Maintaining proper tire inflation could depend as much on wheel corrosion and aluminum porosity as on the condition of the tire and/or tire valve, according to a Canadian inventor and former auto shop proprietor who has developed a flexible barrier membrane that covers the interior surface of a wheel to stop air loss through the wheel.
Peter Gilbert of Chatham, Ontario, has been developing the product, known as RIMLiner, for the past six years after encountering numerous instances of air pressure loss at his family's auto repair shop through poor bead area contact caused by corrosion and pitting of the customers' aluminum wheels.
“The basic idea is to eliminate the wheel-tire interface,” Mr. Gilbert said during an interview at the 2011 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, where the product was launched by the manufacturer, ABC Group Inc.
“We looked at coating or priming the wheel somehow,” Mr. Gilbert said, “but coatings get damaged each time the tire is changed.
Ultimately Mr. Gilbert settled on trying to develop an air-impervious barrier to cover the wheel interior.
Aluminum wheels degrade over time, some more quickly than others, said Mr. Gilbert, who had on display a 3-year-old OEM wheel from a Chrysler Group vehicle that was pitted in the bead area and was visibly corroded on the exposed interior side.
An online search by Tire Business of “aluminum wheel porosity” confirmed porosity can be a problem. The search turned up a number of vehicle maker service bulletins explaining the problem and how to deal with it.
After developing, testing and patenting the product—essentially a hoop of molded thermoplastic elastomer shaped to fit the contours of a wheel's interior—Mr. Gilbert needed a manufacturer.
“I decided to start at the top, sending out samples and a business plan to a number of major manufacturers,” he said.
ABC Group, with manufacturing in Ontario, was an obvious choice, with experience in making automotive parts, such as constant-velocity joints and other elastomeric parts exposed to harsh environments.
The two eventually came to an agreement and ABC has begun initial production of a few sizes.
The RIMLiner is mounted using standard tire mounting equipment, Mr. Gilbert said, and doesn't affect the tire mounting process. Independent road testing has shown tires mounted on wheels with RIMLiners exhibit no performance deficiencies, Mr. Gilbert said, and in some cases showed superior rim adhesion.
With the product still so new, Southfield, Mich.-based ABC Group has not yet established pricing and is still formulating distribution plans, according to Scott Wellman, director, advanced products. The company also has approached some of its OE customers about using the product as an OE fitment, he said, in part because of its potential to avert warranty issues.