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A real-life situation: a car owner leaves his car near a multistoried building in the evening and in the morning he sees the car is standing on bricks and wheels are gone. He addresses the police and the police is ready to help.

Suppose the police finds four wheels at some location with illegal activity but wheels are factory manufactured and indistinguishable from other wheels of the same model. It'd be quite helpful to uniquely mark wheels in advance so that the owner report the marks to the police and once wheels with those marks are found marks serve as a proof.

I guess rims are quite easy to engrave but how can one mark tires?

Drawing with a permanent marker can be removed with solvent. Engraving seems risky since it weakens the tires. What ways to mark tires to help identify them after theft are there?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I would think engraving or stamping would be fine, particularly as many manufactured wheels come with engraving or stamping on them. I mean, they engrave safety glass, talk about things that are delicate to damage. Here's a thread about a police precinct offering it. Though all the other references I see to the etching are for glass only, and apparently this is because many other parts tend to already have the VIN or partial VIN on them (according to this Wikipedia page). Here's a page about Phoenix police offering it for glass, so it may be that the author of the first post above got their wheels stolen, then saw something about etching and assumed it was for wheels.

I've done some metal work and I wouldn't expect that stamping the VIN on the rims would significantly compromise it's integrity, especially if you have your choice on where to do it. However, it may be worth asking a metals expert about it. For example, one of the guys who runs a local machine shop has built parts that are on spacecraft, and can tell you at a molecular level what different marking and machining techniques will do, so you may want to check around machine shops.

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