Effective wheel specification, maintenance choices lead to longer service life

Effective wheel specification, maintenance choices lead to longer service life

How does a vehicle’s application impact wheel selection? What factors go into the decision to spec the correct kind of wheel? The answers, according to Chris Putz, principal engineer at Maxion Wheels Commercial Vehicle Wheels, North America, begin with an understanding of several important factors.

“In order to achieve long-life performance of wheels, it is important to follow all industry, OEM and component manufacturer recommendations,” Putz says. “That means knowing the type of vehicle and its intended use or duty cycle, vehicle speed and the environment in which it operates.”

Other factors that are part of deciding which kind of wheel to specify, according to Putz, are load rating and capacity requirements, tire size and inflation pressure, and vehicle payload. In addition, a fleet should know its needs regarding wheel appearance and ease of maintenance, as well as warranty and field service support available from a supplier.

“Since the introduction of hub-piloted wheel designs, with the correct application and proper maintenance wheels can last the life of the vehicle,” Putz says. “When specified, used and maintained properly, we do not see failures associated with hub-piloted wheels as long as manufacturers design wheels to industry standards and to exceed the strength and durability demands of customers.”

When it comes to wheels for heavy-duty tractors and trailers, it is often challenging for fleets to understand which wheel may be best for their needs, notes Brian Thomas, Alcoa’s marketing communications manager. Thomas says that this is because each vehicle manufacturer has its own system and identification codes.

“It comes down to a few easy steps to spec the right wheel,” Thomas says. “First consider available technologies, finish options and surface treatments. With that knowledge you can make the right wheel selection using tools like our SpecFinder for aluminum truck wheels. The online tool provides specific data codes for each OEM by vehicle and market application.”

Wheel maintenance extends life

Maintaining your wheels is important to extending their service life, Maxion’s Putz says. “The best way to stay up to date on recommended maintenance for wheels is to follow the practices established by the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council, which have been voluntarily adopted by fleets, OEMs and component suppliers,” he says.

“The most common concerns that fleets run into with wheels involve torque maintenance practices, fastener quality, cleaning and appearance,” Putz continues. “When inspecting wheels, technicians should look for cracks, bent flanges and flange wear, surface pitting or corrosion, flatness and wear of disc mounting and mating surfaces, and fastener degradation.

“The frequency of inspection is dependent on the service environment,” he adds. “We suggest that fleets establish a maintenance program with routine inspection periods based on OEM and industry best practices.”

Putz provides a few quick wheel care tips, including:

❶ Keeping wheels clean isn’t just for looks. Harsh salts and the corrosives used to keep roads free of ice in winter are tough on the finish of your wheels. Clean your wheels so the finish will protect the wheel from corroding.

❷ Check your wheels for cracks and rust regularly. Follow recommended guidelines for pre- and post-trip inspections and maintenance of wheels.

❸ Establish a program to check torque based on operations and vehicle duty cycles.

❹ Make sure torque wrenches are calibrated and wrench sockets are not worn.

❺ Each wheel should be thoroughly re-inspected after refinishing is complete.

Wheel inspection and maintenance is essential to safe vehicle operation, Alcoa’s Thomas says. “It requires thorough examination of wheels and attaching hardware, at frequent intervals, both on and off the vehicle,” he continues.

“Generally, older wheels and wheels operating in extreme conditions should be examined more frequently,” Thomas adds. “Clean wheels and look for cracks, corrosion, wear or other damage, and pay particular attention to the rim contour and the surfaces of the rim.”

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