Vanagon – some notes on new wheel install

i bought the Mercedes alloy wheels last year. They weren’t my first choice, I wasn’t really sold on the flat face look. But the price was right ($100 for 4) and I thought the offset of 25 might work out for me. The ideal offset would have been 30mm, but folks have successfully  used ( without wheel spacers) wheels with offset of 37mm on the syncro. Mind you I think those wheels were narrower than 7″. 

The whole subject of wheel choice can be confusing. Chris at T3 Technique has good information (link) and there is a very lengthy Samba thread on the topic.

With the alloys having an offset of 25mm I wasn’t concerned about clearance issues with suspension components but I was a little nervous about how much space there would be between the sliding door and the passenger side rear tire. As it turned out there is a good 3/8″ – 1/2″ space between tire and door.

Some time after I bought the alloys, good friend Simon bought a set of Mercedes 15″ steel wheels. 6.5″ wide, offset of 37mm. He offered them to me, we thought that maybe the black steel wheel look would work on my van. If they did both of us would use one of the alloys as a spare, if not then the steelies would be out spare. Simon needs a better rin for his spare.

I had one of each type mounted with tire and compared them on the van. The alloys won. The clearance between the steel wheel and both the front and rear suspension components was tighter than the alloy.

As the alloy wheels have a thicker cross section where the wheel studs locate I had to get longer studs. Well on the rear wheels anyway. The studs are a tad longer on the front wheels so I left them stock. I measured and determined I had 8.75 turns on the lug nut on the stud as it tightens up to the wheel. The thread size is M14X1.5 so that gives 13.13mm of engagement which I think is sufficient . Replacing the front studs on the syncro is a pain. Note that various alloy wheels differ in thickness in this area, some are quite thick.

I got the longer studs from Chris at T3 Technique, hands down the best source for wheel hardware. I had a spare set of rear hubs so I had the studs pressed in, sitting around waiting until I got off my duff.

Also, the lug nut seats on the Mercedes alloys were the small ball type, the stock steel wheels on the Vanagon use large ball seats. So I had to buy some new lug nuts and yes I got them from T3 Technique. Here is a pic comparing the stock Vanagon lug nut to the lug stud that came with the alloy wheels.

  
And one more thing to do. The Mercedes alloys are drilled for 12mm studs. The Vanagon uses 14mm studs. I enlarged the holes with a 37/64″ drill.

I had a bit of fun getting the hubs off the van. I’ve done this job a few times but this time the big 46mm axle nuts were very, very reluctant to come off. What I normall use is a 1 13/16 socket, 3/4″ drive but for the life of me I couldn’t find the 3/4″ extension and T bar for the socket. So I thought I’d be clever and modify the 46mm slugging wrench I had. Btw, I have a hard time using the slugging wrench in the way it is supposed to be used. I find it hard to get a good swing at it with the heavy hammer without hitting the wheel.

I welded a bit of 7/8 hot rolled steel to the wrench, and that spud fit into the 5′ steel tube I use as my might extension. Well, the hot rolled bent immediately. Ok, I cut it off and welded on a found section of bar stock. I had the notion that this particular bar stock was perhaps a stronger steel.

   
Why the heck did I weld it on with the hole at that end? I can’t explain this bozo move.

 

Well that shifted the rig hand side axle nut, but it bent a little in the process.

  
And the hub swapped.

  
But Mr Wrench (and my weld at the end) was not up to going after the other side.

   
 

I nipped over to a friend’s shop and he easily loosened the nut with his Milwaukee battery powered impact gun ( has 1100 ft lbs of torque).

Mr Wrench was still strong enough to re-torque the nut to the 365 ft lbs the bugger needs. I added a bit more weld in the hope that I can use him again sometime, in his new cranked conformation.

   
 

I’ve yet to get some good shots of how the wheels and tires look on the van. In the meantime here are some quick snaps of my van and good friend Simon’s van. Simon has South African Carat (?) alloys and Nokian WRC 205/70-15.

   
 

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  1. #1 by Simon on June 26, 2015 - 8:35 pm

    You know, those wheels are growing me. I think they look pretty sweet on your van.

    • #2 by albell on June 26, 2015 - 11:23 pm

      Yup, they aren’t as bad as I feared they would be. And they have the effect of making the wheel look bigger.

      Ab

      >

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