I did my first "tour" with my T. I ventured beyond town to visit a friend in the countryside. Temps are >90 today. I noticed when I got home that my front spokes are a little loose. There were a couple of spokes I have been "watching," thinking of respoking this fall-- but in this weather all of them seem loose.
It seems like basic physics that the felloes will expand in hot weather and wood spokes will get loose, but that doesn't seem to be the case for my rear wheels. What am I missing? Time to respoke? Or are loose spokes normal in hot weather?
It is time to respoke!
Loose spokes are never normal.
Hot and dry ? Spokes maybe shrunk due to weather. Old timers would run the car in a stream or the ditch to "re-hydrate". Cinch up your hub plate bolts, you're probably OK so long as spoke tenon fit at the felloe isn't sloppy due to wear or rot.
Sooner or later, wooden spokes will loosen. -When that happens, there are two basic ways to go: You can put a temporary band-aid on the problem by shimming, injecting resin, soaking the wheel in water, etc., and hope that the wheel won't collapse at 35 mph; or, for about $200 (plus shipping), you can send it to Stutzman's Wheel Shop, have the wheel rebuilt in a matter of weeks and not think about it ever again.
Since "hot and dry" is common summer weather here it looks like I'm respoking. Two questions:
1) Is this an art or a science? I've seen the plans for a spoke press and generally like to do these things myself so I can learn how they work. If I'm willing to take the time and follow instructions will my wheel be safe to drive, or do I have to trust it to a professional wheel shop?
2) What keeps the spokes tight when it's hot and dry? Are they under so much compression that when the felloe expands in diameter with heat they are still tight?
Move down to the coast! It is cooler and more humidity there. It is a combination of the heat which will slightly expand the felloe and also the dry weather will take the moisture out of the wood. Back in the day, they would throw the wheels in the creek for a while and then put them back on the car. You could check the bolts around the hub, tighten them a bit, but eventually re-spoke. Another thing which will work for quite a while if the spokes are otherwise sound is to take them out of the wheel and glue oak veneer on the flat side between every other spoke then re-install them. You might also need to wedge something like popsicle sticks between the hub and the ends of the spokes to press them out to the felloes. This works on metal felloes. With wood felloes you can install shims in the outer ends of the spokes. You need check the wood felloes very carefully if you do that, because they tend to split or rot away and the rivits get loose or fall out. Best fix especially for wood felloe wheels is to find a wheelwright to rebuild the wheels.
Printed prominently on the front cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are the words, "Don't Panic". I see you are in "moderate drought" in your area of Oregon right now so it is likely that your spokes are shrinking a bit from dry weather. At 90F that shrinkage will be fairly rapid and significant. My rear wheels had a bit of a gap between felloe and rim after the car had sat in a heated garage in winter before I bought it. I went to Wallyword, bought a $10 kiddie plastic swimming pool, filled it with plain water, immersed the two rear wheels for two days, matter fixed, no recurrence of looseness but I live in a very wet area of the Appalachians. Of course we cannot see your spokes, so you need to check them out by hitting them quite hard with a rubber mallet. If they sound dull, or break, then you know to replace. If the hammer bounces back smartly all is well. Next, use a good sharp box cutter knife and try to push the blade into the spokes in several places, especially in the hub area. If the knife goes in relatively easily time to replace, dry rot is present. If the wood resists the knife then all is well. By all means tighten the hub bolts. Check carefully that there is not any clear space between the felloes and the rims if your rims are not demountable, another place that looseness can occur. If you have demountable rims you can check the outboard ends of the spokes to see that they are tight and not eroding from dry rot there.
Thanks for all the advice. I demounted the rims to inspect the ends of the spokes. I wish I had done this before. There are all sorts of signs of bad things going on. Lots of sawdust in the felloes from wear at the spoke ends, and some of the ends are soft. Definitely not something shims will fix. I've ordered new spokes and will rebuild the wheels.
I highly encourage beginners like me to demount your wheels to inspect your spokes. It takes 5 minutes (assuming demountable rims). I can't believe I've been driving on them. I'll post a picture later.
Apples and oranges here. Bob is absolutely right for his 1915 touring. With wood felloe wheels (nondemountables) sending them to a good wheelwright is the way to go. For steel felloe wheels (demountables) like Arthur has on his 1927, installing new spokes with the Regan press is satisfying and less costly.
I wonder how new wheel rebuilds from "back East" fare when transplanted into the arid regions "out West" ?!? (The "West" being defined as anyplace that gets less than 5" of rain annually). Timber seasoned and worked at the ideal 14% moisture content will certainly shrink somewhat in environments where ambient humidity is exceptionally low - high temps speed the process. Going on two years my import from the rain forests of New Joisey seems stable so far . . . any experiences to relate ?
Interesting question Rich. I'm at the edge of desert part of Oregon here, with summer humidity well below 25% for months at a time. I'll ask the folks at WAAAM what they've learned about this in their collection.
A friend at WAAAM got back to me and says they like to soak their wood wheels in a tank of linseed oil so they don't dry out so easily. He also sent me this great video of rebuilding a wheel from their 1907 "Everybody's Motor Car". I got to see them start up this car a few weeks ago. It was the first car in the town just east of here.
Watch the wood wheel pro at work:
Arthur, I sent you a PM.