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Pre War Cars and Wheel Failure.


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Posted (edited)

For a long time people have been talking about the debate on whether or not putting radial tires on a rim designed for bias ply tires would cause a problem. Well here is an example of rim failure.  Three of the four wheels on the ground showed severe damage. The wheels were never rusty or abused. They had been chromed only once, by the factory that made them. This particular application was a Buffalo Wire Wheel Company product. This failure is becoming more and more common on cars from pre WWII as metal fatigue, rust, road damage, and higher speeds are attained with over drives and gear changes. The example here were on rims with bias ply tires. If radials were installed, the failure would have been catastrophic. Interestingly, all of the cracks were on the inside of the rim, and could only be seen by removing the wheels off the car. I now do visual wheel inspections on all our cars wheels every few months. I have seen similar failures on Kelsey-Hayes units from 1932 also. The cracks were all 6 to 12 inches long. This time disaster was prevented. 
 

So, please would everyone inspect their wheels often. Also, be sure to run correct tire pressure. 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)
54 minutes ago, edinmass said:

Also, be sure to run correct tire pressure. 

Ed, not to sound ignorant but how do you know the correct tire pressure when switching from bias to radial tires? For instance, if your pressure should be 28 lbs for the original bias, is it 28 lbs for the radials too?

Edited by Fleetwood Meadow (see edit history)
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While not a pre-war car, we almost came to grief with 1953? MG ZA Magnette after fitting radials. Admittedly we used the Magnette centres and welded on Volvo rims, 1" wider than original. We were road-racing the car, and after a long mountain stage and chasing an E type Jag downhill, three of the rims had  serious radial cracks from the bolt holes. Just too much side load on wheels meant for cross ply tyres. I was mighty glad that I inspected the wheels at the lunch break.

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Posted (edited)

Yes, lock rings on the outside. The wheels are off a J but could be any big car from 1929-1931. They were relatively low miles. I have decided to turn my 1931 Pierce Arrow D/C 18 inch snap ring rims into the 1932 drop center Kelsey-Hayes style. I’m tired of dealing with snap rings that crack, and fighting with rings on high point cars and not damaging the paint or chrome. Never mind that the drop centers are fifty times more reliable and safer. This failure is becoming COMMON on all early wheels. The mid 30’s rolled edge rims are also failing. Here is a shot of a demountable rim failure while sitting in the garage over the winter. The car was stationary for a few months and the owner came into his garage and found the car down on one wheel........

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Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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2 minutes ago, Bush Mechanic said:

While not a pre-war car, we almost came to grief with 1953? MG ZA Magnette after fitting radials. Admittedly we used the Magnette centres and welded on Volvo rims, 1" wider than original. We were road-racing the car, and after a long mountain stage and chasing an E type Jag downhill, three of the rims had  serious radial cracks from the bolt holes. Just too much side load on wheels meant for cross ply tyres. I was mighty glad that I inspected the wheels at the lunch break.

 

You welded non-OEM rims that were bigger than stock to a light-duty street wheel then went racing, and it was the tires' fault the wheel failed? 

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17 minutes ago, Fleetwood Meadow said:

Ed, not to sound ignorant but how do you know the correct tire pressure when switching from bias to radial tires? For instance, if your pressure should be 28 lbs for the original bias, is it 28 lbs for the radials too?


 

No clue, as I would never run radials on anything that didn’t come with them new. I’m sure that years ago I saw an article on radial-bias change overs and air pressure......but that would have applied to cars from the 60’s and 70’s.........certainly not before 1965.

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18 minutes ago, Matt Harwood said:

 

You welded non-OEM rims that were bigger than stock to a light-duty street wheel then went racing, and it was the tires' fault the wheel failed? 

 

 Standard practice, when you're young and silly! 

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That second failure picture is clearly due to rust pitting which caused thinning in critical corner transition. I have seem many old rims fail from the same condition.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
330px-Steel-with-Hydrogen-Induced-Cracks
 
Hydrogen-Induced Cracks (HIC)
 

Hydrogen embrittlement (HE) also known as hydrogen assisted cracking or hydrogen-induced cracking, describes the embrittlement of a metal by diffusible hydrogen. The essential facts about the nature of the hydrogen embrittlement of steels have now been known since 1875 .[1][2][3] It is diffusible atomic hydrogen that is harmful to the toughness of iron and steel.[4] It is a low temperature effect: most metals are relatively immune to hydrogen embrittlement above approximately 150°C.(302°F)[5]

In steels, diffusible hydrogen ions come from water that is typically introduced by a wet electrochemical process such as electroplating.

For hydrogen embrittlement to occur, a combination of three conditions are required:

  1. the presence and diffusion of hydrogen atoms or ions
  2. a susceptible material
  3. stress

Diffusible hydrogen can be introduced during manufacture from operations such as forming, coating, plating or cleaning. The most common causes of failure in practice are poorly-controlled electroplating or bad welding practice with damp welding rods. Both of these introduce hydrogen ions which dissolve in the metal. Hydrogen may also be introduced over time (external embrittlement) through environmental exposure (soils and chemicals, including water), corrosion processes (especially galvanic corrosion) including corrosion of a coating and cathodic protection. Hydrogen atoms are very small and diffuse interstitially in steels. Almost uniquely amongst solute atoms they are mobile at room temperature and will diffuse away from the site of their introduction within minutes.[1]

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Fleetwood Meadow said:

If your pressure should be 28 lbs for the original bias, is it 28 lbs for the radials too?

 

Absolutely not. That's asking for failure of the tires, never mind the rims. In the 80s when 3/4 (or more) of the cars on the road out here WA were cars that originally came with bias and were now shod with radials, standard practice was to run them at sidewall maximum. That was typically 32 or 35 PSI. Below 30 PSI pressures are only for bias, and only for owners who like a like a lot of mush.

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
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For whatever it is worth? About forty years ago, I had a 1966 Chevrolet half ton pickup that I drove everyday and for work (about 30,000 miles per year for six years). Over those six years, I had three drop center rims fail in similar fashion. The rims had never been plated, and I was a die-hard bias tire user. 

I later got an older 3/4 ton Ford pickup. It had split ring rims, also always bias (an heavier duty) tires. I put over a half million miles on that with no rim failures.

Age of course is an important factor, and hydrogen embrittlement is often an unknown in a given car's past. 

Using muriatic acid (also known as hydrochloric acid) for cleaning and rust removal can cause hydrogen embrittlement which can linger inside for decades! One of my longtime best friends used muriatic acid for rust removal quite a lot. I use it sparingly.

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No car suffers more wheel failure than a Duesenberg.   I think it is based on a few things:

 

1.   The wheels have been restored a bunch of times.  Most Duesenbergs have led many lives.   If the rings have been chromed more than once...

 

2.   The cars are heavy.

 

3.   The cars get driven hard.   Most guys would be shocked to see how hard million dollar cars get driven.

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We all do unsafe things when we are young and silly.  I for one drove my XK140 at 117 mph just to see "what she would do".  Oh yea, I forgot to mention, I did the drive on recapped bias ply tires.

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9 hours ago, George K said:

That second failure picture is clearly due to rust pitting which caused thinning in critical corner transition. I have seem many old rims fail from the same condition.


 

I agree........only problem here was a 100 point restoration without anyone giving thought to safety. My best guess is when they realized the rims are impossible to source, that they said the same story.......”it’s an old car and no one will drive it.”  A car can suffer a multitude of rather significant failures and still be reasonably save to operate. Wheels are one item you don’t want to gamble on. I have continued to see many more wheel failures in the past five years than I saw in the previous forty. I think age and storage conditions are catching up to wheels much more than most people realize. It’s probably a good idea to pull wheels off a car once a year to inspect them on pre war stuff. I know I won’t drive any car at speed unless I’m convinced the tires, tubes, and wheels are all in top condition. Too many people are driving on forty year old tires.

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For sure all things suffer from oxidation and cyclic damage. I know I have!

To my knowledge no antique replacement tires and tubes are speed rated other than Blockley from England.

 

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Posted (edited)

The Excelsior Stahl Sport radials from Coker are S rated (112 mph), made to look like bias ply tires, made in USA.  The Excelsior Comp H tires are bias ply, H-rated for 130 mph, not sure where they are made.  In 700-18 size, both are priced at about $400 each.  I have the Stahl Sport radials on new Rudge-style wire wheels with drop center rims, should be OK for a very long time. I hope so, because the guy who mounted the tires and balanced the wheels for $1000 is now 80 years old, not sure what will happen to his shop in Auburn, MA when he decides he has had enough.

 

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Excelsior Comp H tire from Coker.                                                                                                     Excelsior Stahl Sport radial>>>>>

Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

Gary, I'm guessing you made drop center rims.....and the Excelsior tires look good for your vintage. When I make rims........which seems to happen two or three times a year lately, I usually have the rims made out of heavier guage metal. I get them out of New Zealand. I have experience with Excelsiors on early thirties cars......they are not for me, but I haven't seen a tire issue with them yet. The Michelins that were done in 17 inch are now out of production............what does that tell you? Had a set on a Pierce 12 and took them off before I ever drove it. With new modern rims like we are making, radials on drop centers will probably be ok from a wheel/safety standpoint. How it loads all the steering and suspension is something better left to your engineers............but with all the flexing the tires do, I would be concerned long term on the rest of the cars chassis and components. 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Another wheel failure to be aware of is one I have seen on 34 Mopar artillery rims, which have a tendency to crack around the bolt holes, circular cracking just outside of the ridge on the inside of the rim.  I have seen this with stock bias ply 600-16 tires and with radials.  Managed to catch this on my PE sedan during a routine check and have seen it on multiple swap meet rims.  The 35 artillery wheels, which look basically the same with the hubcaps on, don't seem to have this problem, but they are one-piece centers as opposed to the 34s, which are two piece.  Accordingly, I now run 35 rims on my 34s.

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The production of automobile steel rims is quite a interesting subject.  Check out a book title Pneumatic Tires by Pearson 1922. Second book to review is title Carnegie Steel Shapes circa 1929. Skip to the automobile section.

When commercial demand drops so do the industries that supply them. Sure makes a good set of rims a valuable commodity.

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Here's a 20" Buffalo wire wheel from a 5000 pound 1929 model car I'm in the process of dragging home.  The backside of the rim has welds on it almost all the way around.   It is a painted rim, never chromed.  This car has been off the road since 1960, so the welds are very old. 

       

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Ed,this is a great picture.  As you said, many wheels may look fine from the outside when mounted but here you can see the complete lack of integrity left in this wheel due to deep, scoring rust, which has probably been cleaned and painted over a couple times.  It makes one wonder how many other prewar wheels are out there on the highways that are well beyond their service limits?

 

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I've welded up vintage tractor rims in the past. Ones that are rather rare today like the ones on my 1939 John Deere A. Those are 8 X 36 three piece rims and hold 12 PSI when mounted. The later John Deere A's came with 38" rear tires and are much more common. Because the top speed is only around 12 MPH, and it is rarely driven that fast, it was OK to do it. Balance was not an issue. Also replaced front rims with using the old centers by cutting out the old rivets and plug welding the centers to the new rims. 600-16 are common on old farm tractors. I would however not weld on a high speed automobile wire type wheel. Your just asking for trouble. The metal fatigue alone will only lead to failure. Often welds will break right along side of the welded spot. This is mostly do to the fact that the metal is already weak even on both sides of the crack and beyond. The only safe way is to replace the metal which means new rims at the least. My two cents worth. Dandy Dave!  

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, GregLaR said:

Ed,this is a great picture.  As you said, many wheels may look fine from the outside when mounted but here you can see the complete lack of integrity left in this wheel due to deep, scoring rust, which has probably been cleaned and painted over a couple times.  It makes one wonder how many other prewar wheels are out there on the highways that are well beyond their service limits?

 

rim.png.80d605821043fa70ddb0d9d6809772f6.png

       

Scary reality…material fatigue or natural deterioration are fundamental issues on pre-war cars. Unfortunately, in general, these problems are hidden and silent for long periods, increasing dramatically  our risks.

Edited by JRA (see edit history)
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Those wires on K0896's car seem to have the same failure mechanism as the OP's. I guess they must have had radial tires on them sometime before the Denmans's were installed. 🙂

 

Frank

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This whole conversation reminds me of an article I read in Skinned Knuckles back in the 1970's. It promoted the idea of Magnafluxing important chassis components. As I remember, they focused on steering knuckle spindles. Don't see articles like that in the old car media today.

 

I was reading an article about nano-crystaline alignment of iron molecules a while back. The person who wrote that one would have looked at that pitted split rim and said "Boy, this is shot!", about as technical as it needs to get.

 

 

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