What is the difference between knock off wire wheels and direct bolt style wire wheels?
Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask us about the difference between the US manufactured Truespoke® chrome wire wheels and the imported Truewire® chrome wire wheels from China. Certainly the cost and design differences of the two styles are dramatic.
The cost difference is the easiest to explain. There are few products produced in the world today that require as much hand-work as a chrome plated wire wheel. Chrome wire wheels contain as many as 300 individual components and every one of them must be touched by human hands. All the metal forming, polishing, chrome plating and assembly are performed mostly by real, live, human beings. This makes labor the largest cost component of a chrome wire wheel.
Labor costs in China, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are about 10 percent that of US workers. Since labor is more than 70% of the production cost of a chrome wire wheel, the Chinese chrome wire wheels cost about one third as much to produce as a domestic chrome wire wheel, all other things being equal. Shipping the product 7,000 miles adds some to the cost of the Chinese chrome wire wheels, but even still, the fully landed cost on the Chinese chrome wire wheel is less than half of what it costs to produce the same product in the US.
What is the difference in how you install knock off wire wheels compared to direct bolt on type?
The differences in the attaching mechanism for the two styles are equally striking. For more than forty years, Truespoke has utilized a direct bolt design, actually multiple versions of a direct mount design. We have designs that use tapered seat and flat seat (with washer) designs. The imported Truewire chrome wire wheel is a “Center-Lock” design. The Center Lock technique has been used successfully by automotive designers for nearly a century. Many prestigious European Auto Manufacturers, such as Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar, even BMW and Mercedes Benz have used this design, or one similar to it, from time to time. It is a proven and effective mechanical design when properly installed and maintained. The knock-off design does, however, require additional attention when compared to original equipment wheels, especially for the first hundred miles or so.
The hub is first mounted to the vehicle using the vehicles original wheel studs, making sure the Red Hubs are on the right side, or passenger side of the vehicle and the White Hubs are on the left side, or drivers’ side of the vehicle. The attaching spinner or hubcap, needs to be tightened in a direction opposite to the wheel rotation while driving forward. It is better to tighten the spinner with moderate hammer taps, as opposed to hard hits. The lug nuts holding the hub on to the vehicle must be torqued properly. They should be checked for tightness after the first 50 miles. Also, once a year it is a good idea to remove the spinner, pull the wheel off, give all the mating surfaces a light coat of white grease. Failure to do this could make it difficult to remove the wheel a few years down the line.
Never use an impact gun to remove or install lug nuts when dealing with chrome wire wheels. The reason to avoid using an impact gun during removal is simply to avoid scratching the surface of the wheel, or worse yet, damaging any of the spokes. It’s easy to scratch the chrome surface with the socket or the exiting nut or bolt while trying to maintain control of the impact gun. The reason to avoid using an impact gun to install the fasteners is even more simple: It is just plain wrong. For one thing, over-tightening can gall or deform the wheel’s lug seats. It can even distort the brake rotors.
Installing the Flat Seat lug nuts with washers is best done by starting just three lug nuts. Each lug with washer should be given only two or three turns, and then you should lift the wheel up on to the lug nut shanks. Next, install the remaining lug nuts and tighten them in a star pattern, four or five turns at a time. Never try to tighten any of the lugs until all are at least snug. Finally, use a torque wrench to torque the lugs to the proper torque value for the vehicle. Installing the tapered seat style of lugs nuts is very simple, but should still be done by hand and properly torqued.
All bolts or studs are designed to stretch a minuscule amount when optimal clamping load is achieved. Over-tightening can stretch the wheel studs beyond their elastic range. This elasticity of the stud or bolt is what helps to secure the wheel on to the hub. When torqued to specification, this is referred to as achieving the proper “clamping load.” If the stud or bolt is excessively over-tightened, it is possible that it will stretch beyond its yield point, losing its “rubber band” effect.
Over-tightening, in its extreme, can create a distortion of the wheel hub, which can lead to an eventual wheel failure. Excessive over, or unequal tightening can distort both the wheel center section and the hub causing disc brake warping and brake pedal bounce.
If the fasteners are under-tightened, they can loosen during operation. If over-tightened, the fasteners can become fatigued and can deform the material in the wheel’s lug seats, which can result in fastener loosening. Over-tightening a flat-seat nut can deform the wheel, causing the material under the washer to extrude, which displaces the metal, causing the nut to loosen.
It is important to repeat;
• Never use Impact wrenches for installing or removing the lugs on Chrome Wire Wheels
• Always use a calibrated Torque wrench for the final installation of Chrome Wire Wheels
• Re-check all wheel attachment lugs after 50 miles running after the initial installation.
• Re-check the spinners on your knock off wheels occasionally. Remember to tighten them opposite to the normal rotation of the wheel. Most knock-off spinners or hubs have arrows on them showing the proper direction you should be going. Going the wrong direction can easily strip the threads on the adapter or spinner.
Care for Chrome Wire Wheels
In addition to questions about the price and design characteristics of the two chrome wire wheels, we get many questions on quality, especially about the chrome plating. As Americans, we’d love to say the domestic wheel is vastly superior to the imported wheel, but that would not be accurate. Our process of using a Copper Base creates a more uniform triple-plated surface and some additional protection over the Truewire imported chrome wire wheel. The Copper-Nickel-Chrome triple plating is more expensive to produce, but results in a more substantial surface. If you look closely you can actually see the difference. The domestically produced Truespoke® wheel has a more bluish tint to it and the finish is noticeably brighter. The Truewire® has a slight gold tint. The steel used in the construction of the Chinese chrome wire wheel is quite similar to that of the domestic product, and the roundness and run-out are also very close. We have not experienced any significant differences in the performance of the products in service. Proper care is still the biggest factor in determining the life expectancy of any chrome wire wheel.
• Never use cleaning products on the Chrome Wire Wheels, or the tires, that contain Chlorine. It will cause the wheels to rust and it can stain the tires.
• Make sure the wheels are completely dried after cleaning.
• For everyday use or short storage, use Pledge or even Old English furniture polish on the chrome finish. Pledge is easy to use because it dries clear.
• For seasonal storage, liberally coat the wheels with WD-40. Take care to keep it off any whitewalls.
Never hesitate to contact us for technical support no matter what brand of wire wheels you have or where you purchased them. We are always happy to provide friendly advice to wire wheel owners. Click here to contact us.
Which costs more? Chinese knock off wire wheels or US made direct bolt wire wheels?