Clean wheels keep on turnin’

Doctor Don was our best driver; he even had been awarded the coveted title “BD” (Bus Doctor). We all hated it when our boss gave him six new tires to mount on his Flxible VL100. Now he had the fastest bus and the best rubber. It was gonna be tough beating him in a race.

A week later, Doctor Don returned to our Colorado base with five good tires and a red face. Somewhere in the middle of Kansas, in the middle of the night, one of his prized Michelins had abandoned the coach and departed for a new life across the wide-open spaces.

We, of course, abused him verbally and affixed return address tags to the rest of his tires then created a milk carton with a photo of the lost wheel in hopes it would be returned.

A better response would have been to tighten his lug nuts.

Wheels are good, and, generally speaking, we need all of them.

During a recent road trip, I noticed that many of the buses on the interstate had dirty wheels. Many were otherwise spiffy, but their wheels sported an impressive coating of dirt and grease.

I’m not, shall we say… knee jerk neat. So if I noticed it, so did customers and the public. It’s easy to skip cleaning wheels when you wash a bus, but not a good idea.

Not only does it look tacky, but dirt on wheels can temporarily cover a multitude of sins. Law enforcement and bus inspectors might get the idea that the wheels haven’t been examined for cracks and that lug nuts haven’t been checked.

Years ago, one of our buses lost most of a front wheel when we missed spotting a series of cracks between the studs. The coach laid down when the cracks all joined together, turning loose the outer part of the wheel and tire.

We were left with the center disk of the wheel, but unlike Don, we found the rest. It was returned by an angry gentleman who had barely dodged it. He taught us a few new four-letter words.

Not only does dirt cover cracks, and corrosion, it can hide loose lug nuts. On steel wheels they tend to weep a bit of a rust streak. Dirty wheels tend to hide their grief at being ignored.

In the days of stud-centered wheels, as Don learned, an outer dual could depart the coach without too much ado. Most modern buses have hub centered wheels, which reduces the opportunity for mischief.

“Reduce” and “eliminate” are not synonyms, and loose lugs on a dual can mean losing the whole thing. If you think it’s embarrassing losing one wheel, imagine the mayhem a whole dual can do. For one thing, you can’t drive away and pretend it was someone else.

Aluminum wheels have a coating that makes them easy to clean, but they still need some attention. Steel ones are needier and really need your love.

Most modern coaches have disk brakes, which are excellent at stopping. They offer lots of advantages but have one irritating habit; they fling the dust from the brake pads on the wheels. Shame on them, but we really do need to clean up after them.

Another wheelie thing to keep in mind: aluminum and steel don’t mix. Diversity can be a good thing, but not on a dual. Your spare should be the same material as the working wheels, or using it may break something. Aluminum and steel behave differently and don’t play well together.

In Don’s case, his BD went from “Bus Doctor” to “Bus Dufus.” Don’t let that happen to you.

Share this post