Salvaging Wheel Centres

If you are considering having some wheels rebuilt, or doing it yourself, there's one item that has become incredibly hard to obtain - the humble stainless steel centre. If you have some, and you need to remove them to use again, here is a method that seems to work pretty well, without dents and bangs. 

The standard way by which the centres are held in place is shown below.  There is a cross shaped fold in the stainless steel flange, which is folded over to trap the centre firmly against the inner edge of the hole in the hub. 

If you look closely, there is very likely to be a small crack at each end of each folded down section. This is the key. 

wheel centre 1aDon't waste your time trying to butcher these flanges back upright.  In the unlikely event that you straighten them, you will probably have raised a dent on the outer side, which will be visible once the wheel is fitted. 

Put the hub into a vice or workmate.  This is easier to do once the spokes have been disposed of - after all, you are changing them and right now they are just in the way. 

Get hold of a Dremel, or similar cutting machine, with a small cutting disc fitted.  These are about 3/4 inch in diameter, and about 40 thou thick - so they are pretty delicate.  While you're about it, buy a packet! 

Inside the wheel centre, cut a horizontal slot cutting towards the rim, but only just below the fold, most of the way through the steel to just either side of the folded region. The object is not to cut all the way through, just to create a weak step.  Don’t cut too far down - you want to leave part of the cylindrical section that is inside the hub itself.

 wheel centre 2a


Then take a sharp cold chisel and wedge it in the cut slot.  A few hard blows with a hammer and the small section will break out.  The centre isn’t loose yet, and you won’t have changed the appearance from outside. 

You should now have two small "tangs" that can be folded back to the circumference of the centre using a pair of pliers.  Do this on at least two of the folds, preferably three.

 wheel centre 2aa


Using a flat ended pin punch, give a few sharp blows downwards on the step you have just cut. Be careful not to slip off onto the inner face of the centre - you should have a flat enough area to work on.  Repeat progressing around the centre - which will suddenly drop out for you to retrieve. 

The centre may have a few cuts in it, but this isn’t going to matter. 



wheel centre 4

To refit, get the Dremel out again and gently slice down a little way into the untouched material.  Run a bead of black Sikaflex around the inner and outer edges of the hole, and press the centre in by hand.  Then, ensuring that the underneath is reasonably wedged in place, use a punch to bend over the new flaps.  Wipe the outside clean with a thinners rag and then set aside for a couple of days to let the Sikaflex go off. 

The reason for the Sikaflex is to give you a nice neat finish on the outside, and prevent any gungy water seeping through and leaving a rust stain behind.



This article, written by Geoff Hardman, originally appeared in Seven Focus March 2010 pp22 - 23.