I know there has been a lot of discussion on the safety of wood wheels and I have tried to look back over the various postings on the subject. From those posts, it seems the strongest suggestions are to check the wood wheels regularly by visual inspection, checking for loose spokes, shaking the wheels laterally, rapping them and listening for the proper "ring" (whatever that is), and listening for clicks and creaks. I try to do that and my spokes appear to be very solid. But I know they are at least 60 years old, maybe even 90. Is there any reason to believe age in itself is a problem if they pass all the above tests? I know wood can rot in a few years, but I also know there are wood structures, etc. that are 100's of years old. I want to be safe, but I do not want to discard my wheels if the are perfectly fine.
If it is solid, it's solid. Age in itself shouldn't be a problem. Change from one relative humidity to another lower humidity may shrink the wood and make it loose, but then you can save the wheel by shimming it - as long as the wood isn't rotted and as long as the spokes are in suspension so they can't move, then the wheel is safe. But as soon as you use it with the spokes a little loose, there will be wear at the ends and it'll start to deteriorate rapidly.
I have original wheels on both of my '13s. So that makes them over 100 years old. I've been driving one of the two cars since 1964 and have had to replace two of the wheels during that period of time. I've never had one come loose, or even close to it, but when they start to click, it's time to start thinking about doing something.
BTW, I replaced both of those wheels with other 100 year old wheels.
My experience has been that shimming them only lasts for a season or so. Within a year or two, I had to add more shims and then it was downhill from there.
The wheels on my 26 Fordor are all original and doing o.k. Age alone is not an issue, only condition.
While it's true that age alone should not be a problem, IMHO driving a 100 year old car on 100 year old wheels requires more than just checking things. It requires an attitude of alertness and awareness. There's no substitute for knowing your car and recognizing when something changes. This sort of thinking along with a conservative approach to driving are your best friends.
Shimming and injecting resin are time-tested methods and they work, if only temporarily. _Still, I don't see why one would bother with such band-aids when an iffy wheel can be completely rebuilt by Mr. Stutzman for less than $200. _He does beautiful work for a very reasonable price.
I have had good luck shimming old wheels but hesitate to recommend it to others. There is a significant risk. I would hate to encourage someone and then hear of an accident.
That being said, the wood could be very good inside or not depending on climate, moisture. etc. as mentioned. This is an example of how bad wood can look on the outside and still be solid on the inside. I'm sure the reverse could be true. By all means check the wheels regularly, new or old.
Shimming is a band aid...but resin impregnating of the wood is not temporary and results in a structure far superior to the original wood.
Resin impregnation may make an old spoke stronger, but it doesn't make a worn spoke any larger.
Okay, John; I stand corrected (We married guys say that a lot).
The wood spokes on my Fordor are splitting along the grain, they have to go.
The spokes are painted black but it has worn to the point that you can see the wood. They seem tight, no loose spokes but if the paint was in good condition I would not see the cracks.
I think that if you have painted spokes and you have doubts about their condition you should sand them and inspect them.
Thin some POR-15 with thinner and soak all your wood in it and see what it does ;)
Two years ago I had a wheel that had very loose spokes, I needed to have the vehicle for an event that next weekend so I did a quick and "temporary" fix. I used wood veneer to shim it and where the tenons were worn I wrapped them with cotton string and applied a liberal amount of "sensor safe" RTV to the tenons. The plan was to rebuild the wheel as soon as possible. I got busy and forgot about the "temporary" repair and have driven the car about 2,000 miles on that wheel. I recently remembered that I needed to rebuild the wheel, but now I think I will see how long it remains tight. There is zero movement in the spokes and the wheel is still tight. Is it safe? I think so but I worry more about the loose nut at the steering wheel.
I think it was Abraham Lincoln that once said,
"There is nothing more permanent than a temporary fix that works."
Or was it Confucius?
For me, I'm going to have my wood wheels respoked/rebuilt by Stutzman's. My life and the lives of my family are worth much more than the $750 it takes to get these important parts re-wooded. There are places on a Model T where one can be frugal....IMO, wheels aren't the place!
Just my thoughts,
Is there anyone who has experienced a sudden catastrophic failure of a wood wheel that seemed OK when the trip started?
I'm not thinking of sliding sideways into a curb, that would damage any good wheel - I'm thinking regular driving with the occasional pothole.
These cars are old - metal parts may break from fatigue and we must always look over everything with a sharp eye and a wrench to tighten what's about to fall off. Changing what looks like perfectly good wheels just because they're old seems a little over the top
Experiences may differ depending on climate. Wood wheels over here are generally good if they have been kept indoors and non existent if they have been outdoors most of their days..
Back in 2011, Ole Gert followed me home one day. Got her running and registered and put about 50 miles on her before I decided to rebuild the car. She had several loose spokes and Iím lucky I got away without an accident of some sort. Anyway, decided to fix a problem that I knew nothing about. Rounded up a spoke jack and some shims, but talked to a friend of mine here in town that deals in carts, covered wagon, stagecoaches, etc and he told me how to tighten spokes. He brought down a large half moon shaped vat, gave me the recipe for the ďMagic PotionĒ to fill the vat with and a weed burner to heat the concoction with from the outside of the vat. I kept thinking that it was going to take a fortune to fill that vat so I sat it and the project aside for awhile while I thought things through. I day I got the tape measure out and measured the top of a 55 gallon drum I had laying around. 23 inches across and since my wheels are 21 inches, voila, that was the answer since I could lay the wheel down inside. I cut the bottom third of the drum off, you may want lay the drum on itís side and fill it with water so things donít go boom when you take a cutting torch or die grinder to it, and there was my ďwheel kettleĒ. I set up my large camp stove on the patio, probably donít want to do this out in the hay field in case things donít go according to plan, rounded up a piece of metal to put over the kettle in case things flared up, set a fire extinguisher nearby, covered the wheel with a 50/50 mixture of boiled linseed oil and turpentine, it took 4 1/2 gallons, and lit two burners on the camp stove. I kept the temperature at about 200 degrees, a totally arbitrary figure, and within a short time, bubbles were streaming out of the wood. When the bubbles stop, the wheels are done, about 30 minutes each in my case. The spokes snugged up very nicely. Iíve build a wheel press and have 50 new hickory spokes so Iím going to respoke, but in the meantime, Iíd feel a lot more comfortable driving on the wheels now than when I first got Ole Gert.
I poured the leftover magic potion into some 1 gallon plastic bottles and use it to treat my car hauler deck, so nothing is wasted.
As the sergeant used to say on that TV cop show: "Let's be careful out there".
When we bought our 1914 Touring, we wanted a go car, not a show car because our plans were to really tour with it and enjoy it. So, I did a number of things to make it safer, including having Mr. Stutsman make four new wheels. I also added another wishbone, safety glass in the windshield (yes, it had the original glass) and some other things. Point is, we drive the car a lot with as much peace of mind as one can have driving a Model T. New wheels, I think, are a smart move.
Thanks to everyone for your input, I appreciate it.