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Split rim straightener?

George Rohrbach

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rimaaca1a.jpg.fbc77517116253bc773ef37d0c4f0180.jpgrimaaca2a.jpg.1611bbf6e2c52d2eebee4eca17ef1763.jpg   A couple of rims on my 20's Studebaker have been stretched oblong and sideways, so I have a wobble going down the road.

   I think that back in the 1920's, that there was a machine that you could use to make them true. Does anyone know of such a machine? And who has one that could straighten the rims? Or who has had this kind of rim successfully fixed at a commercial shop? Or who has managed to do it themselves, and just how did you do it?

     I am hoping that someone has this information, before I try to devise, fabricate or invent a way to make them again round!

     I am sure that the rims were bent, by using the 3 leg rim tool incorrectly.



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OOH that one looks fairly bad. Although I have seen much worse.

And yes, quite often misuse of the three arm rim spreader CAN do that kind of damage.

I have straightened several similar rims over the years. Most of the ones I have straightened have been the 21 inch model T Ford rims of '25 to '27. I must tell you, that the Ford rims are made of a softer steel, and are actually quite easy to straighten. I have also straightened various Chevrolet (Jaxon) rims of the '20s, at least one 20 inch Studebaker rim from about '25, and a Buick Jaxon rim. All of those are made of tougher steel, and therefore harder to straighten. 
The method is basically the same. I somehow draw a circle or two on some flat cardboard. This is to help visualize the roundness of the rim. A double circle is better than a single, one matching the inner diameter, the other matching the outer diameter. I have used convenient round objects of the right size or a cobbled compass to draw the circles. Working from a nice FLAT area of concrete, driveway, garage floor etc, I get a good vision of just where and what direction the rim is bent wrong.

Me? I use my car trailer tongue. Working from whichever side tweaks the rim right or left the proper direction,  I slip the rim under the far side, and over the near side, and just use my weight to push the rim in or out as needed. Sometimes a C-clamp is needed to help hold the rim just right. 

Before going any further. One important detail! A small scrap of wood that fits neatly between the sides of the rim! You do not want to pry against the outer edges of the rim or you WILL get a whole new set of places that need to be straightened. The first time I tried this,  I discovered this point the hard way, fortunately before serious harm was done. The small block of wood also serves to spread out the leverage and fulcrum points and helps get gentler bends which usually are what is needed.

Work slow. Carefully check and determine what needs to be bent what way, work it a bit. Then recheck against the circles. Then work some more, either the same area, or another area. Just work your way around, a bit here, a bit there, slowly getting it closer and closer. Figure on checking and working at least ten, likely twenty, maybe thirty or more times to get it right. Depending upon just how bad your rim is. I find a nice flat concrete floor is adequate for testing flatness of the rim.

Severe bends could require heat to shrink a stretched area on really bad rims. That can get really tricky.

Occasionally, stand back and give the rim a good look. Sometimes one can spot a needed tweak that is missed up close.

Bends tend to form just outside the fulcrum point. Using  marking pen or crayon for a begin and end of desired bends can help to visualize where you need to apply the pressure.

Always work the rim with the join clamp (whatever type it may have) NOT clamped, bolted, or otherwise attached. Let the ends of the rim float as free as they may. But also, always work the rim with the ends butted together so that you can keep an eye on how much things are moving, and which way.

Also be careful of the rim. These things do like to bite!


I don't know of any machines that are up to this task, although some specialized metal forming plant may have something. And I have never known any modern shop that I would trust to do this. But I have done several myself. I also straightened a friends 1925 Lincoln rim. Now, THAT one was a BEAR! And it wasn't even bent much.



Outer edges of the rim (where the tire's bead pushes out against) are best tweaked using a large Crescent wrench. Some "monkey" wrenches might be able to do the job, and a Stillson (pipe) wrench might work, but car must be taken to not gouge up the rim with the Stillson's teeth.


Bent rims should ALWAYS be checked for cracks forming anywhere, especially right on the outer area of the rim where the bead side turns up.

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I too have used my bench vice to hold the rim between wood blocks to do it almost exactly as Wayne has described. 

It can be quite difficult to remove a twist near the split.  I used two  2 X 4s clamped across the rim to get enough leverage to remove a twist close to the split.

It is also important to file the tire bead mating surfaces smooth and rounded so they do not cut into the tire as it flexes over rough roadways.


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The "Filing station " was selling brand new rims not too long ago. About 16 months ago there was an article in the Hemmings monthly magazine . This fellow had a heavy huge set up for straightening  most any type of rim There was the picture of him with a 6 feet long tool in hand and a split rim in place. May be you should explore Hemmings editor.

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