Banded Steel Wheels
I bought an old van recently and have been thinking about what wheels I want for it.
The van is tired and almost worthless so there’s no point spending loads of money on alloy wheels worth more than the van.
Before I was born my Dad used to race stock cars. Back then they used to make their own wide steel wheels….banded steels.
This was the 70’s so they were making them by hand and using OEM steel wheels that weren’t great to start with.
People have been banding steel wheels for ever. From farm vehicles to hot rods, from drag racers to custom cars, from beach buggies to stock cars, it’s always been a cheap way to go wide.
In the early days there were many common problems such as wheels loosing pressure through poor welds causing splits, wheels coming off under heavy cornering forces due causing the poor quality OEM wheels to fail around the bolt holes.
These days banded steel wheels are more popular than ever. But are they safe?
How are they made?
I spoke to Chris at Mr B’s Bandies for some background and inside knowledge about banded steel wheels.
What’s involved? How do you band a steel wheel? Can I do it at home DIY style?
Banding a steel wheel involves cutting the wheel at a point which doesn’t affect the original welds, ideally with a centre lathe, adding a band of steel to a desired width (commonly 1/2 inch increments) and welding back together then finally, cleaning the wheel with a grinder for a seamless finish. These days, mass produced OEM steel wheels are a great base and are well made.
First, Chris checks the donor wheels are straight and true. It sounds basic but it’s very important. Once the wheel is cut on the centre lathe and the band has been selected, a jig is used to line the parts up and ensure the wheel is perfectly straight and true.
Once the welding process begins, skill and experience really comes in to play. Welding puts a lot of heat into the metal which can distort it.
Experience and skill allows the fabricator to balance the heat generated and the speed of the welding to create the perfectly welded banded steel wheel.
Chris at Mr B’s Bandies favours TIG welding the wheels himself by hand. He welds a root run followed by a capping run over the top.
Yes, it’s extreme and over the top and It’s a lot more time consuming than MIG welding but ultimately it’s a stronger weld which is gives important piece of mind when you look at the state of our roads.
Once the wheels are banded Chris can ship them back to the customer in a raw state for the customer to finish or he can arrange painting or powder coating if required.
Are they safe? The simple answer is yes, if they are made correctly. Check the welds for porosity or cracks and to see if sealer has been used to hide bad welds.
Lay the wheel face down on a flat surface to make sure it lays flat on both sides.
Check for splits on the outer face where the welds have been ground back.
Chris doesn’t just make quality banded steel wheels, he also refurbishes alloy wheels, manufactures custom hub adaptors to change the pcd of your vehicle and he offers a full welding and fabrication service that is second to none, specializing in T.I.G welding.