Sorry to read about the bad accident because of broken spokes, how can you really tell how good your spokes are? I looked mine over seem to be strong but how can you really tell?
Can anybody be 100% sure that the spokes broke and caused the accident or the broken wheel was a result of the accident, not the cause of it?
John, I was told to look for saw dust around the spoke distal end of the spoke, at the base where it meets the rim. My old spokes had saw dust, meaning they were loose.
Dust as Robert indicates is a good indicator. I also believe (others may not) that if you knock on the spokes with your knuckle you can hear a different tone from a bad spoke. One that has dry rot or whatever will sound differently that the others.
Hit the spokes near the rim with a rubber mallet. If they hold up, they're good. If not, it's better to find out in your garage than on the road.
Bear in mind, this is not 100% fool proof, but you can rap on a spoke with your knuckle or maybe a plastic screwdriver handle. A 'ringing' sound would tend to indicate a good spoke, while a dull 'thud' would tend to indicate a loose or deteriorated spoke. Like I say, it's not 100% fool proof, but it's good enough for me. You'll have to decide for yourself. If you REALLY want to be sure, send them all off to a good wheelwright and have them rebuilt. Then you can be reasonably sure.
I discovered mine were bad on my right front wheel, by accident, in December, 2010, when I ran out of gas. As I was waiting for a friend to bring me a gallon, I was walking around the car and noticed a fine brown powder on the metal rim around the spokes. When I grabbed the wheel and pulled it from side to side, the rim moved more than the spokes and when I grabbed each spoke they moved 1/16" from side to side, separate from the rim which was a real shock, for it could have easily collapsed as I turned the next corner. Finally, when I pushed the car a ways down the roadway, without the motor running, I could hear an audible click, click, click, as the loose spokes seated themselves in the rim holes as the weight of the car came around to each spoke. I purchased new hickory spokes and made one of John Regan's jigs and replaced the spokes myself. Jim Patrick
Jim P and others make good points.
I like wood wheels. I trust wood wheels. I check my wood wheels often. As mentioned before, look for any signs of wood or rust dust anywhere around the hubs, bolts, felloes, etc. Knock on the spokes, whether you use just your knuckles, screwdriver or small hammer. Good spokes all should sound pretty much alike with a solid sound (and a slight ring). also listen as your car rolls. As Jim P mentioned, you do NOT want to hear any clicking sounds.
I also, at least once a year, walk around every running T I have. I grab each wheel (one at a time of course), and shake it hard. I look, listen, and feel, for anything loose, clicking, or simply does not "feel" right. If I drive much that year, I do this several times during the year.
Over the years, I have found, and repaired a few wheels that had loosened, a couple of steering balls, one loose pitman arm, a few wheel bearings, a loose shackle, a loose spring clamp, and, there must have been something else.
I have mentioned in other threads about having driven a speedster in dirt track races. In those races, wood wheels actually had a better safety record than steel disc or wire wheels did. A good wood wheel rarely will break unless there is some sort of an impact. But that impact can be hitting a pothole the wrong way. It can happen. It does happen. It may be what happened here. But breaking a wheel in a model T rarely results in a rollover. A rollover often results in a broken wheel. We won't know what the cause was and what was effects until more facts are made known.
One other thing mentioned, that needs clarification. Oak should NEVER be used for car wheel spokes. It is very hard. Too hard. Hickory is much more resilient than oak. Oak is nearly twice as likely to shatter and break than hickory. Oak has fooled a lot of people. It looks good. It sounds good. And probably hundreds of model Ts have oak spokes in some of their wheels.
The most important thing. NEVER forget that these are nearly hundred year old cars we are driving. Special care needs to be taken. There is an element of risk. But all life has risk. As long as care is taken, and wheels are routinely checked, wood wheels should not be feared.
It will be awhile before we get to know exactly what happened this time. Speculation is of limited value. In the meantime, our hearts and prayers should and do go out to all involved.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Soon I'll re-post my write-up about oak spokes from 2002. It was largely well received, with at least one detractor. I looked on Lang's and Snyder's sites in mid-2003. One was selling only oak spokes, and the other didn't say what theirs were. I wrote a letter to each of them with my concerns. Neither one answered my letter, but both started carrying hickory spokes, and one of them dropped the oak spokes.
So, yes, there could be a lot of Ts on the road with oak spokes.
Wasn't there an outfit that makes spokes from aluminum at Hershey?
I've been through that stretch of road many times, not with a T though. The shoulder is really rough, with large chunks of rock strewn about. Even with brand new hickory spokes, your going to lose a tire at the very least and after the tire goes, I'm guessing the spokes wouldn't be far behind.
I'm sure somebody is going to tell me that I'm crazy but if his spokes weren't new, but older, like 80 years or more, in that area of Utah the climate is a lot dryer than that of Minnesota's (very little humidity if any). Do you think that their spokes could of shrunk from the lack of humidity where they might of been tight at home? Last day of the tour, a lot of miles, tires and wheels both get hot...just makes me wonder if the accident isn't really a mixture of things.
Here are the aluminum spokes
Great post, as usual, Wayne.
Thanks Ed. I don't like the aluminum look, but painted black, one would not be able to tell the difference from wood and they would almost certainly outlast the car and be one less thing to worry about. Anyone know how much they are? Jim Patrick
Aluminum spokes with no pricing. Will they work on the John Regan press or are you better off sending them the rim and hub?
I have disc wheels that I sometimes put on my Speedster. The aluminum spokes would look great with those. Just won't let them destroy my new hickory spoked wheels to change to aluminum. Guess I might need another set.
I would want to see some testing before buying. There's no guarantee of aluminum alloy being stronger than hickory, at the same time flexing just the right amount.
576.00 for a set of spokes for four wheels.
That must be for aluminum. A lot more costly than hickory.
No 30 x 3 1/2?
Steve, that $576 is for 48 hickory spokes from Snyders at $12 each. The price is the same for 30" and 21" wheels.
Alum. Spokes alone you install $1162.00, way out of my budget
I think I will stay with wood. I had new spokes put in my 19. Got them from Stutzmans. I feel they will outlast me and whoever gets the car long after I'm dead and gone. I don't have the receipt in front of me but I think the cost was around 3 or 4 hundred for all four.
There is no reliable information available on whether the spokes were the cause or the effect of that accident.
The spokes do look rather white in the slightly blurry photo and that could be because they were new and oak.
Hickory is usually not as white in color as those spokes are apparently showing.
Only two facts are known and definite, the car rolled and Karen was killed.
The article in a local Minnesota paper noted that the cause of the accident and Karen's death is still under investigation.
An old chart that I have of wood strengths shows hickory as the strongest wood available for testing.
Henry Ford was either real cleaver to discover that from early testing or it was the most plentiful wood available and cheapest to use.
Given what we know about Henry - I vote for the second part of the comment but realize that there is more to the Model T than lowest cost.
I would say that the real answer is the lowest cost that works!
Henry didn't come up with the idea of using hickory for spokes. It had been used for buggy and wagon wheels for many generations before the automobile.
Mein Gott! That's WAY too much for spokes. My Stuzman spokes for two wheels came to $152, which includes shipping. That would make the cost about $300 for four wheels.
First, I'm not suggesting that anyone needs to have aluminum spokes or that the car wrecked in Utah was in anything other than perfect condition. This is a more general statement.
How many of us feel clever when we save dollars by doing other than the recommended, sometimes costly, time proven repairs on our cars? How many of us are now second guessing those "fixes" and how they will perform under extreme conditions? I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, "I just glued it JB Weld.." or, "I just jammed in a bunch of shim stock..." or, "the hardware store bolts are $2 each cheaper, why can't I use those", etc. etc.
Do the right thing folks. Use only the best available parts, regardless of cost, or keep the car parked until you can. Our hobby and the precious lives of our fellow T owners/riders is worth the cost and the added effort.
Agreed. You all know I'm a devout cheapskate, but cobbling up hundred-year-old wheels in dubious condition to save a few bucks is a bad gamble. Considering the stakes in that game, it's best not to play.
Well said Jerry!!