These days, automobile and truck tire changing is highly mechanized and rather easy. You put the tire on a machine, push a foot lever, and the changer does most of the hard work. Tire off, tire on, put it on another machine, spin it, put on the balance weights, done. Good for another 20,000.
But early tire changing was much different. If you were well prepared and had the right tools, it was still a real test of strength and knowledge. I’ve heard any number of stories of guys changing wheels and ending up in the hospital from making simple mistakes. One of the worst was improperly seating a split rim, airing up the tire and the rim popping loose. If you were standing over the tire and the rim shot up from the pressure, you could lose an arm, get a concussion (if you were lucky) or end up on the floor in some other state of real hurt (I’ve seen holes in a cement block wall where a guy got lucky and the wall took the hit). Tire changing was a tricky, hard and hazardous business. Made even worse because early on most roads were poor and tires were somewhat “less reliable”. Even on a short trip you might have several blowouts to fix. It was such a problem that it was common to carry several extra tires as spares.
The museum has a number of such needed early car care tools and machines. These include the tools every car owner carried everywhere, to the larger shop machines used at dealerships or repair shops. Among our most recent acquisitions is a large cast iron Weaver Tire Changer, and a Weaver Tire Spreader. The spreader was used to hold open the tire while you applied a patch to a newly made hole. Both machines were made for changing and fixing Model T tires, but could be used for other car’s tires. We also have somewhat more modern changing equipment, some probably used up to the 1950’s. But all of them were the work of muscle and sweat, with no hydraulic or electrical help.
The Weaver’s I found online. I drove several towns east of here to an area of densely packed housing. I pulled into a short driveway and a guy looked up from his 2 foot square garden and said, “Come on back”. There was a narrow gate between 2 houses, then a back yard packed with “stuff”. He had been collecting all sorts of oddments for years. Piles of it. He wanted to convert his garage into sort of getaway spot for himself. But there was too much in the way. I asked him about a number of things, most particularly a Coke “lollipop” sign, but he wouldn’t part with any of it. Except for the tire machines. After talking for a very long time about his experiences in Vietnam, we finally made the deal. ….I feel very fortunate to have acquired these two excellent machines (and his stories).
After I returned home, I did a bit of research and found out a couple of other tools I had were individual owner’s Model T tire changers. That was a happy accident, and helped expand my knowledge about, and collection of, early car tools.
The museum has also recently added a tire air pump to the collection. It was used at the gas station that once stood at the S.W. corner of Rt’s. 82 & 21 in Brecksville. Many years ago when the station was torn down our friend Arnie saved the air machine. He kept it safe in his barn for the decades it was unused. I traded him for it by helping him move and sell one of the many cars in his car and memorabilia collection. That’s something I have always found distressing. Guys who spent years gathering great collections, then towards the end of their life letting it all drift away.
So stop on by, see some things you may not have ever seen before. And if you a mind to, bring a flat tire and we’ll see about fixing it. As my friend Gary said, “I’ll be over one of these days to change a couple of Whippet tires”.