Open letter to the SEMA, Wheel & Tire Council

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.

TECH Stuff # 13 – ET Lug Nuts. What are they, and why?

February 20th, 2009

Within the Aftermarket Wheel Industry, a controversy began during a meeting of the Wheel & Tire Industry Council meeting at the 2008 SEMA Show. A presentation was being done by some of the members regarding Fitments and Applications. It was suggested that ET lug nuts are recommended in cases where questionable thread engagement was present. A statement came from the audience, that ET lug nuts did nothing for thread engagement and had no usable purpose. I took exception to that statement and argued that ET lug nuts are all about thread engagement. Since that meeting there has been a lot of discussion in regards to the true purpose of ET lug nuts, why they were developed and a lot of other hog wash about technical aspects of lug nuts in general. I’d like to add my 2 cents to this discussion. I’ll start by giving my recollection of why ET lug nuts were developed.

Going back to the 50′s and early 60′s, the Aftermarket Wheel Industry was born because of the desire of car guys that wanted something other than stock painted wheels in stock sizes. These cars guys wanted chrome wheels and they wanted them wider so they could use bigger tires. At that time, the OEM’s didn’t offer aluminum wheels. As a result the stud length was shorter on the vehicles. The average stud length was about 3/4″ to 7/8″. This was adequate for steel wheels and there were no thread engagement issues. Then in the early 60′s, the Aftermarket Wheel Industry started offering aluminum alloy wheels. The developers of these wheels solved the thread engagement problem by coming up with the Mag Type lug nut. Since the mounting pad thickness was about the same thickness as the stud length on the vehicles, which left little or no threads on the stud to attach a standard conical seat lug nut, they came up with a lug nut that had a shank that went into the wheel lug hole enough to accomplish proper thread engagement (see illustration). This system was adequate but left a lot to be desired. In order to assure that the wheel was attached to the vehicle with good alignment and acceptable runout, the diameter of the lug hole had to be drilled with a minimum of clearance for the lug nut. After the vehicle was driven enough to heat up the brakes and wheels, the aluminum wheel expanded, thus shrinking the diameter of the lug nut hole. It was then very difficult to remove the lug nuts when the wheel was hot, in order to change a flat tire or what ever.

Now moving forward in time, the OEM’s began offering aluminum alloy wheels on new vehicles. They determined that the use of Mag Type lug nuts was not the best system. They began to offer their aluminum wheels with conical seat lug nuts. They did however lengthen the studs on the vehicles that were offered with aluminum wheels so there was adequate thread engagement. This prompted the Aftermarket Industry to adjust their offering so they could keep up with the OEM’s. In the late 80′s, the Aftermarket Industry began drilling their lug holes with a conical seat instead of the Mag Type lug hole. It was then discovered that the use of a standard lug nut (Acorn Type) was causing problems with the seating area of the wheel. Steel inserts was a solution, but it was soon discovered that the OEM’s were using a Bulged Type lug nut which eliminated the problem with the seating area. So the Aftermarket lug nut manufacturers started offering Bulged Type lug nuts. At that point it seemed that all was well in the Aftermarket Wheel Industry. Not so.

The problem of thread engagement became an issue when a conversion from steel to alloy wheels was made on vehicles that had short studs and were never intended to have alloy wheels. The Aftermarket again responded by developing a Bulged Type lug nut with an extension that would go into the lug hole enough so that proper thread engagement could be accomplished. This lug nut was called the ET (extended thread). Combined with the bulged seat area, the extended thread provides the best attachment that is currently offered.

I have recently observed another problem. In my illustration I show examples of wheels with mounting pad thicknesses from .390″(10mm) to .630″(16mm). I do not recommend a mounting pad thickness to be greater than .390″(10mm). I have done extensive testing on wheels produced in China since 1993 using a .390″(10mm) mounting pad thickness. I have sold in excess of 750,000 wheels and never experienced any failures. Using a Std. Bulged Type lug nut in a wheel with a .390″(10mm) pad thickness on a vehicle with short studs (.800″) (see illustration) is still under the minimum thread engagement recommendation of SAE. And using an ET Bulged Type lug nut in a wheel with a .630″(16mm) pad thickness on a vehicle with short studs (.800″) (again see illustration) is also under the minimum thread engagement recommendation of SAE. In my opinion, ET lug nuts should be used on all aluminum wheels. In summary, what does an ET Type lug nut do? It provides a method to assure proper thread engagement. What is proper thread engagement? Proper thread engagement is defined as engaging the threads onto the bolt or stud by at least the diameter of the bolt or stud. Prior to mounting a wheel on a vehicle, the length of the stud should be checked against the thickness of the mounting pad below the bottom of the conical or spherical seat. Another way to check is to mount the wheel and check how many turns the fastener makes before it reaches the seating area. An example is if using a ½”-20 nut, then there should be at least 10 complete turns.

The Professor Answers Your Questions (June 07 Edition)

June 28th, 2007

Do you have a question about wheels or rims for your custom hot rod or daily driver? Leave a comment and the Professor will answer.

The TQ Wheel – a brief history

June 20th, 2007

TQ Rod WheelThe TQ Rod Wheel was designed and introduced in 2000 by Larry Anderson. Anderson is a 40 year veteran of the wheel industry and a Hot Rodder. In the late 90′s, Anderson decided to recreate the favorite car of his youth, a 1954 Olds Super 88.

Being a wheel designer, he wasn’t satisfied with the choices that were available from the wheel industry. It seemed that there was a lack of individualism in the Hot Rod field, and that everyone ran the same two or three styles. So Anderson designed the TQ and started selling Hot Rod wheels.

In January of 2007, Anderson retired and sold his Hot Rod wheel business to HRH Classic Alloys. He now spends most of his time working on his own Rods and doing a little consulting to the wheel industry. Along with the TQ, HRH offers a wide variety of wheels and tires for Rods and Customs. Call them at 800.372.5133 or check out their website at TWE-Inc.com. Also check out Anderson’s Blog at wheelprofessor.com.

The Wheel Professor

June 7th, 2007

Article written by Tom Madigan April 2006

Tom Madigan has been an automotive writer for over 40 years. He was a feature editor for Popular Hot Rodding magazine for many years and has written several books including Boss: The Bill Stroppe Story and The Loner: the Story of a Drag Racer. Tom recently wrote the book Edelbrock: Made in the USA.

Larry Anderson, the Wheel Professor, believes in quality of product no matter what the decade.

In the old days, many of the pioneers who manufactured high performance equipment for hot rods and race cars were themselves racers and enthusiasts. Over the years, big business took over, the bottom line became the definitive goal and most of the small shop operators gave in to progress. The one on one approach between supplier and racer was lost. Marketing, bulk sales, wholesale distribution took priority over any personal relationship. The manufacturer became a nameless figure and direct contact with the customer was long forgotten. Today mass marketing, warehouse capacity and sales figures dominant the performance industry as product demand forces more emphasis on quantity and less on quality. Read the rest of this entry »

TECH Stuff #12 My Thoughts and Comments

June 2nd, 2007

Since this is the last of a series of TECH Stuff added to the advertisement for the TQ, SLT and RT5 wheels, I decided to take the opportunity to put in a plug for the wheels and the company that offers them. They are great wheels. They are manufactured to the highest quality standards, tested to meet the SAE J2530 Aftermarket Wheel specification, and designed to offer the best sizes, fitments and styling for Hot Rods, Customs and Muscle Cars. I’m a bit partial because I designed and created them. I retired in January of 2007. Read the rest of this entry »

TECH Stuff #11 Modified Wheels – Safe or Risky?

June 1st, 2007

The original equipment wheels that the factory puts on cars and trucks are designed and tested for use on a specific vehicle.  The wheels that the aftermarket offers are designed and tested to fit a wide range of vehicles.  The range of those vehicles is determined primarily by the load rating or weight of the vehicles.  Both OEM and Aftermarket wheels are designed and tested to a standard and to a maximum load carrying capacity. In TECH Stuff 3, wheel standards, testing procedures, marking requirements and load ratings were discussed.  Using a wheel that was designed, tested and manufactured for a different vehicle carries some risks.  Modifying a wheel to fit a different vehicle than originally intended, carries even larger risks. Read the rest of this entry »

TECH Stuff #10 How to choose the wheels for your Rod

May 15th, 2007

Choosing the wheels you want to run on your Rod involves a few things to think about.  Style, finish and size are the main considerations, but before you make those choices, there are a few things to mull over.

1.  Style

I’m sure we all have a style in mind that we’ve pictured in our heads that would look cool on our Rod.  The 3 most significant appearance features of a custom ride are the body styling, the paint scheme and the custom wheels.  The wrong wheels on a custom rod is the same as wearing brown shoes with a tuxedo.  Some of us are nostalgia freaks that want the same custom wheels we had on our first car, and then there are those who think billet is cool and others who want a touch of today in their wheel style.  In any event, make sure the wheels you want are available for your particular Rod.

2.  Finish

In an earlier TECH Stuff (#7) we discussed finishes of custom wheels along with their proper care and maintenance.  This is a big consideration.  Painted and chrome wheels require the least maintenance.  Polished aluminum requires the most.  Think about how much time you are willing to or can devote to cleaning your wheels.  Also check out the finishes available for the style of wheel you want.  Steel wheels are available in painted or chrome.  Cast one piece aluminum and forged wheels are available in painted, machined finished, polished and all chrome.  Billet 2 piece wheels are offered in machined or polished only.  Composite (steel rim / aluminum center) only come in all chrome.

3.  Size

After you have made your style choice, check to see the available sizes.  The older styles that are still available are most likely offered in 14″ & 15″.  The newer styles are probably not available in 14″ and the pickens are slim in 15″.  For some reason a lot of the manufactures have skipped the 16″ and gone with 17″ and up.  I personally like the 16″ because the tire selection is huge and you still get the big meat look with the tires and the nostalgia look with the wheels.  The trend of big wheels and low profile tires is becoming more popular with the Rodders every year.  The steel wheel with baby moons and trim rings starts to look goofy in 17″ and the early composites and one piece aluminum styles get lost after 17″.  So if you’re into the nostalgia look of the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s, plan on sticking with 14″, 15″ and 16″ wheels. 

4. Other things to think about

A.  Does your Rod have or do you plan to convert to disc brakes?  Some of the aftermarket brake systems are not very wheel friendly.  Make sure you check with the brake manufacturer to verify the compatibility between his brakes and your wheels.  I think some of these brake manufacturers think everyone buys brakes first, then builds a Rod to fit them.  I’d bet there were more Rods built around a set of wheels than brakes.  I’ve never had a brake manufacturer call me and ask for wheel profiles or samples to check against their brakes.  Seems like the logical thing to do.

B.  Check the bolt pattern (TECH Stuff #2) on your Rod to make sure the wheels you want are available in your bolt pattern.  There are a lot of Mopar guys out there that have stressed out trying to find a 5×4.00″ bolt pattern in the wheel style of their choice.

C.  Make sure you have verified the load rating of your wheel choice to the load requirements of your Rod (TECH Stuff #3). 

D. Last but certainly not least, check your clearance in the wheel well.  Check for fender clearance, brake clearance, suspension and steering component interference.  Refer to TECH Stuff #1 for more information on determining your wheel backspacing or offset.  Nothing is more irritating than tire rub when turning or going over bumps. 

In summary, do your homework before you decide on your wheels.  They can make your Rod.  And remember, don’t go to the prom with brown shoes.

TECH Stuff #9 A few facts about using Nitrogen in tires

May 1st, 2007

Using Nitrogen to inflate tires instead of plain old air or oxygen is not a new phenomenon, but it sure is getting some attention lately.  I did some research on the subject and decided I was missing the boat.  I’m one of the 85% of Americans that don’t regularly check the inflation pressure in my tires (I wonder who took that survey?).  Based on my research, I should be using Nitrogen.  I learned that Nitrogen is all around us and we take in Nitrogen in every breath of air we breathe in. Read the rest of this entry »

TECH Stuff #8 the pro’s and con’s of Plus Sizing

April 15th, 2007

Plus Sizing is a fairly recent trend (I think it started in the late 80′s or early 90′s). Well when I say recent, I mean compared to the 50′s and 60′s when I was getting into cars and making them street cool. The basic idea of Plus Sizing is to replace the stock wheel size with a larger diameter wheel and still maintain the same original tire and wheel combination diameter. Back in the early days, up to and including the 70′s, the only thing that happened when you put larger diameter tires on your rod, was the speedometer read slower than you were actually going. That only worked when you said but Dad, the speedometer said I was only going 50. Read the rest of this entry »