indicate that the vast majority of the Chinese  disks–from 70% to 80%–do not meet the uniform standards of the EAEU member-states, the requirements of the Technical Regulation of the Customs Union and UNECE Rules No. 124.

The report of the results of the inspection test has been sent to Rosstandart (Russia’s Federal Agency on Technical Regulating and Metrology) and Rosakkreditatsiya (Russia’s Federal Accreditation Board).  5

According to Alexey Yefimov, Manager of the Aluminum Association Department for Standardization, one of the problems related to imports of defective products from China is the fact that unlike other supplying countries–e.g., Germany, Japan or Turkey–The People’s Republic of China did not ratify the Geneva Convention of 1958, which regulates certification of transport equipment.   

Wheel disks from China must undergo tests in a testing laboratory in the territory of Russia. However, according to specialists there are presently only five laboratories in-country which conform to all applicable standards and are capable of performing full-scale wheel testing, Mr. Yefimov said.  The other laboratories have no appropriate testing or evaluating equipment.

Price Appeal versus Quality

The average price of the Chinese-made replica of a quality wheel disk starts at about 2.5 thousand rubles, while the price of the original product starts at about 5 thousand per piece.  But Aluminum Association experts emphasize that the low price of such products is usually achieved as a result of  degradation in quality which leads to a loss of the product reliability. According to the data from Mr. Yefimov, the difference in the weight of the Chinese defective wheels and good-quality analogs is up to two kilograms per wheel.   10423833_601678089961518_4495486603451295038_n


About the Testing

Inspection tests of the Chinese wheel disks were carried out on the base of the ILKA-MADI independent certification laboratory. Experts selected a total of 120 aluminum disks of Chinese production of 12 different styles, in accordance with the regulation which requires mandatory testing of 10 wheels of each style.

Wheels tested included various types of disks under brand names like Cross Street, Nitro, Alcasta, Megami, NZ, YST, Legartis, RepliKey, Mega Wheels (with diameter 15 и 16 inches). Altogether 120 wheels of the mid-price and below-mid-price segment (2.5 thousand rubles to 4.5 thousand rubles per disk) were subjected to testing.

The two month-long investigation included a full cycle of mandatory laboratory tests–impact test, rotary bending test, rolling test and corrosion test in salt spray chamber.

According to the test results, 10 out of 12 disk types failed the impact test. Several disks broke into pieces, others showed separation of the wheel center from the rim, and some disks showed through-thickness cracking along with instantaneous tire pressure drop. The results of other modes of testing showed that all of the wheels passed the tests.  

According to experts, the impact test is the most representative, simulating a real-life head-on crash or a vehicle’s wheel hitting a pothole. In this respect, each wheel has a mark indicating permissible static load on the disk. For the test wheels this parameter was 500 to 700 kg.

The results of the inspection test showed that only two test samples passed the impact test.  The remaining disks showed cracking, separation of the rim or the edge of the rim.  

As noted by the Aluminum Association experts, such “fragility” of the wheels is due to the fact that the producer uses an insufficient quantity of aluminum in the disk’s manufacture. This leads to a reduction of weight and thinning of the rim which results in a decrease in crashworthiness. However, according to the experts, presently there exists no standard for metal thickness.

The existing regulation requires that a wheel must be adequately strong enough to withstand an impact, the force of which is determined on the basis of a static load.  The issue of how a wheel disk producer will achieve compliance with this parameter remains at the discretion of the producer.

Although it is difficult for an ordinary consumer to identify a defective disk by sight, it is possible.  First, it is necessary to be aware of the weight of the disk. If the difference in weight is significant (up to 2kg and more) versus the original, the buyer should definitely be wary that it’s an inferior product.  

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SMW Wheels, with offices in Europe and Russia, is an international forged wheels manufacturer and the global leader in forged magnesium wheel blanks, forging superior wheels for  Formula One teams and top MotoGP riders, and producing quality proprietary aftermarket wheel lines.


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