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FAQs and all about wired wheels

Down to the wires Published: 20th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

FAQs and all about wired wheels
FAQs and all about wired wheels Painted wheels look good and easy to repair at home
FAQs and all about wired wheels Spinners require special tool. Don’t bash them about!
FAQs and all about wired wheels Don’t ignore splines or hubs; check for wear, damage
FAQs and all about wired wheels Checking a wheel for trueness. Repairs are possible
FAQs and all about wired wheels Fitting new wires to a reconditioned wheel. If only a couple of spokes are broken, still the wheel must be fixed
FAQs and all about wired wheels Dedicated cleaners make life easy for you and the rim
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Everything you ever wanted to know about wire wheels, but were afraid to ask

History lesson on wire wheels

The mystery of the first civilisation to use the wheel is still with us, but the oldest discovered wheel known to mankind stems from the Mesopotamian civilisation and made around 3500BC. As the horseless carriage developed at the latter end of the 19th century, it was natural that cars built made use of the most advanced wheels of the time – with wooden spokes, often known as artillery wheels after their use on gun carriages. They featured solidrubber tyres. Meanwhile, bicycle development advanced with John Boyd Dunlop’s pneumatic tyre and lightweight, metal spoked wheel. Examination of motorsport photographs taken between 1900 and 1910 reveals how many production cars still used wooden wheels, yet sporting derivatives were seen wearing wire wheels. The advantages of lighter weight, added strength and greater precision of the wire wheels was already realised by the sporting motorist and factory engineer alike. By the 1950s, most sports cars used wire wheels over the steel disc alternative for their advantages of reduced weight, greater brake cooling and of course, better looks. Generally, lower powered sports cars, such as MG T-series, built before 1960 featured 48 spoke wheels, whilst higher powered cars used 60 spokes. 72 spoke wheels were introduced during the 1960s on higher-powered cars sports racer prototypes, and were seen on the most glamorous Ferraris and Lamborghini Miura.

Coping with stress – the principles

Wheels are subject to extreme stresses. Acceleration, cornering, and braking all impose loads from different directions between the wheel rim and the hub, and often the wheel has to cope with differing directions of stress at the same time. Spokes must be loaded in tension – think of it as pulling – as any compression or lateral load will cause the spoke to bend. Sideways forces are controlled by arranging the spokes across the relatively wide hub at different angles, to form rigid triangles. Spokes work in pairs to absorb loads, and fore and aft weight transfer is controlled by these pairs acting alternately in tension. Complex patterns of lacing or ‘crossing’ add strength. Spokes can be made from rustless, stainless or chromed material, with ultra expensive ‘double butted’ (thinner in the middle) variations found on ultra expensive historic racing wheels. Chromed spokes aren’t allowed in competition because of the effect of hydrogen embrittlement caused by the plating process. They look great on top concours and show cars, but still should be expertly and regularly examined if you drive your car hard on the road.

Looking after your wires

What’s the best way to look after my classic’s wire wheels?

Simple – keep them spotlessly clean!

Can I use an alloy wheel cleaner?

You can, but only if the wheels are painted – bare metal or lacquer finishes will be damaged by aggressive chemical cleaners. Any cleaning regime is dependent upon your use. Older style brake pads will give off lots of black brake dust, so consider upgrading to Greenstuff pads which are a lot cleaner in operation (and work better, too).

What sort of brushes should I use?

Most owners will have a variety of brushes to reach all the nooks and crannies. Anything of toothbrush softness or softer will be kind enough to prevent damage.

What about polishing my wheels?

If your wheels are tarnished, then use a paintwork renovator (such as T-cut) followed by a polish such as Autoglym. This will keep up appearances and help shed dirt in the future. If you have chromed wheels and/or spokes, a light polish with an Autosol type polish is OK, but don’t go too hard or often with this type of cleaner.At the start and end of each season it’s wise to remove the wheels, and give them a detail cleaning right up to the spoke heads front and back. This will allow you to find loose or broken spokes, and also give a close examination for stress fractures at both hub and rim.

Is there any other maintenance?

Yes! Once a week, and before any long journey, ensure tat the knock-on nut, sometimes called a spinner, is completely tight and that the wheel is okay on the splines. Many designs us are right-hand thread on the right hand side and left-hand thread on the left side of the car to avoid rotational loosening as you drive along. But not all makers feature this fail-safe technology. Additionally, re-built and upgraded cars may have had the stub axles attached on the wrong side, so if inspecting a prospective purchase, be aware of these pitfalls. Every month, examine the wheels for broken spokes and stone-chip damage.

My local tyre fitter doesn’t want to fit tubeless tyres with tubes for my wires. What can I do about this?

You can seal up the bead seat with a bonding sealer such as TigerSeal before installing the rim tape if you must use your wires as a tubeless fitting. Failing that, use new tubes, and be aware that punctures are more frequent combining the two technologies. Use a respected classic tyre dealer such as Longstone Tyres or Vintage Tyres at Beaulieu – both firms have vast experience of fitting tyres to wire wheels, unlike fast-fits!

How will I know if I need new wheels?

Replacement wires aren’t cheap, so any decision to replace will be based on either cosmetic or wear deterioration. If your wheels are old but sound, you may get away with a re-paint. But a new set of wheels will ensure a perfect finish. If you are suffering any sort of clonking on taking up drive in forward or reverse, or worse still, when cornering, then your wheels will need expert examination – spline wear can affect hubs and stub axles, too and cause ongoing loosening, which is dangerous and must be fixed.

I understand that after market replacements are better than ever?

Yes that’s true - the quality of aftermarket wire wheels has improved enormously over the years and they are as good as OE equipment. Leading players such as MWS International and Longstone Tyres market a full range of replacement wheels which can make refurbishing the old ones uneconomic and certainly a safer bet that buying secondhand ones, where they will probably need to
be reconditioned anyway.

Can I fit wires to my classic?

Possibly – many mainstream cars were available with wire wheels as an optional extra when new. Fitting involves swapping over the hubs although on certain cars it may even mean the complete axle. Easier options include wire wheels which fit on conventional hubs although they don’t look as good.

Try an upgrade!

We all want to get the best potential performance from our cars, and if yours is fitted with wires, then you are one-up over many more prosaic classics already. But if your chosen classic comes with wire wheels as standard, then how do you go about upgrading? You may want to move from painted wheels to chromed, or strengthen by changing to a 72 spoke design. Beware though, as these can be more nadgery to clean. If you are already at the chromed, 72 spoke level, then why not go for the ultimate in beauty? Whilst Dunlop or Dayton rim designs in steel are great, there’s nothing that confers exotic status like wide Borrani alloy rims, as fitted to greats such as Ferrari GTO and Lamborghini Miura. You only have to see how much better an Eagle E-type looks on these wheels to understand the improvement that your car could receive!

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