During the winter, a car collector’s shop can be the warmest place around. After Labor Day, the car hobby starts quieting down and this gives collectors more time to tinker with those jobs you never seem to get done during the summer. Taking care of those pricey old-car tires and wheels is an area that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Check your tire inflation pressures once a month when it’s cold outside. If one or more tires are consistently lower than others, there must be a slow leak. Inspect closely for a bad seal. Rust around the wheel rim, where the bead of the tire seals, can cause a loss of air pressure. In addition, porous aluminum wheels may allow air to gradually escape, even though there’s no real seal leak.
Keep in mind that tire inflation pressures will go up or down about one pound per square inch with every 10-degrees fall or rise in atmospheric temperature. If you live in the Snow Belt and don’t have the entire storage building heated, as it gets colder inside, your tires will lose air.
You can get the most from your tires by keeping them inflated to at least the factory-recommended pressures all year long. Some experts say you should add five pounds extra during winter storage – but remember to let the extra air out when spring arrives. Having the tires pumped up will make them last longer, too. Tests show that 30 percent under-inflation reduces tire life by one-half. Cars stored with tires that are under-inflated are also more likely to develop flat spots and go “thump, thump, thump” when you next drive the car.
To keep your classic car’s tires from flat spotting, move the car back or forth a couple of feet on a regular basis while it’s in winter storage. If this is not possible, you may want to store the car with stand jacks supporting the axles so the tires are an inch or so off the floor.
Tire switching was called “rotating your tires” back when your old car was brand new. Switching tires from one position on the car to another usually prolongs their life. With four good tires, experts suggest cross-changing them from right front to left rear and left front to right rear at regular intervals.
With five good tires, the order of rotation is to put the spare on the right rear; the right rear tire on the left front; the left front on the left rear; the left rear on the right front; and make the right front tire the spare. There are variations in patterns for specific models, so check your owner’s guide or shop manual to see what’s recommended for your car.
Did you know that by switching tires every 4,000 miles, you could drive 20,000 miles and put only 16,000 miles of wear on your tires? This job takes quirte a bit of time and effort, especially if you own multiple vehicles, so winter is the perfect time to switch tires on collector cara.
Safety is an important consideration when changing tires. In most cases, tire work is done on collector vehicles with the help of a hydraulic jack, a lift, or a hoist. However, if a bumper jack is used, follow the factory instructions for jacking the car up. Here are some instructions for a 1940s car. The procedure for many other old cars is similar:
1. Set the hand brake securely and remove the hubcap. Barely loosen the nuts which hold the wheel in place, using the socket and jack handle. (Be careful. On some makes the wheel nuts on the left side may turn in the clockwise direction, while those on the right side may turn counter-clockwise).
2. Set the small lever on the side of the jack to the “up” position and place the jack under the bumper, in a vertical position, about 18 in. from the center of the front bumper or 24 in. from the center of the rear bumper. Pump the jack handle until the tire is clear of the road. If the lifter on the jack is too high on the stand to slip under the bumper, set the small lever on the side of the lifter to the “down” position, lift up on the socket handle, and slide the lifter down.
3. Turn off the nuts that hold the wheel in place, using the socket and the end of the jack handle. Slide the wheel from the hub and replace it with the spare wheel and tire. Replace the nuts and tighten the hub nuts all around.
4. To lower the car, set the small lever on the side of the lifter to its “down” position. Lower the jack and tighten the hub nuts with the wheel on the ground. Replace the hub nut.
Although you may never need to jack up your old car with a bumper jack, it’s a good idea to try it out under non-emergency conditions in the winter. Then you’ll know how to operate the jack and change a tire, should you have a flat tire while touring next summer.
On many old cars, the tires were marked at the factory with a red mark on the sidewall, near the bead, denoting the lightest point of the casing. On cars that used tubes (most pre-1955 models and some later models) the valve stem is the heavy point of the tube and should always be placed at the mark. All tires (and tubes in the old days) varied in their individual amounts of off-balance. Therefore, they were matched at the factory to counter-balance each other.
Due to irregularities in tread wear, caused by sudden brake applications, misalignment, low inflation pressures, tube or tire repairs, etc., a tire and tube assembly can lose its original balance.
If any disturbance is the steering wheel was felt while touring last summer, or if pounding, tramping, or shimmying was experienced while driving the car, one of the first items to check is wheel and tire balance.
Saving tires when you drive
If you check your tires in the winter, they will be ready for springtime driving. When you start driving again, remember that maximum tire life can be achieved by careful attention to driving habits and regular tire service. Here’s 10 tips to caring for your tires once winter ends.
1. Keep tires properly inflated at all times.
2. Avoid spinning your wheels when starting.
3. Avoid sudden stops.
4. Turn corners at moderate speeds.
5. Steer around bumps, ruts, or minor obstructions in the road.
6. Keep out of car tracks.
7. Do not bump or scrape the curb.
8. Keep the front wheels in proper alignment.
9. Keep brakes adjusted. Bad adjustment causes uneven tire wear.
10. Don’t forget to check the spare tire’s pressure once in a while.
11. Interchange (rotate) tires every 4,000 miles.
Check prongs on old wheelcovers
If you had wheelcovers come flying off your collector car last winter, hopefully they didn’t get ruined or hit the car and scratch up its paint. During winter, it pays to check and take care of your wheel covers.
Carefully remove a wheel cover with a pry tool. Lay it flat. Is it dirty, greasy or wet? Does it sit flat on the ground – or wobble? Are the edges smooth or wavy? Most wheel covers attach to the rim with prongs along their outside edge. These tend to flatten with age and bend.
Clean and polish both sides of the wheel disc. Apply wax to protect the clean finish. Wear gloves and a face mask. That grayish-black “dirt” on the back of the wheel cover may contain asbestos dust. The prongs can be bent to close-to-original shape using ordinary hand tools such as screwdrivers and pliers. Bend them just a little at a time, then make a test fit on the wheel. Through trial and error, you’ll get the prongs to grip the wheel rim properly. If a few are missing, but you get the others back in shape, you’ll probably have enough gripping force.
Once you have taken care of the prongs, reinstall the wheel cover. Take care to put the opening for the tire valve stem in the proper position. It should allow the valve stem to pass right through without being squeezed or bent to one side. Now, snap the prongs into the wheel rim and push the wheel cover smoothly in place. It is best to install a wheel cover using only hand pressure.
If the edge of the wheel cover bulges out in one spot, gently tap it into place with a rubber mallet. Do not tap hard enough to dent the wheel cover, which is easy to do. Avoid tapping directly on the outside edges, which bend more easily. Tap close to the center.
If you run through this tire and wheel checklist over the winter months, you should be able to have your collector vehicles ready to roll when spring is here again.
#1 When removing a wheel and tire assembly, barely loosen the lug nuts with the socket and jack handle. On some cars the lug nuts on the left side may turn off clockwise, while those on the right may turn counter-clockwise.
#2 When tightening lug nuts, it’s good practice to use a torque wrench like Vince Sauberlich is doing here. Check the workshop manual for proper torque specs or use general military specs.
#3 The prongs on a wheel cover can be bent to close-to-original shape using ordinary hand tools such as screwdrivers and needle-nose pliers. Bend them just a little at a time, then make a test fit on the wheel.
#4 Regular pliers can also come in handy for “restoring” the shape of the prongs on back of the wheel cover. Both sides of the wheelcover should also be cleaned and waxed.
#5 If you position the wheel cover so the tire valve comes cleanly through the hole, it will be much easier to inflate the tire with the wheelcover in place. This will also keep the sharp edge of the hole from slicing the rubber tire valve.
#6 If the wheel cover bulges out, apply gentle force with a mallet or your hand. Do not push hard enough to make a dent. Avoid pushing directly on the outside edges, which dent easily. Apply pressure closer to the center like this.