What is a "Lever-less Tire Machine"?
A “lever-less tire machine” (LTM) is the best way to have your tires dismounted or mounted on your wheels. LTM uses a different technology to break the bead and dismount the tire from your fancy wheels without scratching the surface of the rim or tearing the tire. I will try to explain why this is by comparing the new technology of a LTM to that of a traditional tire machine.
A traditional tire machine uses a metal plate connected to hydraulics that squeezes inwards to break the seal of the tire from the rim. The plate will fit just inside the small space created between a tire and wheel. Normally, to break the seal a number of passes must be done around the circumference of the wheel on both the front and rear to loosen up the tire sealed against the bead of the rim. When this is being done imagine the amount of pressure being applied to the tire and the rim itself (hundreds of pounds of pressure). When the tire bead is being broken on the inner seal (the back of the rim) all of this pressure is pushing on the face or the pretty side of your wheel (the plate is used to break the bread one side at a time and as it squeezes inwards on the back then the front of the wheel is leveraged against a solid flat surface) and one small slip can scratch the face of the wheel. Also, the metal plate that breaks the bead can slip out of the tiny space between the tire and rim and usually scratches the wheel when this happens.
Once the bead is broken on a tire then it can be dismounted. Traditional tire machines use a metal guide head and a lever to pull the lip of the tire up over this guide and spin the tire off. If the tire is a run flat, low profile, or just tightly sealed on the rim then it is very easy for that metal guide head to bend down onto the face of the wheel and scratch it while the tire is spun off. Also, some wheels have protruding spokes that can be near impossible to avoid damaging when the tire is being dismounted.
Almost of greater concern is that when dismounting a stiff run-flat or low profile tire using a traditional tire-changing machine, the tire can actually tear on the metal guide head as it is being taken off. These tears are not always completely damaging to a tire so many times the tire is remounted and there is no way to know that the tire was damaged because when mounted back on your rim it will look completely normal.
The “lever-less tire machine” uses a different method of breaking the bead and dismounting the tire so that scratching the wheel or damaging the tire does not happen. To break the bead there are two hardened plastic rollers on either side of the rim that are set exactly to the point just between the wheel and tire and then locked into place. Taking turns, the wheel is spun and each roller is slowly lowered to apply pressure on the tire all the way around the wheel. The tire is slower broken away from the bead of the rim without applying massive amounts of pressure to the rim itself. Once the bread is broken there is another hardened plastic arm that slips into the tire, catches the edge of the tire, and literally lifts the tire up and over the wheel avoiding spokes and applying zero down pressure on the face of the wheel. Without the use of a lever there is no pressure placed on a guide head and no risk of damaging or tearing the tire.
Hunter Road Force Balancing!
Wheel Tech is now the proud owner of a State-of-the-art Hunter Road Force Balancer. Those of us who know what a Road Force Balancer is, know that there really is no comparison with a standard balancer. For those of you who do not know what a Hunter Road Force balancer is please read on and I will do my best to explain.
A standard balancer is great for balancing steel wheels on larger trucks or the older style of wheels that use clip on weights for both the outer and inner lips. However, the style of wheels is changing and most wheels require the use of stick on weights that are applied to the inner barrel. A standard balancer is not ideal for measuring the exact amount if weight to be applied to the inner barrel of wheel. For starters, every wheel is different because the offsets are different even among different models of the same manufacturer. A BMW 3 series will have wheels with a much different offset than a 5 or 6 series BMW. The difference is that the weights must be applied just behind the spokes and on a standard balancer there is no way to tell the machine exactly where this is.
Standard balancers know the diameter of a wheel, how wide the wheel is, and how far away it sits from the sensor that measures the run out. In a standard balancer all it is doing is looking for the slight variations of out-of-round in the wheels and tire assembly. The weights help to even out a side-to-side wobble (lateral run out) or an up and down wobble (radial run out). What is missing from the measurements is the amount of force the tire can throw off.
When balancing using a Hunter Road Force machine we are able to tell the machine exactly how far the wheel sits from the sensors that are taking the measurements, exactly the distance to just behind the spokes (where we must apply our stick on weights), the width of the wheel, and the diameter. Most importantly, a roller will apply about 1000lbs of pressure to the wheel while it is spinning to replicate what the wheel will act like when the on the road with the weight of a car on it. This roller can measures the amount of weight the tire can throw off while it is spinning. This is known as “road force”. Road force is present in new and old tires – sometimes, even more so in new tires which is caused from stiffness, lack of stiffness, or weak spots in the sidewalls of the tires. By reading the run out of the wheel and tire assembly in conjunction with the road force measurement the Hunter Road Force machine will virtually always get a wheel perfectly balanced. While the Hunter Road Force Balancer is taking measurements it looks at both the rim run out and tire run out to see if they are within industry specific tolerances and if the wheel and tire assembly is out of tolerance there are a whole host of other tests to determine if the excessive road force is caused by the rim or the tire. In most cases, rotating the tire to a different position on the wheel, or even using the tire on a different rim can eliminate excessive road force.
What the Hunter Road Force balancer can measure is not possible on a standard balancer. Because the style of wheels used on more cars today are alloy wheels that require stick on weights it is necessary for more styles of cars to have this kind of balancing done. In our own experience we have already had customers who found that after having us Road Force Balance their wheels it was the smoothest ride they had ever experienced while driving their car. Even when it was new!
Wheel Widening Resource
If you are in the market to either widen or narrow your alloy wheels then check out this place:
A few of our customers have sent out their wheels to be widened by these guys and are very happy with the results!
Beware of purchasing cheap alloy wheels online!
We just had a customer who bought used wheels online because they looked like a good deal but when he received them one of the lug holes in one of the wheels was ruined. Apparently, at some point the previous owner had to tap out the lug nut and destroyed the hole in the process. Now the lug hole is about 4mm larger than every other hole so the lug nuts will not tighten down properly. Our customer was wondering if something like this could be fixed and the answer is that it it really depends. The point is that if it were something we can fix the repair may be just as much as what he paid for his cheap wheels! If you are purchasing inexpensive wheels try to see them before you buy them. If a set of wheels is listed at a very low price it is not necessarily your lucky day. Beware! There are types of damage that you can not see in pictures so if you can not personally go to see the wheels before you buy them it is highly recommended to purchase used wheels through a reputable company. Every "used wheel" that we have for sale we certify that it is straight, runs true, and as no damage so you are buying something at a great deal that will actually work for you. The price difference is minimal compared to the head ache of spending good money on junk that you can not use.
What is an alternative finish to chrome wheels?
Chrome wheels are seen as less popular in certain parts of the country because the chrome finish does not hold up to the winter salts applied to roads during winter. Although chrome wheels are readily available and very popular in warmer parts of the country many consumers are wondering what alternatives they have to the chrome finish.
Having your wheels powder coated in matt, satin, or gloss black finish is a very popular alternative to a chrome finish because it will give your car a flashy appearance and has a much stronger adhesion to the substrate so you can drive in the winter and not worry about salt corrosion. We have also seen many customers have there wheels powder coated in colors like Porsche red, gun metal, “chrome” (a highly reflective silver powder coat), or matching the color of the wheels to the color of the car. Some customers will also request custom work like two tone colored wheel where the rim is, for example, black and the center spokes are white. Each of these options still give the car a flashy look and are much more durable than traditional chrome.
Polishing your wheels is another option. We have many people ask us about stripping all the old paint and polishing the aluminum underneath to a high – gloss “chrome like” shine. While this process is possible there are a couple of drawbacks. The main reason why we advise against this is because different alloys polish to different levels of luster. So you really do not know how shiny the finished product will be. Also, a polished finish will oxidize and require routine maintenance unless a clear coat is applied which alternately will dull the luster of the newly polished wheels.
A new method of coating called physical vapor disposition or “PVD” (also known as vacuum chrome) offers a very real and accurate looking chrome finish without actually chroming. A thin layer of metal or alloy coating is applied to a gloss black base coated wheel and the reflectivity is amazingly like chrome. This process can also be used to create a black chrome look. What really separates this process from chrome is the ability to topcoat the finish without loosing the luster and it will hold up much better in winter salts than a chrome wheel.
If you already have chrome wheels that are peeling your can find places to re-chrome your wheels that do a very good job depending on what you want to spend. The draw back is that the chrome finish can peel again just as the original chrome finish peeled.
Should I have my wheel straightened or should I buy a new (or used) wheel?
Depending on the wheel that you own, it could be much more costly to replace your wheel than having it straightened. However, for the purposes of this article let’s assume that having your wheel straightened is similar in price to purchasing a used or refurbished wheel off the Internet.
For starters, you really have no idea what you are getting when you buy a refurbished or used wheel off the Internet. The wheel may look good in all the pictures and the seller may say that the wheel is in great condition but when the wheel arrives it is bent and maybe even has a crack. So you now have another bent wheel (that you paid for!) and your problem is not solved. But wait! You paid with Pay Pal you say and there are guarantees! So you call the seller and they tell you, no, the wheel(s) were fine when shipped so they must have been damaged in transit. Oh, ok, now what do you do? I’ll tell you – just go have your wheel straightened by a reputable company. At the very least you know the condition of your wheel, what it has been through and if there is a problem in the repair of your wheel then you know where to take it back.
You may have heard that straightening a bent wheel has disadvantages like weakening the aluminum (so the wheel will bend again) or the wheel begins to leak between the rim and tire. The point of this article is not to get into this (I will write another article about these issues) but once again a reputable company will be able to deal with these issues promptly and you will know exactly were to bring the wheel to if one of these issues arises. If you want to purchase a “refurbished” wheel that looks like new and runs true and the price is still similar to having your wheel straightened just realize that this refurbished wheel was still straightened to get it into “perfect condition” and will have the same possible side effects as if you had the wheel straightened yourself.
There are a good couple of reasons to buy a new or refurbished wheel versus having your bent wheel straightened. The first is if the cost of a brand new wheel is less than the cost to have your wheel straightened then YES buy a new wheel! No! Do not have a company lower their price (and quality of work) to match the price of a new one. The second reason is if your bent wheel cannot be repaired. This happens once in a while and when it does happen it is a very good idea to purchase a refurbished wheel that will save you a lot of money versus the cost of buying a new wheel.
Why choose Wheel-Tech for your alloy wheel repair?
Alloy wheel repair is a growing industry and every year more companies offer wheel repair as part of their service offerings. But there are many things to consider when choosing a wheel repair company that you may not have thought of before.
First off, consider the history of the company that is offering to repair your wheels. Just because a company offers alloy wheel repair does not mean they know how to do the repair work properly. Wheel-tech has been around for over a decade and during this time we have invested in training and technology in order to properly repair alloy wheels. We only use the highest quality paints and powder coats when refinishing alloy wheels and this is evident especially in the before and after photos on our wheel repair and refinish portfolio. Through trial and error over the years, we have improved on the quality of products we use to repair wheels so our alloy wheel repairs will last. We are also experts in matching wheel colors, which are not so readily available to fly by night operations.
Something else to consider when evaluating wheel repair companies is that we ONLY repair wheels. Many companies that say they repair wheels actually send them out to a third party to be repaired. That means you, the customer, have no idea where your wheel is going or what qualifications this company may have when doing the repair your wheel. Companies that offer wheel repair but then send out the work are mainly interested in alloy wheel repair as an extra revenue generator. This means they will send out wheels to companies offering the cheapest service, and not necessarily the highest quality in order to maximize their profits.
Finally, who are the people behind the repair? Do the employees actually care about your wheel repair and the quality of work that goes into it? Workers typically care less about your alloy wheel repair since the goal is to finish as many wheel repairs as possible. In situations like this, skilled workers are not making the repairs and the quality can be questionable.
At Wheel-Tech, the owners carry out each wheel repair and they are highly vested in making sure your wheel repair is of the highest quality possible. Having this model enables us to be available directly to the customer, and allows us to address any of your wheel repair concerns personally. We are a family business! Check out our company to confirm we are a reputable wheel repair shop. Wheel-Tech is fully licensed, insured and an accredited member of the BBB with an “A” rating. As in every market or business there are cheap products and services and there are quality products and services. You get what you pay for so choose wisely my friends!
How do you straighten a bent alloy wheel?
Straightening a bent alloy wheel is more complicated than just taking a hammer and pounding out the bend. What once may have worked for a steel wheel will most likely damage an alloy wheel beyond repair so it is very important to bring your bent alloy wheel to a shop that really knows how to straighten wheels. The straightening equipment that is used to straighten out large bends or small bends in wheels has become very sophisticated.
First, the tire must be removed from the wheel because there is no way to accurately fix a bent alloy wheel with the tire on. Also, because it is necessary to use heat while repairing a bent wheel, leaving the tire on while the wheel is being straightened could cause damage to the tire.
Next, the wheel must be attached to and spun on equipment with a gauge that will show exactly where the alloy wheel is bent. It is true that just spinning a wheel on a balancing machine, for example, can help you see the wheel is bent but when it comes time to repair a bend in an alloy wheel properly then a gauge is a necessary tool to see where every bend is located (most bent wheels have more that one bend in them).
After the wheel has been spun with a gauge and marked where all the bends are located then the bent wheel can be straightened out. The first wheel-straightening machine that the bent wheel is attached to is used for taking out larger bends. With the wheel secured to the machine, heat can then be applied to the bent area of the wheel. Depending on the make of wheel and type of alloy used we usually heat the wheel to somewhere between 250 – 350 degrees. When the wheel is hot enough the bend is literally massaged out. In some cases this may take a few attempts since the aluminum wheel has “memory” and sometimes wants to return to its starting point. The use of a measuring gauge is critical here because when the bent wheel is being straightened out there must be an indicator as to what is “back in round” – you cant just press the bend in wheel until it looks round (because it probably isn’t).
After all the major bends have been taken out then the wheel is running true with just VERY slight bends around the rim. This is when the wheel is connected to the second straightening-machine where a high-powered torque motor rolls the wheel over a “shaper” that re-shapes the wheel. This process varies it time but will eventually get out the slightest bends in the wheel so the wheel will be running true within hundredths of an inch. All wheels are allowed a certain amount of variance (usually hundredths of an inch) but the necessary last step when straightening a bent alloy wheel is to have a good balancer. With the use of a balancing machine (after the tire has been re-mounted) then the last bit of variance can be trued out using weights.
One final straightening-machine (that is only used when necessary) helps us with lateral bends in the wheel – or when the very edge of the wheel is bent inwards or outwards. By using this combination of straightening-machines we have a mix of what we call half science, half art form, which allows us to straighten most of the bent alloy wheels that come into our shop.
Why Does a Cracked Wheel Weld and Repair Cost more than a Standard Repair?
When a wheel has a crack and needs to be welded the total time for repair is much longer than the time it takes to do a standard repair. This is because there are extra steps to take before a cracked wheel can be safely welded. First, a wheel that has a crack in it must be straightened and running true before the crack is welded because if the wheel is bent and then welded together the weld will not hold and the possibility of a blow out increases dramatically. In addition to straightening the wheel before welding, there is very specific cleaning that needs to be done to the wheel before it can be welded to prevent contamination in the weld itself. Contaminated welds are not pretty to look at and are not as strong. The welder, or the person who is going to be welding the crack in your wheel, must be very (and we mean extraordinarily!) skilled at TIG welding. Probably, the most important aspect in welding a cracked wheel is the skill level of the person welding and just like any other highly skilled person they must be paid accordingly.
We have seen and been through many welders that range in price for welding cracked wheels and because of this have seen how truly difficult this type of repair is – even for experienced welders! Currently, we have one of the best welders in the area repair our cracked wheel welds and will never go back to less expensive alternatives because of the liability and hassle involved when someone does sub par welding. The liability aspect is the safety of our customers, who we want to be safe, when driving on a wheel that we welded (so that it does not blow out). Not to mention the hassle involved when welds are defective because you, the end user, has to repeatedly come back to have the weld fixed and we see this as a waste of time for everyone involved.
Today, our success ratio on repaired and welded cracked wheels is at (or over) 99% – we just do not have problems because we try to do the weld correctly the first time. Lower cost welding is always an option somewhere but when your safety is involved cost is really the least of our concerns. We can not re-weld poorly done welds by other companies because the crack has been contaminated by unknown alloys and once done by someone else there is no way of knowing weather or not the Weld would ever hold again. If the cost to weld your cracked wheel properly is higher than the cost of a new wheel then our advice is to please go and buy a new wheel! However, if you have a cracked wheel that needs to be welded and you want to repair it correctly (the first time) then by all means please give us a call.
Why do Wheels Peel?
There are number of reasons why wheels will peel. The first reason that everyone thinks of is because of a bad paint finish but this is not always the case. Yes, it is true that a wheel, if not prepped properly, can peel over time. This becomes evident when a bubble occurs in the finish of the wheel and if this bubble is pressed on the paint cracks. Basically, the paint is not adhering well to the substrate. When peeling occurs on a newly finished wheel it is a good idea to take care of it quickly because most reputable businesses will have a standard warranty in place for a set time frame and you do not want to exceed this. Also, by waiting too long to take care of the problem the wheel can get much worse and be much more problematic to fix in the future.
However, even when the utmost care has been taken to ensure proper paint adhesion to your wheel, your wheel may still peel and this is really the reason why warranties are in place. Wheels that have a lot of corrosion develop deep pitting and oils can get trapped in these pits so that on the surface everything is clean but just a tiny amount of contaminant in one of these corrosion pits on your wheel could lead to a “bubble” as talked about before. Once the bubble occurs and the paint cracks other external contaminants will continue to corrode the affected area and the peeling can spread.
I have seen powder coated wheels that have come from the factory with over-baked powder coat primer that has bonded with the metal substrate overly hard that even highly toxic aircraft strippers have little effect on removing it. When this happens, the over-baked powder primer is so hard that even in a sand blaster the aluminum oxide will not scuff the surface enough to allow for a second coating – and many times these wheels will end up with peeling problems in a short amount of time right out of the factory.
Clip on wheel weights will lead to peeling and corrosion on your wheel because when the wheel weight is smacked on to the bead (or lip of your rim) it will break the paint. At this point salts, break dust, and other contaminants (even chemicals from wheel cleaners!) can, and most likely will, lead to peeling and corrosion around where the clip on weight was set.
What it boils down to is this: on newly refurbished wheels there is inherent disadvantage because all the old paint and dirt has to be completely removed and then what is under the paint must be dealt with (pitting wheels). Factory – new wheels have the advantage of using brand new aluminum, uncontaminated, and can still can have issues with corrosion and peeling (many of our customers with early to mid 2000 Lexus wheels have experienced this). Peeling can even be caused by the design of a wheel, like sharp edges on spokes that make it difficult for paint and powder coat to adhere properly. Even stones on the road that hit the wheel and take little nicks out of the finish on a wheel will begin the peeling process.
Regarding most wheel restorations the paint DOES adhere properly. Stick on weights are used at our shop to prevent the damage that clip on weights cause. Proper education on how to take care of your wheels to prevent peeling is also given to all of our customers who want to keep their wheels clean and the finish lasting for a long time.