Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Do You Eat A Tire With, or New Wheels and Tires

Back in November, I mentioned the teeth rattling shake I was having at speed (read "Shake Rattle and Roll"). Then I reported that after taking it in to a local shop, they found a convenient workaround - swap the spare tire in (read "Safety Fast") until I could learn to replace and adjust the spokes to
"true" the bad wheels. That worked great for a few months as I researched the planned procedure. Then, while crawling under the car to change the oil, I noticed a broken spoke on the front wheel. Looking a little closer, I found three more on the same wheel. There are only 48 spokes on the whole wheel, so having that many missing can't be safe. I was forced to swap the lumpy tire back in and stick to a slower speed. This carried me for a few weeks until the lumpy tire developed a flat. I really shouldn't have driven it at all and am lucky it didn't fail suddenly on a highway.
30 inch tire spoon from Northern Tool

Now, to make sense of the following paragraph you need to keep in mind that a "wheel" is technically the middle metal bits that hold the rubber in shape and attach to the spinning axle, while the "tire" is technically the rubber exterior. I suppose that's obvious but I find myself and others using "wheel" to refer to the whole combination. Since I had one wheel that was in good shape but with a flat and lumpy tire, and another tire that was in good shape with a wheel that was rusting apart, I decided to try swapping the good tire to the good wheel. Modern tire shops have a hydraulic machine to press down on the stubborn rubber to bend it just enough to get the metal wheel rim in and out, but that doesn't work well when you have antique wire wheels unless you really have a shop that knows what they are doing.  Back in the good old days one used a "tire lever," also known as "tire spoons," which coincidentally is the punchline to the joke "what do you eat a tire with?". They are basically long pry bars with a blunt curved end to prevent damaging the tire. I didn't own these, and they aren't carried in any of the local auto parts stores (a clue). I found a cheap set online and ordered them.

When the tire spoons arrived I headed confidently out to the garage. The idea is to wedge one tire spoon in between the sidewall and the rim, pry back until the other fits in, pry some more until the edge of the tire flops over the rim. Then, work around the circumference coaxing the rest of the tire bead over the rim edge as you go. A little squirt of soapy water is recommended to help things along. What is not described is reluctance of the thick tire rubber to cooperate, and the amount of calories burned by you in the process.  This is an aerobic exercise activity. Unfortunately, just as I felt I was making some progress I noticed that the leverage required against the rim was also damaging the rim. I decided to quit and think about my options.

Suddenly a major capital purchase seemed to make more economic sense, as the sweat on my shirt dried off. I think the prospect of rehabbing the rims and all the spokes, getting the tires back on without damage, and then still not having a reliable set of wheels worried me greatly. Since my goal is reliable daily driving, and having seen the pervasive effects of bad wheels, I decided that starting at a good point made sense.

I had heard of a specialty wire wheel service in North Carolina that really does things right. Hendrix Wire Wheel quoted me $500 for new Dayton wire wheels (best reputation manufacturer), and new tires mounted and shaved to be perfectly round, delivered to my door. The size of tires required to stay close to original are not easy to find. I opted for a brand called Nexen for a little affordability and because the commonly preferred Vredesteins (made in Holland) were sold out in the US and would be months before I could get them. I asked about Nankang brand, which I had heard of others using and got the subtle opinion, "I wouldn't put them on a wheelbarrow." Apparently there are reports of new Nankangs flying apart, which I would prefer to avoid.

The text I received from Shelly announcing the arrival.
She humors me by reporting on my packages, probably so
I stop bugging her.
I took a deep breath and ordered four new wheels from Hendrix. I figured I could use the best of the remaining wheels for the spare rather than pay for a fifth. This was a lot of money, but I just paid about the same for just tires on Shelly's car, so I guess I need to keep it in perspective.   They came just as promised - maybe a day early.  Shipping was included, but I was surprised to see it was only about $25 apiece, and no box required - just cardboard on the top and bottom, and some straps to hold it together.

The first time I got them on the car I couldn't believe what a difference they made. Before there was always a vibration in the car, even at its best. Now it is dead smooth at all speeds. In fact, it's made it possible to keep up with traffic at normal highway speeds. I'm hanging on to the spares, so maybe I'll try working on them later, but for now this is one job I'm glad I didn't try to do myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment