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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?

  • Another reason to mark tires: to make it easier to keep a history for each tire: which position on the car it's been in, when it's been serviced (for punctures etc.), and any other problems it has had. That's why I'm interested in this question. – Mathieu K. Nov 22 '16 at 22:44
  • I'm unsure what part of the world you're in but if the wheels have been engraved and you're able to prove they're yours, it's reasonable to assume that the Police will allow you to keep the tyres which were attached to them when they were recovered. – Steve Matthews May 28 at 14:36
  • @SteveMatthews Nothing prevents the thieves from separating the tyres from the rims and trying to sell them separately or just discarding the rims (if the thieves think that selling rims is too hard to try). – sharptooth May 29 at 12:32
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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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You could conceivably ask the tire installers to use a grease pencil on the inside of the tire, I've seen this used to document when a flats were repaired (either write the vin number the vehicle is installed on, the vehicle owner, or both). Any external surface will be worn away with rode grime, but the inside of the tire should be well protected, and I would doubt most would be thieves would think to bust down the tire to remove any markings.

That said -- convincing the police to look on the inside of a tire might be a bit challenging.

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