Wiring in the Profits
Have you really ever noticed just how many vehicles have wire wheels on them?
How often have you been driving around town and think to yourself, "Wouldn’t it be nice to capture some of that market?"
Building on the selling techniques that we’ve discussed in the last few issues of this magazine, let’s turn our focus to wires wheels, the two most basic types of which are the direct bolt-on and the knock-off wire wheel.
The popularity of wire spoke wheels started nearly a half century ago with vintage roadsters like the Shelby Cobra and classic cars like the T-Bird and has evolved into one of the hottest segments of the wheel industry today. A lot of today’s customers have 1980s or 1990s vehicles usually rear wheel drive models. SUVs are also a preferred canvass to restyle.
Car club members like to spend every spare dollar and minute turning a plain average car or truck into a one-of-a-kind showpiece, worthy of respect for its beauty and, most often, the engineering feats accomplished to build these rolling works of art. Entire enthusiast magazines are devoted to this market segment and are doing very well based on the vast number of specialized component and wheel advertisers in each issue.
Major car show competitions are held to showcase the years of hard work these enthusiasts have put in and award bragging rights to the best car clubs. What does this all mean for you, Mr. Tire Dealer? Sales and lots of them.
Types and Options
Let’s start with the direct bolt-on wheel. These wheels are typically the same as any other just mount the tire and bolt it to the vehicle. Notice in Photo A that there are 15 lug holes in this wheel.
This combination represents 5-4.5/4.75/5 bolt circles. The big benefit is that you can fit a multiple vehicle applications with only one part number.
These wheels can be built with any combination of chrome and gold plating, and are offered in reverse, standard and high offsets. Some companies offer colored or painted spokes, as well.
Although different manufacturers have products that look alike in the design of their wheels, most pans (the cap that covers the lugs) are not interchangeable between manufacturers. On the other hand, the spinners are more readily changed using only a single bolt from under the pan.
Many times you will have a customer ask for a set of wire wheels and tell you that they own a front-wheel drive car. Beware because the combination of a car needing a high positive offset and a standard or negative offset wire wheel may lead to worn out front-end parts, poor driveability and excessive tire wear. Inform the customer of these possibilities as many are unaware of the problems this application generates.
The next type is the knock-off wheel. It was dubbed this because you literally have to knock the nut off of the spindle. This application isn’t as straight-forward as the direct bolt-on.
First, you must bolt a spindle adapter to the vehicle using open-end lug nuts. The most critical part of this assembly is putting the correct spindle on the proper side of the vehicle.
Notice in Photo B that one spindle adapter is red and the other white. Red always indicates the passenger side or right side as you are sitting in the vehicle. Just remember the Red = Right. White, obviously, goes on the left side.
A word of caution: Make sure that the spindle adapter fits the lug pattern correctly and pay close attention to make certain the adapter fits flush against the hub of the vehicle. On occasion, the center bore of the adapter will not clear the hub of the vehicle and this could lead to the loss of a wheel or worse.
Once the adapter is securely fastened, slide the wheel onto the spindle. Be careful not to damage the threads on the spindle end.
Next, thread the knock-off onto the spindle. The passenger side (red spindle/right side) threads are reverse thread. Look under the knock-off or on an ear for the direction to tighten. As the vehicle drives forward, the knock-off is continually being tightened. The knock-off may become loose or fall off if you don’t pay attention to the thread direction.
Start threading the knock-off by hand to make sure you have the correct one and that it hasn’t been mislabeled. The manufacturer should have provided a wrench and/or lead hammer with the wheels to install the knock-off. Warning: Do not tow any vehicle with knock-off wire wheels in a backward direction.
The lead hammer is heavy, but soft. This will minimize the damage to the knock-off or wrench as you hit it. It takes a great deal of torque to set a knock-off properly. Check with the wheel manufacturer to determine the proper torque rating.
With a Bullet
There are some of the very popular styles of knock-offs. A variation of the "Bullet" knock-off is the most popular, followed by the "dome" style and "two-three bar spinners."
As with the bolt-on wheel, any part or the entire knock-off wheel can be gold plated or painted.
Our example in Photo C shows a 20-inch, 100-spoke with a gold bullet.
As a progressive, performance-minded tire dealer, you could easily stock a set of 15-, 16-, 17- and 20-inch wire wheels and be able to fit almost any vehicle simply by changing the spindle adapter. Another sales opportunity is to offer classic tires in popular 15- to 17-inch sizes to go with the wire wheels.
A last word of caution. When mounting or dismounting a wire wheel, be very careful not to damage the seal in the drop center of the wheel. If this seal is broken, air can seep through and cause the tire to go flat. This can be fixed, but if you get in a hurry and make an unfortunate mistake you’re in for a lot more aggravation.
Don’t forget to promote your store and place these items on a display where they can be seen, especially at night!