Wheels and Rims: A Solid Foundation

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Matt White is the Director of Tire Services for the Tire Industry Association (TIA). He has over 34 years of experience training technicians from all over the globe on how to stay safe on the job. Photo Matt White

A tire service isn’t complete if you haven’t taken the time to inspect and clean the wheels.

We often think of tires as standalone items. In reality, we should be thinking of “tire assemblies,” which include the wheel or rim. Let’s face it, without a wheel a tire is useless. We need to see the wheel as the foundation, and we need to make sure that this foundation is as solid as possible.

Whether you’re working on a small lawnmower tire, a passenger tire, a light truck tire, a commercial truck tire, or even a huge OTR tire, the wheel is the foundation.

Inspection and service

Whenever we service tires, we also need to service the wheels. It’s easy to focus on the tire that needs to be repaired or installed and to forget the wheel or rim that it’s attached to. But if we want to stay safe, we need to think of both.

It’s also easy to just remove the tire and install a new one without cleaning or inspecting the wheel. But remember: the tire itself can’t perform its job without the wheel. Together, the tire and the wheel make up a pressure vessel, and in the case of the largest tire on the planet, the wheel assembly can store over a million foot-pounds of energy. To put that in perspective, it takes about nine foot-pounds of stored energy to break your arm. Imagine what a million can do to you!

Whether it is a one-piece wheel, a three-piece wheel, or a five-piece wheel, all wheels need to be cleaned and inspected. However, it’s critical for the tire technician to understand how each type of wheel is designed, where all the deadly energy is stored, and how to work with each type of wheel in order to avoid disaster.

For example, the flange supports the bead bundle, and in the case of one-piece wheels, it also contains the stored energy. But when it comes to three- and five-piece wheels, the flange supports the bead bundle, and the lock ring stores the energy. That’s why it is so important to understand how each wheel design differs from the other.

Tires cannot function properly without the right wheels. Photo Huw Evans

Training is a must

With so many different designs and wheel manufacturers on the market, the only way for tire technicians to understand all the dangers is with training. Knowing how to measure the wheels, and understanding how all the parts of each wheel fit and work together requires a lot of hands-on training, as well as an understanding of the manuals that cover each application.

Tire technicians should be trained to understand the importance of properly cleaning each wheel, and they need to be allowed the time to clean each wheel, as well as the tools to both inspect and clean wheels.

If you think of the wheel as the foundation of each tire service, and you give each wheel the attention it deserves and demands, then you’re more likely to increase overall safety.

Moreover, if we remember that tire technician needs the training, the tools and the time to do the job properly, we’ll be able to keep them safe. After all, properly trained tire technicians are the foundations of our industry.

Be safe out there!


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