Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Hammered Rims (part 2)

Continuing the saga of Hapy's rims...

Sorry Mate
As I indicated in the last post about these rims, I tried every trick in the internet playbook to get these rims off the hubs. I finally gave up and took the bus over to the local Firestone. We met Dan the manager man and Mat the Tech and explained our situation:
We have a new set of rims.
We do not want to mount tires onto them until we know they will fit properly because we can't return rims after tires have been mounted on them.
We are unable to get the old rims off.
Please remove one rim, demonstrate the new rim will fit, then we'll mount some tires, they slap them on the bus, and we're done.

Clint cutting rim
First, Mat needed to remove a rim. Mat is an old longhair VW'er with a car he intends to get buried in, so he understood what he was working on: a family member. We moved Hapy outside one of the bays, and he chocked the wheels. Some quick work with a floor jack and a tire tool and he had the front end in the air and the lug nuts off. That was where the easy stuff ended. He tried a few of the things I had tried, and added a long pry bar to the mix, but he couldn't get the wheel off either, though he put his sweat into it. He and Dan conferred. They decided that they could not remove the wheel without risking damage to a bus that they could not repair because parts for a 50 year old bus aren't as plentiful as they once were. They pointed across the street to an old VW repair shop which I had never seen before. They figured that shop could get the wheel off, and could replace whatever parts they break along the way. They didn't charge us anything for the effort, and said they would hold the tires for a few days in case we could get the old wheels free.

Disappointed, Boo and I left in separate cars. She headed for Beaverton Sub Station (treated Mat to a foot-long 2-car for his trouble) and I headed for that old VW shop. Since it was Saturday, the shop was closed. So, after a morning of hope, I was looking at an afternoon of trying to solve it myself. Again.

Food First
First, we ate subs. Now, the Beaverton Sub Station is under new ownership. After many years, Chuck has finally retired, and sold the shop to 2 of his longest tenured employees (like 20 years there), so the shop will probably remain very much the same. With food in my belly and about 1/2 a bottle of Pineapple Jarrito's in-hand, I returned to Hapy's rim.

Cut Hammer Cut
While looking at the rim with Mat, he indicated that wheel was stuck on either by the center bore or by the lugs. It was difficult to tell for sure, but it was one or the other. It was not held on by rust between the 2 surfaces. I decided I would take the most desperate of measures and start cutting the rim down with an angle grinder until it came off. With the front right corner of the bus back on a stand, I decided I would sacrifice the front passenger-side rim to figure it out. I donned my full face-shield and gloves and then started cutting around the center bore of the rim. After a few cuts, I would swing sledge-hammer to see if it would break free. I did this over and over again until I was running out of meat around the grease cap. It was about this time when a couple of our friends dropped by for an afternoon / evening of visiting. Clint likes clowning on cars and his current living situation has him without tools and a project, so he wanted to jump in. More hammer swingers always welcome.

Clint set to work on the rim, determining what Mat and I had concluded: this is not stuck in any typical way. Since I had already decided to sacrifice the rim, Clint got bold. He suggested (I agreed), and then cut the spokes in half, removing the outer rim (see the picture above). This left the hub still attached, but with greater access. We talked about various ways we could continue, but decided that drinking by the fire pit was a better idea, especially since it was getting dark, the fire had been started and our wives were already a drink ahead of us.

The following morning, I started up again. Since it was a Sunday morning, I grabbed my quiet manual hacksaw and cut along the mating edge where the rim meets hub. I cut all the way down to the studs. No effect. By then, it was after 11AM, so with the angle grinder and the hacksaw, I cut from the outer edge of a spoke towards the hub. Then, I cut between the spokes towards the center. Then, I made a cut along the backside of the spoke. I thought this would weaken the alloy enough to brake off pieces. And, I was right. Bit by bit, over the course of the afternoon, I was able to make 3 cuts, and then hammer with the 4# sledge to free some pieces. This left broken alloy against the hub and studs, but the outer edges of the studs were visible.

So... What Was It
cut, cut, cut. then
pound, pound, pound
With the alloy coming apart, I was able to see something wrapped around the studs inside the stud-hole of the alloy (see picture below). It was the inner edge of the lug nuts. These lug nuts had a small shaft that was designed to go between the hole in the rim and the stud for a snug fit. That little shaft broke off inside the rim... on every wheel... on all but one stud. So, when you buy lug nuts, make sure they are the right ones, and don't buy the cheap ones. Cheap nuts break, and the cost could be really bad if it's while driving, or it could cost you a rim. Someone once said you rarely regret buying good tools, except at the sales counter; in contrast that is the only time you don't regret cheap tools. Replace "tools" with "car parts". My lesson learned.

So, to complete the removal, I chiseled the lug nut shaft to break it and then chiseled off the remaining bits of rim, leaving a pile of alloy under the hub. I sprayed the rotor with brake cleaner and brushed the studs with a wire brush. Last, I verified the threads were clear with an old original lug nut. Now, I could test fit the new 15" rims.

Replacement Shoes
note gunk on stud
Bear in mind, I had been cutting and hammering for about 6 hours, so I was getting loopy. Still, I wanted to enter the week knowing if the rims were a fit or had to get returned. I bought these rims off eBay marketplace, and had 30 days to return them. I had possessed them for less than a week, so I had time, but I have little trust in return policies, so I wanted to get one rim on relatively quickly. I got it unboxed and unwrapped fast, and it popped right on. There is a little wiggle around the center-bore and the studs have a little too. I can rotate the wheel/rotor as a unit and nothing scrapes. So, they technically fit. But how do they look? For that, I defer to my more aesthetically aware half, Boo.

She noticed that the lines on the rim bring out all of the horizontal lines on the bus which I hadn't really noticed: the air vents in the back, the jalousies window, and then the body lines of the pop top, the sliding door, the window top/bottom, the belt line, etc. I guess there are lots of horizontal lines. The new rims are smaller in diameter than the 16" rims, but the new tires will be taller, so the bus will look more like it did with the original tires, in terms of rim -to- tire ratio. Last, the check from the front. It looks like the rim sits a little bit deeper in the wheel well, so I may be able to fit a spacer in there, if I want to.

Regardless of that decision, the next step was easy: get the new rims to the tire shop and get the new rubber installed. The step after that, getting the other 3 rims off, was the step I was most concerned with. It took me 2 full days of cutting and hammering to get the first one off. I don't think I could repeat that if I wanted to. So, thinking "work smarter not harder", we consider the root cause: junk threads on the studs holding the rim like lug nuts that don't have anything to put a wrench on. So, maybe the right cuts to make are with a hole saw around the stud. If I can run a hole saw around each stud, I should be able to remove the rim. 9/16" is just a hair larger than 14mm, and the stud is 14mm. Since a 9/16" hole saw would bind against the stud, I'm going one size bigger: 7/8". I have a shallow one from an old hole saw kit and the size should be perfect. A quick trip to the Home Despot and I'm ready to remove the other 3 rims.

That's it for today. I'll follow up once I get the tires back, the 3 old rims off and the 4 new rims mounted. After that, I'll be able to focus on the rear brakes like I intended to when this saga started. Thanks, as always, for following along-

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