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#2484734 - 01/06/12 01:49 PM First Experience Truing a Rim
sleddriver Offline

Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 1814
Loc: Central Texas
I had the tire & tube off of a 26" MB rim for a tire replacement. While at it, I decided to polish out the deep brake/dirt scratches on the rim. I then noticed two wobbles in it and decided to remove them.

That's where the trouble started.

Working on the sprocket side of the rear wheel first, and being a guitar player, I plucked the spokes for pitch. Pretty 'out of tune'. So I picked one, marked it and proceeded to 'tune' the others on the same side to a similiar pitch, then do the other side.

Big Mistake.

First I got righty-tighty lefty-loosey mixed up because I was looking from the opposite direction. It's easy to do and wheels do go round-'n-round. Finally got straight on that one.

Fortunately, I never made it to the opposite side as one spin showed I'd really botched it already. It was rather scary. So bad that 'middle of the rim' was now hard to find.

@#$%! Now what?

Youtube to the rescue!

I spent about 40 min. watching wheel-truing-videos, realizing that if I'd done this FIRST I'd of saved time and avoided much frustration. Lesson learned. So much for my musical spoke theory...

I removed the rubber ring that separates the nipples from the tube, and noticed it's much easier to gauge spoke tension this way. Though none were sticking out of the nipple, I loosened those that were too tight and tightened a few that were too loose. First though, I went around a put a small drop of chain oil on both sides of each nipple to make adjustment easier on this 17yr old wheel.

The wobble was now less, which was a good sign. Lacking a truing stand, I turned the rear brake pads around so that the metal studs were now pointing at the tire and moved them into position to use as references.

I started on the non-driven wheel side, found the first 'hump' to the left, marked the section with chalk, and tightened the opposite spoke(s) 1/2 turn and loosened the near spokes the same amount. Much better. I had three bad 'wobbles' to the left and managed to tame each. First with 1/2 turns, then 1/4, then 1/8. Then I grabbed sets of parallel spokes and squeezed hard to free up any binding. Then repeated for the other side.

Next, I tweaked out the wobbles on the driven side using the same procedure. The wheel looked much better! Boy, was I relieved.

To fine tune it, I needed something that would extend closer to the wheel than the brake pad studs. I used two wooden popsicle sticks with spring clamps to attach them to the frame. The rounded tips make it easier to see just where the humps are.

So I started again, this time only tightening the opposite nipple, not loosening the close one. Using 1/8 & 1/16 turns and less. Moving the sticks closer & closer to the wheel until they actually touched. It's an iterative process from one side to the other, then back again. Smaller & smaller adjustments.

I was able to get the wheel to within 1/2mm. I could have gotten out the dial indicator, but thats a bit fussy. I was just very relieved to have resurrected my previously botched work!

I squeezed the parallel spokes on both sides again, made a few adjustments, re-tired and went for a ride.

No spoke popping, no wobble, no humps either! It remained aligned even with my weight on it and really torquing the wheel. This was my first time to attempt wheel truing with the tire off. I'd previously made a wobble worse, with the tire on by getting righty/lefty mixed up with the spoke wrench. Live & learn.

Thanks for reading.
1998 Volvo V70 T5 200,771 mi. Original Owner.

#2486487 - 01/08/12 08:52 AM Re: First Experience Truing a Rim [Re: sleddriver]
cchase Offline

Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 3998
Loc: New England
Without a truing stand, getting the dish right is the hardest part.

Congrats on figuring it out - always nice when you don't have to depend on someone else for something like wheel truing.

#2486779 - 01/08/12 01:01 PM Re: First Experience Truing a Rim [Re: cchase]
sleddriver Offline

Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 1814
Loc: Central Texas
That was interesting reading about 'dish'. 'So that's how they do that!' Perhaps I'll make a jig.

Thanks for the reply. When I began to straighten up my mess, I thought I'd just get it back to managable then take it somewhere for the fine tune. But then I decided to keep going as it was progressing well!
1998 Volvo V70 T5 200,771 mi. Original Owner.

#2491642 - 01/12/12 06:53 PM Re: First Experience Truing a Rim [Re: sleddriver]
rpn453 Offline

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 4840
Loc: Saskatchewan
As long as the frame is straight, you can just center the wheel using either the chainstays and seatstays. Even the "self-centering" professional Park stands rarely center the wheel perfectly unless you flip the wheel back and forth to check how far it's off during any given truing job.

I remember my first truing experience as a kid. I didn't have a spoke wrench so I used a small crescent wrench. It was tricky and I made it worse before I made it better. I also thought I may have messed something up when the spokes started making popping noises during the first few seconds of riding after.

I like WD-40 as a spoke thread lube. I spin the wheel and give it a shot all along the rim then wipe it down before major truing, disassembling, or finishing the build of a wheel. The threads never seem to need lubrication again after that.
2004 Mazda3 GT Hatch 75k

#2491739 - 01/12/12 08:02 PM Re: First Experience Truing a Rim [Re: rpn453]
sleddriver Offline

Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 1814
Loc: Central Texas
Yea, the bike was the only wheel holder I had. So I clamped it upside down in the 29" end-vise on my woodworking bench. Makes a great bike clamp/stand. Fortunately I already had a spoke wrench. Lubing both ends of the nipple really helped with adjustments.
1998 Volvo V70 T5 200,771 mi. Original Owner.

#2504258 - 01/24/12 12:44 PM Re: First Experience Truing a Rim [Re: sleddriver]
meep Offline

Registered: 02/20/07
Posts: 2501
Loc: Southeast
i worked thru college as a bike mechanic. trueing a wheel is an art. you really have to do it to appreciate it. at first i could cure wobbles, dish, and center... but the wheel might not remain stable and would need it again soon after a rambunctious ride. Over time, doing things differently, getting a better feel... I made some wheels that simply never lost true unless there was a wreck or abuse.

One trick I learned... if a rim has a bad side-hit... spoke tension just won't do it. yes, you can pull it in some, but it may not be enough, it may need so much tension that it becomes egg-shaped, or the opposite side has no tension.... so I'd stand on the rim with bracking underneath, and it would flex but not change. THEN... I learned that speed of impact has something to do with it. Whack it good with a quick strike from a hammer (with wood blocks to protect) and it would reshape like butter. so the sharp, quick smacks would rebend the AL while steady, intense pressure wouldn't. So if it my rim, or a customer's, and it was accident-induced, blows with a hammer or heavy wooden block came first, then smaller blows to get it close, then spokes to fix.

Reason: all spokes need tension for the wheel to maintain its integrity during a strike. So loosening one side, tightening another, could compromise wheel strength if the loosening side remained loose.

A spoke-only true is great if it's just a maintenance adjustment.... spoke stretch, minor-gradual offsets, etc.. But beyond that the rim needs help.

End results are, however, if you get it set right, or find a wheel builder that knows the feel of a good wheel, they can last a long time and remain very durable.

I trued my own wheels more than they would come in to the shop for servicing. Park stand was very nice. Masking tape on the frame would work at home/dorm without the stand.

2006 Tundra 2wd
2002 MDX (wifey!)
2003 town and country, in various state of repair

#2563673 - 03/10/12 07:48 PM Re: First Experience Truing a Rim [Re: sleddriver]
NYEngineer Offline

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 1084
Loc: NY, NY
My Specialized Stumpjumper 29er came with alloy nipples. I told the kid in the bike shop they weren't going to last long. He insisted the suspension would soften the blow and save the wheels. Boy, was he wrong. After growing tired of bringing the wheels to the bike shop and being without it for a day or two, I decided to buy a Park TS-2 and learn to fix my own wheels.
I read Sheldon Brown's instructions, bought some straight gauge spokes, brass nipples and spoke prep and went to it.
After a little trial and error, I've settled into a system and now I build a pretty nice wheel. I build for myself, my kids and my friends. The Park stand was one of the best tools I've ever bought.

Edited by NYEngineer (03/10/12 07:48 PM)

#2563693 - 03/10/12 08:08 PM Re: First Experience Truing a Rim [Re: sleddriver]
cchase Offline

Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 3998
Loc: New England
Honestly, alloy nipples aren't the problem, I'm guessing whoever was truing the wheels was 90% of the problem.

#2564396 - 03/11/12 05:16 PM Re: First Experience Truing a Rim [Re: sleddriver]
Kestas Offline

Registered: 06/04/02
Posts: 10845
Loc: The Motor City
I seem to have a knack for these things. I learned to true wheels when I was 15. I could get rid of the sideways wobble and any ovality. I even brought back to life a wheel that I pretzeled in a mishap.

#2564902 - 03/12/12 07:50 AM Re: First Experience Truing a Rim [Re: sleddriver]
Hokiefyd Offline

Registered: 06/24/04
Posts: 11492
Loc: North Carolina
You guys are inspiring me to true the wheels on my 1991 no-name MTB. They've never been trued, but the quality is decent (alloy Araya rims made in Japan, with Shimano Alivio hubs). Neither front nor rear has much laterial runout, but I'd like to do this as a maintenance/learning experience more than anything else.

2008 Honda CR-V EX-L (QSUD 5W-30)
2005 Acura MDX Touring (FMC 5W-20)

#2565641 - 03/12/12 08:23 PM Re: First Experience Truing a Rim [Re: sleddriver]
Kestas Offline

Registered: 06/04/02
Posts: 10845
Loc: The Motor City
It helps speed things along to have the right-sized tool. I custom made one for my spokes.