The Importance of Proper Tooling When Balancing Clad Wheels
By Mike Alusick, Worldwide Product Manager, Snap-on Equipment

What is a Clad Wheel?
A Clad Wheel is a cast wheel that is balanced but the wheel face is not finished. To finish the wheel face a plastic chromed face is bonded to the casting.

Why Clad Wheels?
Chrysler Corporation made the first clad wheels for the Jeep product line. When you consider that car companies change the cosmetic appearance of vehicles which each model year there are a few things they can do:
1.  Change the complete body style – this type of change normally happens every three years
2.  Make minor cosmetic changes to lights and trim
3.  Change the interior
4.  Change the wheels

The majority of wheel styles is cast. To change the wheel every year the OEM could make a new casting every year and polish the wheel face. This is a costly process. Instead, make a casting, balance the casting, but instead of polishing the wheel face, bond a plastic chrome appearance face on it. In the successive years you do not have to create and tool a new wheel casting. You just need to make a chrome appearance change to the face. This allows the vehicle manufacturer to carry the same casting across several car lines that use the same rim diameter and bolt pattern.

Below is a list of the popular car manufacturers with clad wheels. (List supplied by Vibrations Solutions)

 Buick  Chrysler  Dodge  Ford  Hyundai  Nissan
 Enclave  300  Avenger  Edge  Veracruz  Titan
   Aspen  Caliber  Explorer    Armada
 Cadillac  Pacifica  Charger  Expedition  Jeep  
 Escalade  PT Cruiser  Challenger  F150  Grand Cherokee  Mercury
 DTS  Sebring  Dakota  Escape  Commander  Mariner
 SRX Crossover  Town & Country  Durango  Taurus          Compass  
   Voyager  Grand Caravan    Liberty  Pontiac
 Chevrolet  Grand Voyager  Journey  GMC  Patriot  Montana      
 Camaro    Nitro  Acadia  Wrangler  
 Impala    Magnum  Canyon    
 Malibu    Ram 1500  Sierra 1500  Lincoln  
 Trucks    Ram 2500  Terrain  MKS  
 All SUVS    Ram 3500    MKX  

The list of vehicles with clad wheels is long and growing. 

Wheel balance and clad wheels
A clad wheel has the cosmetic appearance of a cast wheel. This wheel type is often hard to identify. There are three easy ways to identify a clad wheel: have a reference list supplied by a tooling manufacturer, have a reference list supplied by a wheel balance manufacturer, or look at the wheel.

A clad wheel looks chrome from the front side. Since the cladding is plastic you can tell by some key factors.

Front side. The center bore cosmetic cover is often held on by plastic tabs. The wheel also has a very dull sound when you tap on cladding.

Back side. Look at the back side of the wheel. A bonded clad cover is easy to recognize because there are well defined edges indicating the clad material bonded to the cast material.

Proper tooling and clad wheel mounting on a wheel balancer to avoid damage
A clad wheel must be centered properly from the back side of the wheel using precision collets instead of a centering cone. What is a precision collet and how is it different from a precision cone? A precision collet is normally a dual sided centering device with low tapers on each side and has a length of approximately 1.5 inches. The benefit of a precision collet is it fits very precisely into the tapered machining on the back side of a cast wheel and the collet does not protrude into the wheel center. A cone also offers precision centering, but a cone can have a length from the long to short end of the taper of two inches or mode. A taper cone unlike a precision collet, will intrude into the wheel center. On many clad wheels there are plastic tabs to hold the cosmetic cover in place. A precision centering cone can break off the tabs. The illustration below (provided by Vibrations Solutions) indicates how a clad wheel should be centered on a wheel balancer. 

The wheel balancer shaft, typically 40mm diameter. 

  1. Precision taper collet that precisely centers to the rear machined pilot center of the wheel. 
  2. The clad wheel. 
  3. Front side via a pin plate centered to the lug diameter. 
  4. The clamping nut.
Why do you need a pin plate to the front side of the wheel?
A clad surface is chromed plastic. Using a clamping nut, even when using a pressure cup with protection, can score the plastic cladding during the tightening process. Also, a clad wheel has cast material to the wheel back side and cast material at the lug holes to hold the wheel to the vehicle. Using a pin plate to the front side protects the wheel surface and the pin plate aids in centering by picking up the lug centers of the wheel. 

Most OEM’s already recommend using this clamping method as the only way to properly center and protect clad wheels during the balance process.

All quality balance manufacturers have clad wheel packages to recommend along with standard cone mounting. To neglect to recommend proper wheel tooling to our customer base for centering clad wheels can lead to incorrect wheel mounting and possible wheel damage.


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