Is there any way we could find out if the Wooden Wheels and spokes in a 1924 Model T Coupe is damaged internally? Is there any test to determine any potential collapse during driving, there is outward visible wood damage
Too start post some pictures.....if bad enough someone will know by looking at your pics, might still have a problem though.
You can take a small awl and see if it will push easily into the spokes. If it does then your spokes are rotted or punky inside and not safe. You must do it in several areas of each spoke. They should also be tight in the wheel and hub. If you can move them then they need tightened or replaced.
First. Wood spoke wheels are much stronger and more resilient than most people believe. This is from someone seeing model T racing cars running at speed on real dirt tracks, on wood spoke wheels.
It is very rare for a wooden spoke wheel to break and cause an accident (but it does happen). It is much more common for something else to cause an accident and break the wheel as one of the results of that accident.
All that said, your wheels need to be in good condition, fairly straight and round, and very tight. Damaged or loose wood wheels will work and wear in critical places and can eventually result in a wheel failure, and maybe worse.
There is no magic checklist, or test. Shrinkage can be looked at. As can the surface condition of the grain. A knife or ice pick can be poked into the wood to estimate how soft the wood is inside. But all those things are judgement calls. Dry rot can invade the wood, and continue eating away the strength even after a beautiful paint job is put over them.
My opinion has long been that a lot of good wood wheels have had the spokes replaced that should have just been tightened up, and made to look nice. The wood used when these wheels were new was better quality than most of what can be had and used today for new spokes. However, new spokes are easier to understand.
The old adage "when in doubt, throw it out" does apply here.
Unless you are as broke as I am? And if your wheels are doubtful in their condition? New spokes from any of several model T parts suppliers, and a simple spoke press made by you, may be your best solution. New spokes should be made by someone that knows how the grain should be oriented, and only made from proper Hickory wood.
Sam, here are a few 'tests' I run to check out wooden wheels. Take off the rim and tyre and inspect the ends of the spokes in the steel felloe. If these are damaged the spokes may be loose in their holes. Then rap each spoke with a knuckle. Tight spokes will have a different sound to loose ones. A further inspection of the spoke end at the felloe may reveal rust stains around the spokes. These stains are a result of a loose spoke working in the felloe. Finally, look for rust signs at the hub end. This may indicate that things are loose at that end too. The 6 wheel bolts may respond to some tightening. The bolts should be dumped again to keep the nuts from backing off.
Hope this helps.
Allan from down under.
Thanks to each and everyone for your extremely valuable guidance, when my son is available we will post some pictures online of the car and the wheels.