A rash of the worst variety

A rash of the worst variety


FOR quite some time I thought I’d heard the worst sound in the world. It was the kind of sound that unexpectedly invades your dreams and jolts you awake in the wee small hours. I thought the worst sound in the world was the 75-year-old couple in the hotel room next door going at it at about half past three in the morning.

'There’s a sensation that feeds back through the steering wheel as the rim is gouged by the stone, a sensation that you can feel all the way up your forearms and into your shoulders.'

But that was before I heard what a $1300 matt-titanium alloy wheel sounds like as it scrapes against a bluestone kerb. It was such a stupid thing to do, too – it wasn’t even while I was parking the car, it was as I pulled out and applied too much steering input, so the rim rotated and caught the kerb as I manoeuvred out of the space. Idiotic.

And the sound is only part of it. There’s a sensation that feeds back through the steering wheel as the rim is gouged by the stone, a sensation that you can feel all the way up your forearms and into your shoulders. It’s really quite horrendous.

I feel violated, as if the damage to the wheel rim detracts from me somehow. As I park the car I hope no-one notices the ugly scar. Now I sense the car doesn’t handle as well as it used to, as if a 10-cm scrape on the rim has upset its balance, its poise. But then, I am also convinced that a clean car goes faster, so I will concede this may be in my imagination.

I know objectively that the damage is purely superficial and that it actually affects the ride, handling and performance not one jot. But still. I don’t like it.

There’s a guy I’ve got to know who is possibly the best car detailer I’ve ever met. His attention to detail is unparalleled. I routinely turn up to collect a car and he’ll tell me about the little bit of extra work or effort he’s put in (or how he’s used a better-quality polish or something) just to get the job done to his satisfaction. Unless I act swiftly, next time he sees this car he’s going to see the dinged rim and he’ll shake his head and tut and for some reason his disapproval of the way I’ve looked after it will cut me to the bone.

So I’m now looking for somewhere to get the scrape removed, somehow. I have no idea where, beyond the mobile repair services I’ve found online, and I’m really in two minds about whether to trust the quality of their work. On the other hand, they’d be hard-pressed to make it any worse.

I can’t ignore it, though. Driving a car with scraped wheels is like turning up to the theatre wearing scuffed shoes. It detracts from the outfit, lowers the tone. It just will not do.

Of course, I could buy another wheel (this car doesn’t have a spare, it has one of those repair kits and a small electric pump you connect to the battery to reinflate the flat tyre). But is $1300 a ridiculous amount to pay to treat a dose of gutter rash? I’ve never paid that much before to treat any kind of rash.