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I need to ship a rear wheel back to the manufacturer for a warranty issue (Mavic). I'm wondering what the best, most secure way to package it is so that there can be no refutation that 'it was damaged in shipping' or something like that.

What materials do I need and how do I package it? I want to do it on the cheap because the manufacturer isn't covering the shipping cost.

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Wheels generally come in a cardboard box with plastic caps over the hub ends to protect them and a bit of other padding (for skewers and the like) added in. Your LBS may have a few of these laying around for whatever size wheel you are sending back. They may even be willing to do the package job for you and save you a bit of time for a reasonable amount of money. If you just want the materials, I have known some shops to simply give them away (especially to known customers).

The stresses a wheel endures in a cardboard box during shipping are less than what they would endure properly installed on a bike. Any damage more than that would completely destroy the cardboard box and be evident as a shipping mishap. I recommend insurance from your shipper to protect against such mishaps.

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    The stresses the wheel can encounter are pretty different from what you're going to encounter while riding. For example, road wheels generally don't take hits from the side of the wheels (but yes, this would likely damage the packaging). Taking photos too is a good idea. – Batman Apr 23 '15 at 22:02
  • I work for the US Postal Service and things do get damaged in shipping. The vast majority of the time it is due to poor packing. You can't have too much padding. Go double thick cardboard on the large flat sides and fill it with shipping peanuts. – mikes Apr 23 '15 at 22:12
  • The number of times I have had items damaged by "poor packaging" is far fewer than times I have received packages that look as though an elephant slept on them. When large chunks of the packaging materials are missing, drag marks are present, and the cardboard is soaking wet, the packaging job can hardly be blamed. – Deleted User Apr 23 '15 at 22:53
  • @Batman I'll rephrase. The stresses that a wheel encounters during a proper shipping are less. Large object penetration of the side of the box with spoke contact means that your shipper has failed and you should fill out your insurance claim check. Wheel builders and companies routinely send wheel sets in plain cardboard boxes with plastic end caps and an extra layer of cardboard top and bottom for packaging and 99.5% of the time shops receive them in fine order. When they don't, they call the manufacturer and they place a claim with the shipper. – Deleted User Apr 24 '15 at 20:46
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Ship bike wheels individually, if you put two in one box they go in "Large" category and get charged for "cubic weight" by UPS and FedEx. Trick: use one box per wheel, Medium size Home Depot box, do not make it into a square, tape one end closed, place wheel inside, cut down the extra cardboard with a cutter so that you have about 2" around the wheel, then tape the remaining three sides. Make sure you remove the hub skewer, wrap wheel and skewer in bubble wrap, cover hub ends with piece of cardboard.

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  • I'm confused. You say not to make the box square but to leave around 2" around the wheel. Unless your wheel's an oval, that seems to describe a square box! – David Richerby Aug 9 '17 at 15:26
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    Also, there's no indication that the asker is in the US so UPS, FedEx and/or Home Depot may or may not be available. – David Richerby Aug 9 '17 at 15:27
  • I'm in the US for clarification – ebrohman Aug 10 '17 at 2:09

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