Is It a Good Idea to Use Inner Tubes With Wire Wheels at All?
To some people, an inner tube is a dirty word! Other, more knowledgeable wire wheel owners know that inner tubes have their place in certain circumstances.
First of All, What Is an Inner Tube?
An inner tube is an inflatable ring that forms the interior of some pneumatic tires. The tube is inflated with a valve stem and fits inside the casing of the tire. The inflated inner tube provides structural support and suspension, while the outer tire provides grip and protects the more fragile tube.
What Is an Inner Tube Made Out Of?
The tube is made out of a mix of natural and synthetic rubber. Natural rubber is less prone to punctures and is often more pliable, while synthetic rubber is cheaper.
Do Wire Wheels Require an Inner Tube?
Most Truespoke® Wire Wheels do not need an inner tube. It depends upon the style of wire wheel that is selected. Wire wheels that have high offsets or high backspaces, typically have the spokes located close to the front lip of the wheel. Wheels with this type of structure will require inner tubes. An example would be a “lip-lace” or “bead-lace” wire wheel such as is used on a classic Thunderbird.
Standard and reverse (“deep dish”) type Truespoke® Wire Wheels are constructed as tubeless type and do not require an inner tube, although, all Truespoke® Wire Wheels are “tube-friendly” and it is optional if the owner wishes to use an inner tube or not.
Are Inner Tubes Expensive?
No. Most inner tubes cost between 15 and 30 dollars each for sizes up to 15 inches in diameter. Larger tubes will cost more money.
Is It Very Hard to Install Inner Tubes on My Wheels?
No, it is not, if the tire technician has been trained or has experience with installing the tubes. Lacking training or experience, the installation can be a challenge. Sadly, improperly installed inner tubes will lead to inner tube failure, which might leave you stranded on the edge of the freeway or worse yet, in the middle of a lane of traffic. An experienced installer will generally use baby powder to help install the tube and will take precautions to make sure the tube does not have any creases or gets pinched on the rim.
Are There Any Special Precautions That Must Be Taken With Inner Tubes?
Prior to installing inner tubes, a careful check must be made to be certain there are no inspection tags inside of the tire or any sharp edges or particles that could harm the inner tube. We have seen as many as 6 inspection tags inside a single tire. These tags are less than ½ inch long and ¼ inch wide with bar codes on them. The tags can become brittle and scrape or puncture the inner tube over time.
With inner tubes, the tube must not be under or over-inflated. Doing this may make the tube burst or fail.
The inner tube valve stem could be harmed if the valve stem hole in the wheel rim has any sharp edges. These edges will chafe the stem leading to a leak.
What Advantages and Disadvantages Do Inner Tubes Have Compared to a Tubeless Wheel and Tire?
The main advantage of an inner tube is that if your wire wheel type is a lip lace or “bead lace” style, inner tubes will prevent leaks. Even if a wire wheel is represented as being tubeless, given enough time and usage, leaks frequently appear. Having an inner tube will prevent your wire wheel from leaking.
Because quite a few tire shops mishandle or are careless when installing a small tire, such as a Premium Sport 5.20 whitewall tire or a steel belted radial tire, such as a Remington narrow whitewall tire, 175/70R14 size, onto a wide wire wheel, such as a 7-inch reverse type. During the installation process, an installer may tear or rupture the silicone liner in a wire wheel which will quickly lead to an air leak. Using an inner tube is a common solution to solving the leak, rather than having to re-seal the wire wheel. Re-sealing a wire wheel must be performed at the Truespoke® or Dayton Wire Wheel factory to maintain a factory warranty and to ensure that there are no more leaks. Shipping and repair costs can cost hundreds of dollars. Using an inner tube is an easy way to resolve the problem.
In some cases, repairing a tubeless tire may not be feasible or is expensive. A puncture of the sidewall may ruin a tubeless tire. An inner tube is easy to install by an experienced technician and is cheap. With an inner tube, you can change the tube and get back on your way. Whitewall tires are expensive and having to replace them is an unwelcome experience.
Some owners feel that inner tube equipped tires have a smoother ride than tubeless tires. Not all owners agree on this point.
If I Get a Puncture, Which Is Better? A Tubeless Tire or Tube-Type?
One of the biggest concerns with inner tubes is that once punctured, you may have a rapid loss of air. A tubeless tire may only have a slow leak. If you are riding on white wall tires, such as a Coker, American Classic, Goodyear, or BF Goodrich, you do not want to have a rapid loss of air. Having a rapid air loss while driving on the freeway, you may not have enough time to move over to the shoulder and change your tire or await the Auto Club to tow you to a tire shop. The sidewall of your tire would collapse and you might be riding on your white wall stripe, possibly, permanently ruining it. On the other hand, once punctured, a tubeless tire may only have a slow leak and you could be able to creep to a nearby tire shop or at least get over to the side of the road.
Our experience has taught us that the main cause of inner tube failures is due to the installer not carefully installing the tubes. Pinching the tube will lead to leaks or blow-outs. Failing to remove the inspection tags can also lead to flat tires.
The Punch Line!
If you have lip lace or bead lace wire wheels, generally found on front wheel drive cars or classic Thunderbirds, you have no choice but to run inner tubes or you can plan on trailering your car everywhere. If you have Truespoke® Wire Wheels or Dayton Wire Wheels in standard or reverse styles, there will be no need for inner tubes, although both brands that we sell are “tube-friendly”. The wire wheels can accept an inner tube. Vintage wheels that have no safety bead, such as the rare Buick Skylark wire wheels, require inner tubes. Most modern wire wheels already have a safety bead.
Some vintage and classic white wall bias ply tires made by Coker Tire, Firestone Tire, BF Goodrich, and Good Year, require inner tubes. You should verify with the tire seller if the bias ply white wall tires you are considering purchasing require inner tubes.
If you need good advice, never hesitate to call or email us. Friendly advice is only a phone call away since 1974.
- Your friends at Truespoke® Wire Wheels