by Ken Beck in the January 2007 RootesReview:

This is a short tech article that may clear up some misconceptions about the “don’t put tubes in a tubeless tire” rumor.

First of all, who do you go to when you have your new tires put on your wire wheels? The tire shop down the street has several of the latest tire machines at $9,000 each and they mount dozens of tires a day. With the wide variety of low profile tires and wheels today, wire wheels and tubes should be a snap. You drive away with your new shoes and all is well.

After a year or two you get ready for a show and you notice you have a flat. How could you have a flat tire on a car that has been sitting for a couple of weeks? A spoke must have rubbed through says your buddy. Upon inspection of the tire you can’t find a nail. Maybe the tube was pinched. Would you believe the little inspection labels inside the tire destroyed the tube due to heat and or chemical reaction?

Now the only thing to do is take all the tires and get the tubes patched or replaced. You did buy a whole set of new tires and tubes at the same time from the same place, right? I’ve repaired dozens of good tires over the years because of this type of failure.

label inside tireWhen you get new tires be sure all the inspection labels inside the tires are removed before tubes are installed. A wire brush on a drill works well for this. Use plenty of talcum powder on the tube when it is being installed. Look at the valve stem hole. Older tubes had large diameter valve stems compared to today’s tubes. If your wheel has the large hole and the tube has a small stem then a valve stem bushing is required. Installing tubes isn’t rocket science, but manufacturing processes require changes in techniques that are basically simple. Maybe now you can teach the experts something new.

Ken is co-owner of K & T Vintage Sports Cars. He and his partner restore and troubleshoot all British sports cars, including Austin-Healeys, MGs, Morgans, Triumphs, Jaguars and Sunbeams.

(Ed. Note: many technicians working in chain tire shops today have never seen a tire with a tube.  The last time I took a wire wheel in for new tires the mechanic was upset with me and said “do you know there’s a tube in that tire?” and then told me he couldn’t do the job!  Make sure the tire shop you are using understands Ken’s tips!)

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