New Wheels for the Parts Hauler

Now that I got the truck low enough that I don't get nose bleeds from the altitude every time I drive it, it was time to look for some wheels. The large diameter "rims" that are all the rage on trucks right now, do nothing for me aesthetically. Besides that, they're damned expensive. I prefer more traditionally styled wheels with their roots in OEM or racing bred wheels. Since the truck has large disk brakes on all 4 wheels and currently has 17Ē X 8Ē wheels on it; that eliminates most traditionally styled wheels.

I like the Halibrand style kidney bean wheels made by PS Engineering in Torrance, CA and they list 17Ē X 8Ē wheels with any back spacing in their magazine ads so I gave them a call. Paul said he had never made a set of wheels for a Dodge truck but he was willing to give it a try.

When I arrived at his shop, he removed one of the stock wheels from the truck and took some measurements to see if the wheels could be made to fit. So far, so good. The next step was to machine one of the blank casting wheel centers as a prototype to see if it would clear the hub and disk brakes. The first step in machining was to cut the back of the casting down on a lathe.

The next step was to program the mill to cut the bolt circle. The mill was programmed to use three cutting tools. One to drill the holes for the wheels studs, a second to bevel the wheel stud holes, and a third to cut a relief for the lug wrench.

Once the mill was programmed and the center casting was clamped in place the mill could run unattended until it was time to switch the cutting tool.

After the mill did its thing the rear of the casting was de-burred.

His dad pitched in too. Here he is pressing in the steel inserts that allow the use of the same style lug nuts as the steel wheels.

Here is the center after machining and pressing the inserts in.

The center was test fit on the truck and everything had plenty of clearance. Looked pretty good but I donít think the tire would hold air like this.

The next step was to heat the rims in the oven to get them to expand.

The hot rims were placed on a flat slate surface with a spacer that was the height of the desired back spacing in the center. The cool (cool temperature not cool looking) centers were set inside the rims on top of the spacer and then he sprayed the outside of the rims with water to cool them down.

The interference fit holds the two pieces together with about 30,000 lbs of force but thatís not enough. The centers are also TIG welded to the rims on the back side.

Finally they were checked for run out to make sure the heating and welding didnít distort the wheel. One of them needed the rear surfaced about .002Ē on the lathe to get it to run true.

When we put the completed wheel on the truck the first and only real problem came up. Even though the new wheels are the same size as the originals and have the same back spacing (the fronts are the same anyway, Paul talked me into 9 inchers for the back), the new wheels hit the brake calipers. The reason is because the step in the center of the new wheel is closer to the center and the step in the original wheel is closer to the outside edge which gives more clearance for the brakes. The solution was to grind some of the outside edge of the caliper. No need to worry about weakening the part. The area that was ground was nearly 1Ē thick cast iron. Paul spent quite a bit of time grinding a little and then test fitting the wheel over and over and over until there was sufficient clearance. He did both of the right side wheels and I agreed to do the left side myself back at my shop. It didnít take nearly as long to do the left side because I had the right side to use as a guide for how much to grind.

First I ground the area smooth and sprayed Dykem Steel Blue on it.

Then I put the wheel on and gave it a test spin to see where it rubbed.

The area where the Dykem was scratched was where I needed to grind. I just kept repeating this process until it didnít rub anymore.

I really like the way it looks now. It was a great adventure and a good learning experience watching the wheels being built. I really appreciate the extra effort that Paul put into making this project successful. Because of the amount of work I donít expect to be seeing these wheels on Dodge trucks all over town.

I also popped the emblems off of the doors to clean the sides up a little more. A little heat from the heat gun and they pulled right off. They left a lot of goo behind though. I got that off with Goof Off. I'm going to take the emblems off the tail gate too as soon as I get some more Goof Off.