There is a major fallacy out in the sports car world that wire wheels are
some kind of rigid structure that are supposed to exhibit no signs of
dynamic loading, or static set. In fact the wheels were specified for the
car because they could flex, rather than crack under extreme use. This
flexing does cause wear over time, so wire wheels are not maintenance free.
Wheels, hubs and spokes must be checked at least annually. We all know that
this level of maintenance is usually not found on most DPO cars typically
found for cheap. The result is that most parts cars are going to have worn
out wheels and spline drives. The good news is that: MGB wire wheels and
drives are pretty durable, it is easy to check the condition of both, and
the cost of replacement is very low.
If used MGB wire wheels are warped, they are not worth straightening unless
studying the dark arts of automotive science turns you on.
Once the typical amateur starts playing with spoke tension, the spokes will
start to break either while being tightened, or on the road.
If you can find someone who knows what they are doing, the cost of labor is
going to be higher than the replacement cost.
The good news is that since MGB wire wheels are strong, they are often
usable as is. The funny part is that there is a universal law in effect.
The pretty used wheels will always be junk. The corollary is that the
ugliest wheels will always run true.
You don't want to use old tires and tubes, so the first thing to do is bust
the tires off all the wheels and dispose of them. Then de-grease the spline
1. Carefully inspect the internal splines. The best way to do this is to
use a new hub to check for movement, visual inspection won't give you a very
good idea of how much wear has occurred. (see below, you need to buy a
Right Rear hub anyway.)
2. Visually inspect the wheel carefully to see if any spokes are missing.
If spokes are missing, they broke because of incorrect tension, chances are
the wheel is not worth using.
3. With the wheel on the floor, run a screwdriver around the middle of the
spokes. You should hear a constant ring of musical notes. Any flat notes
indicate loose spokes. If there are only a few, it may be worth trying to
tension them so they sound the same. It is very likely though that the
spokes will snap as soon as you try to adjust them.
4. Now check to see if the rim is dented or bent. The bead surface is the
important point to check. The outer steel rim can be easily straightened
and does not effect the way the wheel rolls.(there is a special tool for
doing this, check tire stores)
5. Time to check if the wheel is close to true. This is the tricky bit, as
you have just used a tire machine to remove the old tire. Chances are there
are all kinds of unrelieved stresses induced by ripping the old tire off
with a mechanical claw. If the spokes are nice and tight, they will do a
pretty decent job of bringing the wheel back to some semblance of true, but
don't look for perfection. The best way to test the wheel is to bolt a
front vertical link assembly into a solidly mounted bench vise. Then wrap a
rope around the wheel so that when it is pulled the wheel accelerates to a
reasonable speed. Then use a pointer against the tire bead surface to check
for wobbles. Peaks mean a bent rim and the wheel is junk. A slow +/- 1/4"
runout will be fine and chances are up to 1/2" will sort itself out once a
tire is mounted and the wheel run on the road.
6. Stripping and painting. Personally I would suggest doing the least
amount of work as possible. New wheels are comparatively cheap and the cost
of painting used wheels properly is going to come close to replacement cost.
If you strip the original paint off the wheels, you will have to go back in
with a thick coat of Automotive primer followed by high quality top coat
applied with a professional gun. Anything less is a waste of time as they
wheels take a tremendous amount of abuse.
A rattle can over the original chipped paint is about all I would
recommend until the budget allowed new wheels. This will look ok from 10'
which should be fine for most uses.
If you took the time to read this far, let me state my experience. I spent
10 years of my life working in a British only scrap yard. I have checked
and sold over 200 used wire wheels. For my own answer to this question, I
took all my personal used wire wheels (0ver 30 of em) and sold them for $10
each to a guy who shipped them to Australia, where they probably have
trained kangaroos cleaning and straightening them. When I put wire wheels
on my next car, they will be new.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Don Malling [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Monday, October 07, 2002 9:35 PM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Re: Refurbishing wire wheels
> I've found a couple of '69 parts cars for my BMH MGB body shell. Both
> parts cars have wire wheels.
> In watching this thread, only one respondent indicated that old wire
> wheels could not be straightened -- spokes would break.
> Is there agreement on that? Should I look for parts cars with steel
> wheels, or if I want wire wheels, assume I will have to purchase new
> rather than refurbish the old ones?
> Don Malling
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