News and Reviews

What Is a ‘Chromtec’ Wheel?

A reader just purchased a 2015 Toyota Highlander and has an issue with the wheels.

John Paul, aka “the Car Doctor,’’ answers readers’ car-related questions.

Q. I just purchased a 2015 Toyota Highlander but I have an issue with the wheels. I expected the vehicle to have alloy wheels instead it was delivered with “Chromtec’’ wheels. This Chromtec wheel is an aluminum wheel (not an alloy wheel) with a chromed plastic hubcap glued onto the wheel. It fooled me and everybody I showed it to including my mechanic. It looks like an alloy wheel only plastic. This Chromtec wheel can’t be repaired. The entire wheel must be replaced. Toyota wants to sell me a “Tire and Wheel Protection’’ warranty that will cover the wheels to 60 months for $695.00. I’m not quite sure what to do with this “wheel’’ issue. Stick with the new technology, or have the dealer replace the Chromtec wheels with alloy wheels. I understand the technology behind this new wheel but I don’t appreciate Toyota not telling me about it and letting me (the customer) decide what choice to make, alloy or Chromtec. Have you run into this wheel issue as of yet, and what would you suggest?

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A. I have no experience with this wheel design but after reading about the technology they look pretty good. It is a lightweight wheel with a coating that may actually out perform an alloy or chrome wheel. As a side note, this the same type of wheel that is used on the latest Volvo. My suggestion is to stay with the Chromtec wheel, it may hold up better to the salt, sand and other chemicals we put on the road during winter. Regarding the wheel and tire insurance, normally I wouldn’t give it much thought, but considering the potholes from winter and the cost of wheels and tires it may be a good investment.

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Q. I am trying to sell my father’s car. It is a 2011 Hyundai Sonata it has 34,000 miles on it. I listed it on Craigslist and someone contacted me and is interested. This person wants to make sure the car has not been involved in any major accidents and that the car is not stolen. He wants me to run a report on the car on a website similar to CarFax. There is a fee involved that would cost me $19.00. Why should I pay this fee and email him the report only to find out he decides not to buy the car? Would it be safe for me to email the potential buyer the car’s VIN and let him run the report?

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A. Some sellers will use a vehicle background check as a sales tool, to demonstrate how good a certain car is. With a private party sale, if a buyer wants a vehicle background check performed I think the potential buyer should pay for it. I don’t see an issue with letting the buyer have access to the VIN. After all if the potential buyer came to see the car they could easily write down the number or even take a picture of the VIN plate. Recently I have heard of many issues with selling cars on Craigslist, my advice it to be very careful. I have heard of false/counterfeit money orders even fraudulent PayPal accounts, making some of these sales very risky.

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Q. In a recent article on acronyms, you explained the advantages of 4WD and AWD. But I would like to know the difference between 4-wheel-drive and all-wheel drive. Is one better than the other?

A. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably. In general 4WD is a system that requires the driver to do something to engage the four wheel drive system. This could be the driver may need to move a shift lever or push a button or turn a knob to engage the system. Four-wheel-drive is best used at slow speeds in snow, dirt or off roading and generally are not designed for higher speeds. All-wheel-drive will vary the power from the front to rear wheels as needed and can help improve handling at all speeds and road conditions. These systems are not as robust as conventional four-wheel-drive systems and may not stand up to the rigors of serious off-road use. Then to make it even more confusing there are some four-wheel-drive systems that uses sensors that detect wheel slippage and engage the four wheel drive system mechanically. Is one better than the other? My car is primarily front wheel drive until the wheel start to slip and then the rear wheels engage to provide better traction. For me this works fine getting me through this past winter. If I routinely towed a heavy boat, or went far off road I would consider a more rugged system similar to that fount in a Jeep.

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