I've read several discussions regarding the dangers of old spokes and loose wheels. Teresa and I have been on 2 tours with fatalities. One seemed to start as a clincher rolled off the rim. I outfitted her grandpa's 23 with wire wheels even though I've got the original wood wheels. I've considered replacing all the spokes with new and putting the wires on the 26, which also has wood wheels. Some of the spokes in them are loose. So the question is: since we enjoy touring, and frequently tend to push the speed limit of our T's a bit either on tour or around here, where there are lots of miles of open road, how much safer are wire wheels than new wood spoked wood wheels? Also, after seeing folks throw clincher tires off the rim, and maybe causing an accident that way, should I consider repairing my wooden wheels or get wires wheels for both cars? Currently, Teresa wants wires on the car she tours with as she feels it is safer, and I cannot disagree. Both cars are strong runners with Z heads, .280 cams, and Rocky Mountain brakes.
I'd do one of each. Oh and then you have drum size issues to work out.
Based on what I've read, I suppose wires are inherently safer, but the question is how much safer. If the wood wheels have loose spokes or other deficiencies, a lot. If the wood wheels have tight new spokes, Anderson bolts, and solid rims, not much.
Wood wheels that are tight and have good rims and hubs are strong and have passed the test of time. Loose wood wheels, or wheels that have badly rusted rims with defective edges, or questionable hubs are an accident looking for a place to happen. Wire wheels are very strong but also need to be in good shape. I have seen some wire wheels on T tour's that I would not have felt safe running. That would include rims that were visually cracked and/or had badly worn out lug holes. I would bet that most clinchers that roll off of their rims were way under inflated. The second reason would be rim cuts that could be from either under inflated tires or have sharp and/or rim edges that have lost enough material that they are unable to hold the tire bead at any pressure. Good wood wheels don't scare me and wire's that that are questionable do. What ever wheels you choose make sure they are in darn good shape. Don't think that just because it is a low speed car that you can get away with substandard wheels of any kind.
AND check both your clincher or drop center tire pressure often... as in just about every time you drive the car. Your and your passengers life's depend on it.
Anderson bolts? Tell me more!
There are some advantages to wire wheels. No difference between from and rear to start with, so easier to change if you get a flat over some demountables...and for sure over clinchers. I have wire wheels on my '26 touring because they were a period option, and I like the look of them. When my '26 Tudor gets finished, it will have natural finish wood spokes on the demountables because they were also a period dealer option...but I also like the look of those. The safety of either has more to do with their condition than inherent design if they are in good serviceable condition. If you're going to push the safe speed capabilities of your car, no wheel/rim will make an appreciable difference.
John, R.V. Anderson makes hub bolts better than the originals, and a lot of other products sold by most of the parts dealers. I hope all of this is current:
RV Anderson Antique Auto Engineering
3515 Route 62
Kennedy, NY 14747
I've seen more wire wheel failures than wood.
If I have read your posting correctly, your question does not really appear to be about wood versus wire, it seems to be more about clincher versus balloon tires. Several times you talk about clincher tires rolling off the rims. And yet if you drive on wire spoke clincher rims, how does this affect anything?
I think Paul's comment is very relevant.
I have my own theories on the major contributing factors to these serious accidents
Check out Wayne Sheldon's post (5th one down) http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/179374/248594.html
I guess it happens. It almost has to but I can't recall a posting concerning a wire wheel failure that was the fault of the spokes giving way.
Old Buffalo wire wheels can fall off if the hubcaps hasn't got any locking pins:
That would scare me more than old (but solid) hickory wheels..
Don't you think a '23 is gonna look kind of funny with wire wheels?
I very much appreciate all the above comments. I haven't heard of any factory ford wheels failing but I'm relatively new to the hobby. We have been running wires on the 23 for the past 4-5 years. My wood wheels were not safe and I got a set of wires with a chassis back then, cleaned and painted, and have been running them since. I ask the question somewhat for "ammunition" since Teresa prefers the wires for safety. I have thought of getting some new spokes and re-doing the 23's wheels. Then I'd have the wires for either the 26 or a future speedster project.
Les, you're partially right about clinchers vs. drop centers. I believe the drop centers are better and less likely to come off. I don't always check tire pressure before each drive and believe that one accident we were at started with the clincher coming off, perhaps due to low pressure or a leaking tube. Unfortunately, the next accident started, I believe, as the driver tried to come back onto the roadway after dropping a tire off the pavement and the wood spokes broke. That may have been driver error, but I haven't heard of wire wheels coming apart from lateral loads like I've seen pictures on this forum of wooden ones doing exactly that. I am also aware of the difference between oak and hickory spokes. Thank you much for your input.
Hi Noel - I have Hickory wood wheels on all four of our Model T's and have toured all over the country with them over the last 50 years with no wheel problems. (I wish I could say that about crankshafts and triple gear pins!) I feel that Hickory spoked wheels with good, solid spokes, are perfectly safe.
That said, I have some wire wheels I'd sell if you need any.
Best wishes to you and Teresa.
I have never had an issue with loose Buffalo wheels, but I am in the habit of checking my wheels regularly, wire or wood, to be sure they are tight.
Any Model T wheel in good condition will be as safe as any other. A wood spoke wheel, that has good, tight, hickory spokes, should never be the cause of an accident. Our local chapter member, who rolled his T some years back, had a bent axle and spindle as the result of the crash, but the Stutzman wheels were unharmed and still true as the day they were made.
As for loosing a clincher tire. I've seen lots of T's throw off a clincher tire, (always because they had gone flat first), but have never known one to loose control because of it. I've had too many flats with clinchers and have never thrown one off or had any control issues.
I have always wondered if the terrible accident you mentioned, where a wheel supposedly dropped over the edge of the road, wasn't caused by the car getting pulled off the road due to the wheel getting into soft ground or sand. The wheel breakage then occurring as the car rolled over while going down the embankment. If the spokes did break while trying to get back onto the road, I would have to question their condition and the spoke material. I was not there, thank God, and did not see the accident site or the car, so this is all just hypothetical of course.
I have never heard of a Ford wire wheel failing either, but I have heard of a wire wheel hub failing. The flange can crack where it meets the hub body.
It's not the wheels I worry about, but the poor quality of clincher tires and tubes do scare me a little. I'm putting 21" tires on mine for this reason.
I like the look of wood wheels more, but my T came with wires that are in good condition so I haven't messed with them much.
Wire wheels were used before about 1905. They were basically bi/moto cycle wheels and didn't have strength for cornering. They got a bad rap in a hurry, which brought on the hickory spokes.
It was ten or more years before purpose built automotive wire wheels were accepted by the motoring public.
Thank you gentlemen. I'll talk with Teresa about this as well. I'd like to have wood wheels on her 23 for appearances (her grandpa's car). That is the car we usually tour with.
Edsel Ford drove a new 15Touring to California to visit the dealers. He left with fancy wire wheels, but by the time he arrived, the wire wheels had been exchanged for sturdier wood spoke wheels.
ROW, Rest Of the World, adopted wire wheels earlier than the US because they didn't have hickory.
My '12 roadster had wood wheels, and they were pretty tight. At speeds over 30 mph, the car would feel like it was "hopping". Put some new McLaren wires on, and wow what a difference. The ride smoothed out considerably. Those wheels run really true. They were about $1,000 each, so quite expensive, but they are super quality.
Nothing to fear from wood wheels; if in good condition they will last many years and are very strong. Don't forgot before the 1930s many trucks used wood wheels to carry heavy loads on very bad roads.
Having said that, wood wheels don't do well in climates with very hot weather; as I found out travelling in Africa and Iran...Dave Huson almost had to sent me a new set but the loud creaking noises subsided as I drove north into cooler weather. Wood is a natural product that reacts to temperature and humidity. It's porous nature means it will expand or contract as it absorbs moisture, dries out, heats up and cools down. 110+F temperatures day after day ain't good for them.
Oh yeah; I'd prefer to run into a donkey cart with wood wheels rather than wire...it almost happened more than once in Ethiopia
I believe the essence of your original post was, " how much safer are wire wheels than new wood spoked wood wheels?"
I wonder whether the broken wheels that you have seen failed because of a basic weakness of the wheel or if the failures may have been a byproduct of some other problem?
We had quite a discussion a year or so ago regarding a fatal accident in which a car seemed to have left the road to the right and then flipped end over end before coming to rest. If I remember correctly, some folks blamed the wheel. But others pointed out that excess deflections in the steering system and wishbone may have caused the wheel to go out of alignment so much that it failed due to an overload. This was a case of cause and effect in which we really don't know which was cause and which was effect.
My point here is that sturdier wheels may not be a cure-all. We also need to make sure that the front suspension is in good working order and, if it's an early car, that the front wishbone is reinforced by one of the accessory redundant wishbones.
Last but not least, we need to avoid pushing these old cars beyond their intended design limits.
Your last statement-- "Last but not least, we need to avoid pushing these old cars beyond their intended design limits." ,Is exactly what I was going to replay after reading all the above.
The cars are plenty safe IMO as equipped from the factory for the speed they were intended to work in. Pushing anything mechanical to its limits will/can result in failures.
It is great we can make these vehicles reach speeds faster than what was designed, but that is only part of the equation because the rest of the chassis / braking was never designed to do that. Throw in a little slip up in a human driving, it can and has led to deadly results. My advice is check your equipment and slow down a little.
Here's one for you. When I just clicked on this thread, an ancestry.com "Tree not found page, "
was displayed. When I want a lot of laughs and giggles, I go there and look at all the mistakes,
people make cause they did not pay attention history class