Aftermarket wheels: use them only if approved
Aftermarket car wheels
Aftermarket car wheels must bear Ece (European) or Nad (national) approvals. The president of Assoruote, Corrado Bergagna, explains how to recognize them, what are the required documents and what risks are there for transgressors
Decree n° 20 dated January 10, 2013 has been setting the standard for more than two years. Since then, the automotive wheel market for cars and off-road vehicles (classes M1 and M1G) has been strictly regulated. With positive effects for the market as it shut the doors on unskilled operators and dangerous products as well as introduce strict safety standards, decreeing the end of a system that allowed, if not promoted, illegal practices. Pneurama took stock of the situation with Corrado Bergagna, president of Assoruote.
How are the new regulations affecting the sector, which operators and products are actually involved in the matter?
Well, the Decree involves the entire supply chain starting from the designing stage, production, marketing all the way to mounting operations. In addition all specialists are equally involved: manufacturers, distributors and retailers, each with its load of responsibilities. As for the types of wheels, the Decree is applicable only to aftermarket wheels and not to those supplied by car manufacturers, whether OEMs or replacements.
We mentions "car wheels". So the rule does not apply to vans and transport vehicles?
True: off-road vehicles approved as transport vehicles, for example, can be equipped with non-approved wheels. Therefore, having non-approved wheels in stock is not, in itself, illegal: it would be if these are marketed and mounted on a M1 or M1G class vehicle.
How can we recognize an approved wheel and what are the requirements for approval? The presence of the Ece or Nad marking is a clear evidence that the wheel is approved. The Ece 124R regulation is governed by the uniform provisions concerning the approval of wheels for passenger cars and their trailers issued by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE or UNECE) with regulation 375/558 dated December 12 2006. The marking must shows the abbreviation 124R followed by the approval number. Nad is national, issued by the Country’s Motorization Department; it is made up of the initials Nad, followed by a letter indicating the year in which the approval was obtained (the first letter is D, which indicates 2013, by 2030 we will reach the letter Y) and a three-digit number indicating the basic approval. Approvals must be permanently marked on the wheel: ECE markings must be imprinted during the casting phase or stamped. With Nad markings labels attached with non-removable glues are also allowed.
So, must both markings be reported on a wheel?
No, there is no need for both approval to be shown, but a manufacturer is free to choose to have them both, in order to extend the wheel’s field of application. In a nutshell, if there is an Ece type approval, no national extensions or additional tests are required. Special wheels as well as those approved in other EU countries or EEA (EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) must be submitted to Nad approval; in the latter case, the Motorization Department examines all the documentation and may request additional tests if it feels that some parameters have been evaluated less severely than what is expected in Italy.
The legislation introduces concepts such as "wheel system", "vehicle family" and "field of employment": what do they mean?
"Wheel system" is a definition that applies to all non-original wheels or designed as replacements by the manufacturer; the object of the approval itself. It includes rims, nuts and bolts, spacers and adapters needed for assembling the wheel. A "vehicle family" consists of vehicles of the same type, identical in body work, in dimensions and braking performance. Finally, the "field of use" is the list of vehicle families on which a wheel system can be mounted.
So, what must a technician do?
First, he must check whether the vehicle family and the wheels are compatible, then all the possible wheel/tire combinations, after which, following the manufacturer’s instructions, the wheels can be mounted, and finally, for Nad approved wheels, produce a certificate of conformity and declaration of correct installation.
What are the risks for those caught transgressing the rules?
The Traffic Code, Consumer Code and EU directives are all involved in governing and disciplining the subject matter. Whoever produces or imports non-approved technical car components runs the risk of being sanctioned between 155 to 624 euro, according to article 77, paragraph 3 bis of the Traffic Code. Violation of safety standards relating to installing the wheels will be sanctioned between 780 to 3119 euro in addition to the component being seized even if already installed (Law Decree 285/1992). Finally, article 180, paragraphs 7 and 8, establishes a fine between 41 to 169 euro if the certificate of conformity or declaration of correct installation is not found on board the vehicle and from 422 to 1695 euro if the missing certifications and declarations are not submitted to Public Safety authorities within a certain deadline.
In addition, five million euro have been allocated (2016 Stability Law) for vehicle conformity inspections. These may concern all operators in the supply chain.
So the installer must always provide a certificate of conformity and a declaration of correct installation? And are these two documents always enough?
These documents are necessary only for wheel systems with Nad approval. Ece approvals, on the other hand, are already enough. For Nad approved wheels, the two documents are sufficient if the tire sizes have not been changed or if no changes to mudguards, tailpieces, side panels or other bodywork elements takes place when mounting the wheel units. In this case you need to have the vehicle inspected and tested following which you can update the vehicle registration certificate.
Has the Decree improved things in the market?
Are there still risks as far as low-cost imports are concerned? And, finally, how can things be improved even further?
Yes, the market has been cleaned up; anti-dumping tariffs on aluminium wheels made in China also helped in making a selection of the products currently on offer. Nowadays e-Commerce represents the sector’s biggest threat, even within the EU. And finally, Assoruote has already suggested how to further streamline procedures to facilitate the dialogue between the Motorization Department and wheel manufacturers.