Archive for April, 2009

Open letter to the SEMA, Wheel & Tire Council

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Regarding the ET Lug Nut issue, “you’re welcome”. I realize I’m retired and therefore have a lot of extra time (so one would think). However, I grew up back in the days, when someone did something for another, especially without compensation, it deserved a “thank you”. Therefore I decided to take the first step (which is normally the second step) and give the proper response to a “thank you” with a “you’re welcome”.

The ET Lug Nut issue was another reason I believe that the Aftermarket Wheel Industry is in sad need of some technical people that know and understand what an automotive wheel is and what it is supposed to do. After reading some of the comments and lack of comments on your Basecamp email, regarding this issue, it confirmed my belief that there isn’t currently any competent technical people on your Council, and certainly no good knowledgeable people active in the industry today. I think there are a couple of folks that I used to consider very good technical guys, but they have since succumb to the ego feeding frenzy that seems to get to all of us a one point.

I’m sad to say that gone are the old timers that started this industry. Guys that were “Car Guys”, and actually worked in the industry, designing, developing new methods of making wheels and putting them together. Creating new finishes, new ways to attach the wheels to the vehicle and developing sales and marketing strategies to sell the wheels. Now is seems that the technical people are gone, replaced by a computer in China. Wheel engineers are really only a Chinaman on a computer running a SolidWorks or Pro-E CAD program. Structural knowledge and design is done by inputting the design into a Finite Element Analysis (FEA) computer program and letting it make the decisions. Not a bad way to do it if you don’t care about the weight of the wheel. In fact, I’d say the only folks that benefit from design by FEA are the aluminum companies and the shipping companies. The heavier the wheel, the happier they are.

Testing is a joke. All the Asian wheel companies have testing equipment and claim that their wheels are all tested and meet a standard. Based on my experience with Chinese companies (and there are many) they don’t understand the first thing about wheels much less how to test them. Remember, most of the factories have only been doing this for less than 10 years. Their technical people are all graduates of their universities, but most of them have never even driven a car, much less know anything about them. I doubt their universities have courses in wheel design, wheel testing or anything involving an automotive wheel. Their knowledge and experience is based on “monkey see, monkey do”, and what they’ve seen on the internet. I do believe they have classes in “how to copy anything, and make it cheaper”.

Other than technical people, the industry is flush with sales and marketing people. The day of the outside salesman is fast becoming extinct, because the internet is the now place to sell. Web sites are the new ego race. It is evident that the comments by some of the members of the ET Lug Nut) Task Group was proof that they had no clue about the purpose or history of the ET Lug Nut. A few buzz words like “shear point” and “torque value” would make one think they had some knowledge or technical background. By the way, what is “torque value”? Sounds very technical, so I would like to know what it means.

As for Fitments and Applications, that’s a bigger joke than testing. There are now a few companies that are offering fitment and application information for those companies that don’t have their own staff that goes out and actually checks brake caliper configurations, hub sizes, bolt patterns, offsets and fender clearances. I’ve seen some of this information and have seen a phrase or term that is called the “X Factor”. I’ve been told that that is the brake caliper clearance or condition that is used to determine the configuration of the back side of a wheel in order to assure there is no interference between the wheel and the brake system. I’ve designed a lot of wheels and can say from experience that to insure proper and ample brake clearance, I had to actually measure and chart the true configuration of the brake caliper in relation to the mounting surface of the wheel. I’m guessing that the “X Factor” is based on 3 conditions:

1) the brakes are really big.
2) the brakes aren’t that big.
3) the brakes aren’t big at all.

Designing wheels is an exact science, and the “X Factor” is just a way of saying, “we really don’t have any exact measurements or configurations, but we think it is —–”. As I said, a joke. But the industry seems to have bought it. I guess that speaks volumes for the industry as a hole today.

I’m sure all the members of the Select Committee are extremely busy these days due to the massive amount of business that is coming your way via the results of the Stimulus Plan that our new Leader and his Merry Band of Legislators have provided us. Oh wait a minute, maybe the Aftermarket Wheel Industry doesn’t get any of the Pork, because they haven’t shown enough failure or don’t have enough Union workers. In any event, when any of the Select Committee, SEMA Staff, ET Lug Nut) Task Group or any other member of the Wheel Industry finds time to thank me for my effort in helping resolve the ET Lug Nut controversy it would be appreciated. I’m excluding the one individual who responded to my TECH Stuff # 13 article in my blog, Brian Boley. He had some useful input the industry could benefit from. Thanks Brian.