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October 23, 2018

Do You Know What These Wheel Markings Mean?

All the brouhaha brought about by the LTO’s modified vehicle crackdown on the grounds of safety has the legitimate aftermarket industry up in arms. To simply say that a change of wheels already makes a vehicle unsafe totally disregards the amount of R&D that has gone through making these wheels.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice the term “legitimate aftermarket industry” in the preceding paragraph mainly because these players have either manufactured or imported wheels which have passed various safety regulations and quality standards globally.

Take a closer look at any wheel—be it aftermarket or OEM and it shows these initials embossed somewhere (normally at the base of the spoke, but sometimes, they’re placed on the inner surface): JWL and VIA.

JWL or Japan Light Alloy Wheel Standard is a compilation of standards defined by the Japanese government to ensure that the wheel meets its safety standards for road safety. Every wheel put to market in Japan must be tested to meet JWL standards before they can be put out to market. Testing is done by the car manufacturers and wheel makers themselves.

Now, while JWL testing is more self-regulated, the second mark, VIA or Vehicle Inspection Association Registration System is harder to get. In order to gain the VIA mark, wheels must be tested by an authorized testing facility that’s been registered through the VIA.

In either case, the testing done to gain the JWL and VIA marks are so stringent that they’ve become acceptable worldwide as the standard for wheels. It’s for this reason that it’s common to see them even on European or American brand wheels.

Of course, that doesn’t stop some countries from having their own standards as well. In the USA for example, there’s the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE J-2530) and U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) for uniform markings on the wheel for load rating and wheel size. In Europe, there’s TÜV which is an auditing and certification body that ensures wheels manufactured for sale in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria meet international (ECE Regulations), EC (European Community) directives, and German Motor Traffic Agency (KBA) road traffic legislation.

At the end of the day, upgrading wheels properly by choosing reputable brands and adhering to the Plus Sizing rule does not make it less safe. In fact, it’s well accepted that going an inch or two bigger than stock will improve road handling. Aftermarket wheels only become unsafe if they’re not mounted properly or bought from shady sources.

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