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How do you know if a rim has reached the end of its useful life?

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How do you know if a rim has reached the end of its useful life?

Old 06-21-21, 04:24 PM
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jdawginsc 
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How do you know if a rim has reached the end of its useful life?

Asking this because in doing a close view at a wheelset someone was looking at, I started wondering what are the signs those of you know more than me use that a rim is starting the endgame...I know if you are having nuclear explosions in your sidewalls, the rim wall is too thin...but before then, what are the wear marks you look for.

Visuals would be helpful! (And obviously I know if a rim is cracked or spokes are exploding from it, you should replace...) I am looking more subtle...like brake tracks, micro-cracks running along the grain of the rim, etc...
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Old 06-21-21, 04:47 PM
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Place a business card against the braking surface and shine a light behind it. Lets you see how much concavity there is. Riding used wheels of indeterminate origins, I'll retire one when it get's too lumpy. There's only so much my trueing skills can account for when there are multiple flat spots.
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Old 06-21-21, 04:56 PM
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Most of rims have gone on to the big recycler due to fatigue cracks propagating from the spokes holes. One spoke needs constant tightening. It increasingly deforms around the spoke hole and the spoke eventually pulls through the rim and/or splits the eyelet (if there is one).

Edit: here's a couple of examples on Campagnolo Omega V rims. One is in a relatively early stage and the other has bitten the brake dust. I was never able to get the mileage out of these that I've been able to get out of other rims,

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Old 06-21-21, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Dylansbob View Post
Place a business card against the braking surface and shine a light behind it. Lets you see how much concavity there is. Riding used wheels of indeterminate origins, I'll retire one when it get's too lumpy. There's only so much my trueing skills can account for when there are multiple flat spots.
By lumpy, do you mean ridgy?
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Old 06-21-21, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by jdawginsc View Post
By lumpy, do you mean ridgy?
Yes, feeling a ridge on the sidewall is probably a sign of a lot of wear.

My original post had my thinking differ from my articulation. What I was referring to as a lumpy wheel is one that spins true, side to side; but has flat spots that make out of true up and down. Sometimes with wider tires/lower air pressures, you don't notice it; but with 23s at 100psi I have some that I can feel at low speeds.
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Old 06-21-21, 05:33 PM
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Had this happen a while back. Obvioulsy, you'd know this had reached the end of its useful lifespan (and then some) but remarkably I'd been riding it like this for some time and felt nothing. The rim even stayed true enough that it wasn't rubbing a brake pad on the day I finally noticed this. I do check my wheels fairly often and noticed no signs of an issue until the day I noticed this.
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Old 06-21-21, 05:59 PM
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Badly bent will force uneven spoke tension so badly bent = toast...


Any crack anywhere = toast

Great braking surface wear = toast.

Loose and/or rusted eyelets = questionable and will, sooner or later turn the hoop to toast (cosmetically and even mechanically)...


Loose and/or separating rim joint = toast (usually hidden under a sticker)...


To that add that for me, dark anodized braking surface = don't even bother building it because it will rapidly develop a pooey stinko appearance (my opinion)...
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Old 06-21-21, 05:59 PM
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Some rim manufacturers are putting little "wear indicators" in the sidewalls, I've heard. Once the rim sidewall has worn down to the level of the "wear indicator", that's your sign to replace the rim. I haven't personally seen these rims, but have heard that they exist.

My only foray into this area of knowledge was when I decided to replace the rear Sun CR-18 rim on my commuting bike. It had seen plenty of use in bad weather, and the sidewalls had a visible amount of wear.....




Somewhere(?), someone on the internet mentioned making a little tool to make it easier to measure rim thickness with an ordinary set of calipers. This tool is just an old spoke bent to provide one spoke diameter of extra clearance around the rim hook or the concave sidewall.

The tool:




how the tool is placed along the rim sidewall:




a typical measurement with the tool:


The only thing complicating my experiment was that the old rim did not have machined sidewalls, while the new rim did.
It turned out that my heavily worn, unmachined rim had sidewalls that were essentially as thick as the new machined rim.
Turns out that changing rims hadn't actually improved things. Oh well.

I think it does show that you can at least gauge how much of a rim's sidewall is worn away, assuming you measure it when it is new and then check periodically.

A side benefit of the experiment is that it gave me an excuse to cut the old rim in half and see what it looked like.
Here it is:




At the top of the sidewall, the material is 1.1mm thick still.
As a rough guess, I think I'd replace a rim if the material was down to 0.5mm (or sooner).

Steve in Peoria
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Old 06-22-21, 01:44 AM
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Thanks all! Great suggestions!
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Old 06-22-21, 04:45 AM
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Back in my shop days I saw a rim sidewall that had blown out from wear, with thin ribbons of rim metal hanging in the breeze. Can't imagine how much braking must have taken place for that to happen. Something else always get my rims; cracks or wrecks the like.
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Old 06-22-21, 05:35 AM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
Somewhere(?), someone on the internet mentioned making a little tool to make it easier to measure rim thickness with an ordinary set of calipers. This tool is just an old spoke bent to provide one spoke diameter of extra clearance around the rim hook or the concave sidewall.

The tool:

A dental caliper is an inexpensive tool to directly measure rim thickness:
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