Rubber Covering

wh a t ’ s i t a l l a b o u t ? By Debbie Rolinson, B. H. Leake & Sons Ltd

chemical reaction between wheel and rubber, giving a strong, long lasting bond. There are several stages involved in the process, so let’s look at these a little further.


First of all, wheels or rims are assessed – they may be new and fairly clean and shiny, or they could be extremely old, rusty, greasy or have old rubber on them.

Preparation depends on what is found. Any old rubber is stripped off, and greasy or oily wheels are sweated & degreased. All wheels and rims, old or new, are then shotblast - this is to remove all residue and impurities, and also to take the layer of oxidisation off the surface, to allow bonding to take place unimpeded.

ulcanisation – that’s what it’s all about – the use of heat and pressure to form a

Once clean and dry, bonding agents are applied. These layers undergo a chemical reaction when heated creating a

homogeneous bond between themselves, the metal and the rubber, which is extremely strong.

Next, rubber is applied. This is hand cut and hand wrapped onto the wheels, allowing overbuild on both the sides and the top surface to ensure the movement or flow of the rubber during curing doesn’t leave the rubber shy of the wheel size!

Once the right amount is on, it is bound in place with special binders, ready for its placement into the steam autoclave. The autoclave is where vulcanisation occurs, as it cures the rubber at around 148-150 C and forms the homogeneous bond with the chemical agents. Heat and pressure are required, and


the binders hold the rubber in the correct place on the wheel as it starts to flow into one solid bonded mass.

Once out, and completely cooled, the finishing process can begin. This may be just machining and grinding, or may involve grooving and shaping. Highly trained and skilled operators use a variety of tools and methods to achieve these finishes, but usually ‘roughing down’ is done in the lathe, and then they are hand finished, by boarding or sanding, to get the look just right, and this is tailored to each individual. Some owners have very specific criteria, based on the original spec of the engine or vehicle, others are happy to be advised and have ‘whatever looks best’ for their particular size of wheel – whatever is required,

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