By Greg Illes
No, not slang for a new car/vehicle, but literally new wheels. When I was a kid, snazzy wheels were the easiest way to radically change the personality of our “ride” – and honestly, I don’t think that has changed over the years.
Problem was, for my older Winnebago/Itasca (“Howie”) on the Workhorse P32 chassis, nice wheels have been elusive. Quite a while back, Alcoa made some cool aluminum wheels for the rig, which has a very tiny bolt circle (10×7.25). But those wheels were rated very low in strength, only 2750#. This was way too low for the 15,000 GVW chassis, with 2300-2900 pounds on any given wheel. Even the crummy stock steel wheels were rated at 3000#.
So I whimpered and whined, painted my steel wheels, and lived with them … for years. Not bad, but not great either.
Enter the entrepreneurial Chinese manufacturing dynamo. For those of you who are resolute “buy American,” I guess you can stop reading right here. But sadly, there simply is no buy-American option, so I elected to go with the Chinese product … warily.
First, I read all the reviews I could find, and tried to determine if there was any quality issue. Nope, none that were apparent. Second, I sought out a local tire/wheel shop with a lot of experience and a superb reputation. They didn’t have any issue with the (American) distributor.
And with good reason. The wheels are extremely well-made and finished, and they are designed with a huge 3/4″-thick center plate. The weakness of Alcoa’s design was a thin center plate and the small bolt circle. With this new design, the wheel is rated at the full strength of the beefiest tire that can mount to it (G range), 3750#. Wow, talk about safety margin.
There are some added advantages besides appearance improvement.
- The wheels are stronger, with a higher safety margin that the stock steel units.
- And they weigh about 20# less each. That adds up to 80# more useful load in my near-the-limit coach. That’s 80# more stuff, gas, propane or water before hitting the GVW.
- The lower weight also means the suspension has less “un-sprung” weight to deal with, which means the shocks work better, and rough roads are slightly less rough.
Disadvantages? Cost of course. And then there’s cost. And lastly, there is cost to be considered. (OK, I think you get my point.) My price was about $450 per wheel, plus mounting/balancing. Kinda pricey.
But of course, every time I walk up to the rig, the appearance jumps out at me. They sure do look cool. Call me extravagant. Howie deserves it.
Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his excellent blog at www.divver-city.com/blog