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What to do about my wire wheels


Freshman Member
Hi folks - I've been a member here for ten years but haven't actually posted anything so hope I'm not breaking a rule somewhere.

I have an Austin Healey Sprite that I've been driving around for ten years and have decided to embark on moving it from "barely drivable" status to something a bit more acceptable. One rather obvious aspect of this is the wheels. They are wire wheels that were painted white some time in the past, presumably to hide the gruesome amounts of rust that had accrued.

2019-08-20 11.05.35.jpg

Does anyone have any idea of what my best approach is to making these shiny again? I have a funny feeling the answer is going to be "throw them away and buy some new ones" but I'd rather be told that now than a few weeks down the line when my kitchen table is covered in lovingly paint-stripped but entirely un-savable spokes. :smile:



Great Pumpkin
Hi Chris - first thing I'd do is decide if the wheels are actually worth saving. Bent, out of round, cracked, wobbling, etc. If you just drive around the block, might not matter. But road driving - you want the wheels in good condition - and some wheel issues can't be fixed.

Tom M.


Great Pumpkin - R.I.P
Pay particular attention to the splines; worn-out splines are a safety hazard even just driving around the block.

Unfortunately, they are also the most prone to being attacked by rust, if they haven't been greased on a regular basis.

John Turney

Country flag
...Does anyone have any idea of what my best approach is to making these shiny again? I have a funny feeling the answer is going to be "throw them away and buy some new ones" but I'd rather be told that now than a few weeks down the line when my kitchen table is covered in lovingly paint-stripped but entirely un-savable spokes. :smile:

First, congratulations on finally braving to make that first post. We don't bite, at least not hard. :wink-new:
Second, it sounds like you are thinking of disassembling the wheels. I wouldn't do that. Assembling wire wheels and making them run true is not for the faint-of-heart.
Third, as Randall said, the main thing is if the splines and hubs are worn too much, it's a safety problem. The top of each spline in the wheel hub and in the axle hub should be rounded. If the top of each spline is sharp or bent over, the wheel and axle hubs will have to be replaced.

From Classic Motorsports: https://classicmotorsports.com/articles/wire-wheels-classic-cars/

Now comes the most important inspection, the splines. Remove the wheel from the car and clean away the grease from the splines to allow a good visual inspection. The splines should be slightly rounded at their peaks, not sharp. They should also be symmetrical.

The inner 1/4 inch of the splines does not contact the hub, so you can compare that portion to the rest of the spline surface during your inspection. Clean the hubs and inspect them the same way you inspect the wheel. Remember that worn splines are dangerous, so this is an important inspection.

If the splines on either the wheel or axle hub are worn, the only solution is replacement. Further, if you put a new wheel on a worn hub, or vice versa, the new component will quickly wear out. So the best and safest recourse to worn splines is new wheels and hubs.

Ask away!


Country flag
Sprite wheels don't seem to be as susceptible to damage as the 15 inch wheels on big Healeys, because of the shorter spokes I think. At any rate, I'd check the splines as mentioned above and check them for trueness by fixing a pointer against the rim and see if it stays in line when spinning the wheel. If everything works out ok, strip the paint, prime and paint them with some Moss wire wheel paint which is a great match to the original color.


Freshman Member
This is great advice, thank you. I'll check the splines - my guess is that this might send me down the "new wheels and axles" route because there's an ominous clunk from the right rear occasionally when starting off, and now I think about it splines might be the cause of that...



Great Pumpkin
Country flag
Remember, when there's a clunk it indicates wear in the splines, but when this happens, it's not just the wheels, it's also the hubs. They wear about the same rate. putting new wheels on worn hub splines isn't a good idea. Just sayin, PJ
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