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How to restore a rear wheel


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First off, this is NOT really a how-to posting. This is just how I'm doing it, based on what I've learned via Youtube. I have zero expertise in this field!


It's a long story; I'm rebuilding my wood flatbed deck so I can tie down my motorcycle; the old wood was not pressure treated, and when I went to install some D-rings, I found rotted areas.

First I thought I would just replace a few planks, but underneath I found more rot. This deck was built two owners ago, exactly 9 years ago. So I decided to pull ALL the lumber and rebuild it 100% using PT wood.


Of course, while the deck is off and the running gear is exposed, this is the perfect time to take care of some mechanical maintenance, such as replacing the suspension leveling valve, which has been leaking recently, and replacing the four rear shocks, which are in various states of being rusted through.

I've done the leveling valve, and am now working on the rear shocks.


As others have reported here, you basically need to remove the wheel to get at the lower shock bolt (or its nut, to be more precise).

So while the wheels are off, I've been meaning to polish them, and had already bought the polishing supplies required.


The first thing I did was to remove all four upper shock bolts. Three came out nicely, one sheared off at the nut end. I used my 4-1/2" angle grinder with a cutoff wheel to sever the bolt and spacer near the head-end bracket. I bought two new upper bolts and all four new lower bolts, and all 8 lock-nuts, from the local Volvo dealer. The new shocks are Gabriels via Ebay.


Then I removed just one wheel and went to work on its shock. The lower nut was a struggle all the way off, and of course the bolt was solidly rusted to the sleeve. So I used the angle grinder to make two cuts, just inside the bracket ears at both ends of the bolt. Access is very limited to this area. I protected the air bag while grinding and was able to cut part way through, then rotate the bolt, cut some more, etc. Eventually I was able to shear the bolt by torquing the head while holding the sleeve with vise grips.


I restored the first wheel while it was leaning up against a wood pile. The aluminum was fairly pitted, so I started with 120-grit paper on a dual-action 5-inch sander. I've studied the videos by Denis at DC Super Shine, so his methods are more or less my "bible". The pitting was fairly deep, and I didn't want to remove that much aluminum (more due to the effort involved than any concern over wheel weight!). So after a lot of work with the 120 paper, I progressed to 180, 320, 400, and 600 grits.


Then I polished using the green Menzerna cutting compound with the 10-inch fast-cut airway buffing wheel. This made the wheel look nice and shiny almost immediately. I followed up with the Menzerna blue final finish rouge bar and an untreated white buffing wheel.


Working on the first wheel in that position was tough on my back, and a challenge to access all parts of the wheel. Being inspired by Wayne Stoegbauer's video showing his "Lazy Wayne" (a lazy-susan bearing for rotating the wheel while sanding and polishing), I spent a couple of hours this morning building a pedestal with a 12-inch lazy susan bearing on top from the hardware store. [i used scrap wood left over from removing the old decking!] The bearing is topped with a disk of wood, which in turn has an 8-inch-diameter centering disk to locate the wheel center bore. Here is a video of my first attempt to set up a wheel on the lazy susan:



[Note: this video is a large MP4 file (100 MB); you may want to right-click and download the file to your local hard drive, then play it from there. When I try playing it directly online, it is stuttering and slow.]


Before I attempt that stunt again with the next wheel, I'm going to add a cross-bar screwed to the top wooden disk of the turntable, to clamp the rim in place, to make sure the wheel and the pedestal remain "as one" during the lift. I'll also ask my wife to "foot" the base of the pedestal, to ensure it doesn't slip out. I was lucky it didn't slip out that first time; it was only due to the rough gravel surface here that held it in place.


This afternoon I did the sanding steps on the second wheel. The pedestal and lazy susan makes a BIG DIFFERENCE! It's still a lot of work, but much easier due to the work height and rotation ability.


Here is a photo of the first wheel I polished:



This is what it looked like before I started:



If you look closely you can see the pitting is still there:



But the wheel looks 100% better!


If anyone is interested in how the pedestal-bearing was constructed, I can take some detailed photos.



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Roger, yes the tires are that old. The truck got all new tires when the previous-to-last owner bought it and converted it to haul RVs. But that was back in 2007! The tires have something like 20,000 miles on them, so the treads are practically like new.

The sidewalls look excellent with no signs of cracks or micro-crazing. The truck spent about 7 years sitting in a farm field in Wisconsin, with occasional short road trips, so I suspect the tires didn't see a lot of bright sunshine during that period.


But to your point, yes, I understand the failure risk grows as the tires age. My plan is to replace the fronts fairly soon. But in the case of the 8 rear tires, they're carrying under 2000 lbs per tire (my scale ticket shows 14,000 lbs on the tandem axle pair), and have a load rating of 5600 lbs per tire (tandem rating). So if one were to fail, it might be hardly noticeable. I know I'll have to replace the rears sometime in the next few years; but it's not in the budget yet.


Obviously a front failure could be catastrophic, so I know I need to do something about the fronts quite soon. When I take the fronts off to polish them, that is when I will get new tires on them.


Jim & Alie: sorry I can't make the ECR this year; I'll miss you guys.



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