What to Do If Your Wheel Falls Off While Driving – Insurance Claims Explained

Having a wheel fall off your car while driving can be a shocking and dangerous experience. Not only does it create an immediate road hazard, but it also causes damage to your vehicle that can be costly to repair.

If this happens to you, it’s important to understand how your car insurance policy can help cover the damage – and what steps to take next. This guide will explain:

  • Common causes of wheels falling off
  • Steps to take if it happens to you
  • What damage is covered by insurance
  • The claims process and what to expect
  • Tips for preventing wheels from falling off

Why Do Wheels Fall Off Vehicles?

There are a few common reasons why wheels can fall off vehicles while driving:

  • Loose lug nuts – Lug nuts secure the wheels to the vehicle. If they become loose due to not being properly tightened after a tire change or wheel removal, the wheel can detach.

  • Faulty or damaged wheel studs – The wheel studs are what the lug nuts screw onto to hold the wheel in place. If these studs are cracked or broken, they can fail to secure the wheel.

  • Worn out or loose wheel bearings – Wheel bearings allow the wheel to spin smoothly on the axle. If these become excessively worn out, they can allow too much play and enable the wheel to detach.

  • Broken or corroded suspension/steering components – Critical components like ball joints, control arms, tie rods, and struts hold the wheel in position. If any of these are damaged or exceedingly worn, the wheel can be knocked out of position.

  • Aftermarket wheels – Improperly installed aftermarket wheels that do not match factory specifications can fail to seat correctly and fall off.

  • Missing wheel spacer/adapter – Some vehicles require thin spacer/adapter plates between the wheel and hub. If these spacers are missing or installed incorrectly, the wheel can detach.

What To Do if Your Wheel Falls Off While Driving

If one of your wheels detaches while driving, here are the steps you should take:

  • Stay calm and slowly brake – Don’t slam on the brakes as this can cause the vehicle to skid or spin out of control. Carefully brake to slow down and pull over safely.

  • Pull over – Get the vehicle completely off the roadway onto the shoulder or a safe nearby location. Engage the parking brake.

  • Turn on hazard lights – Activate your hazard/emergency flashers to alert other drivers and prevent an accident.

  • Inspect the damage – Check where the wheel came off and look for any damage to components like brake lines, suspension, fenders, undercarriage, etc. Take photos for insurance claims.

  • Call for roadside assistance – Contact a tow truck or roadside assistance service to transport your vehicle to a repair shop. Do not attempt to drive the vehicle.

  • Report accident – Alert the police to file an official accident report for insurance purposes. Provide statements on what happened.

  • Contact your insurance – Notify your insurer of the incident and start a claim as soon as possible. Provide the damage details, repair estimates, and official accident reports.

What Damage is Covered by Car Insurance?

If your detached wheel causes damage, what is covered depends on your policy type and coverage limits. Here’s what insurance typically covers:

  • Body damage – Damage to fenders, bumpers, undercarriage from impact with the ground.

  • Suspension and steering damage – Repairs to components like control arms, struts, tie rods, ball joints, etc. if broken by the wheel falling off.

  • Brake and wheel damage – Replacement of brake components damaged by the wheel detachment. New replacement wheel if original was damaged.

  • Towing charges – The cost of roadside assistance and towing to a repair shop.

  • Rental car reimbursement – Payment for a rental car while yours is being repaired.

  • Related labor charges – Cost of labor to diagnose issues, remove damaged parts, install new components and realign chassis.

What Damage Isn’t Covered?

While the resulting damage from the wheel falling off is covered, your insurer likely won’t pay for:

  • The initial defective part itself – For example, if faulty lug nuts caused the detachment, the lug nuts themselves aren’t covered, only the resulting damage.

  • Normal wear and tear – Gradual deterioration of components that allowed the failure, like worn out ball joints or wheel bearings, are not covered under most standard policies.

  • Damage from continuing to drive – Additional damage that occurs from trying to drive once the wheel falls off will likely not be reimbursed.

  • Damages exceeding policy limits – If repair costs exceed your coverage amounts, you will need to pay the difference out of pocket.

The Insurance Claim Process

To get your wheel fall off damage covered, you’ll need to go through the claim process with your insurer:

  1. Report the incident – Call your insurance company and start a claim as soon as safely possible. Provide details like when, where and any damage incurred. Ask what documents you need to submit.

  2. Take pictures – Photograph damage to the wheel area, undercarriage, body panels, suspension, etc. Capture components that directly failed too. Document the scene where it occurred if possible.

  3. Locate repair shop – Find a qualified local auto repair shop to do an inspection and provide a damage estimate. Ask if they work directly with your insurer.

  4. Send documentation – Submit repair estimates, accident reports, photos and any other requested documents to your claims adjuster. Respond promptly to any additional requests.

  5. Inspection – The insurance company may wish to inspect the vehicle themselves before approving repairs. Cooperate with the inspection process.

  6. Approval – After reviewing documentation and estimates, the insurer will approve a settlement amount appropriate for the damages. You’ll need to pay any deductible.

  7. Repairs – Authorize the shop to complete repairs. The insurer will pay the shop directly. Sign any paperwork confirming repairs are complete.

  8. Reimbursement – Submit receipts for any out of pocket costs like towing or rental cars for reimbursement by the insurer.

Tips to Prevent Wheels From Falling Off

While you can’t prevent every wheel detachment, here are some tips to help avoid it happening:

  • Check lug nut tightness regularly – Ensure lug nuts are properly torqued whenever swapping wheels or getting maintenance. Inspect them periodically for looseness.

  • Have wheels serviced by pros – Let experienced mechanics do tire changes, rotations and wheel repairs to ensure work is done properly.

  • Listen for bearing noises – Make repairs immediately if wheel bearings start sounding noisy or loose, before they fail completely.

  • Replace deteriorated components – Suspension, tie rods, ball joints and other wheel

When The Insurance Adjuster Comes To See Your Car Damage, Beware!


Does insurance cover if a wheel falls off?

An auto insurance policy also does not cover rusting, wear and tear, and damage to rims and tires (unless you’re in a collision) according to FSRA. Thomas said that an insurance policy should cover any damage caused by a flying wheel, but not the repairs to the vehicle the wheel came off of.

What happens if your wheel falls off while driving?

Yes, your tire can fall off while driving and cause an accident. The possibility of the driver losing control of the car or rolling over exists. In these situations, severe and costly injuries are possible. Additionally, the tire can cause injuries that extend beyond the car’s driver and/or passengers alone.

Are falling objects covered by auto insurance?

Yes. Most comprehensive insurance policies do include coverage for falling objects. Like theft, vandalism and fires, falling objects are not your fault and usually impossible to prevent.

Does insurance replace wheels?

In general, collision coverage will pay for rim damage, as well as damage to your tires, caused by a pothole. However, you may need separate coverage for custom rims, since not all insurers include them under collision coverage.

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