Trucks can come with a wide variety of options to suit any working condition or driver preference. Engines, transmissions, axles, frame length, suspension bits, the list goes on and on. Recently I’ve had a few people ask me about wheel styles, more specifically what are Dayton style wheels. This is a question I’ve asked myself many times and the answer can very depending on who you ask. I’ll start with the basics of what I know and let you make your own decision on what you think is the better choice.
To start, this is a Dayton or spoke style wheel.
Notice the five bolts, they attach to the rim which hold the tire to the truck. To detach the tire you remove the bolts, the hub or spoke stays attached to the truck. There is no center part of the rim with this type of wheel. In the trucking world of today Dayton style wheels are ancient history. I do not believe it is possible to order a new truck with this style wheel. Now, some old truckers out there will tell you that daytons are the only way to go. They claim that this wheel setup is better suited for trucks hauling heavy loads or working in tough conditions as they resists cracking around the bolt holes, a major weakness of Budd style wheels. From the collector standpoint the argument is made that a Dayton wheel just looks correct on the truck styles of yesterday. Another potential of spoke wheels is the ability to seal out snow, ice or dirt from the brake drums. Some disadvantages, it requires more skill and time to mount a dayton style wheel correctly. Incorrect mounting results in a wobbly wheel and tire wear. Top speeds are also limited due to heat concerns. In the old days of trucking there was a strong east coast bias to spoke style wheels despite the fact they were called “California” style wheels. Most likely this is due to many truck manufacturers being located east of the Mississippi.
The modern alternative to Dayton style wheels? The Budd. Nearly every truck has this style wheel now. It is very similar to the same wheel on your passenger car or pickup. The tire is mounted to a rim that has a center hub. See below.
A Budd wheel can come in steel or aluminium. You can paint it or chrome it. As mentioned above this style wheel can suffer from stress cracks around the bolt holes. However, the cost of Budd wheels and ease of maintenance helped push this wheel to the top of heap.
I recall a story from my CDL training days from the instructor of many years that helped scare the spoke lover out of me. He claimed it was possible for the flanges holding a spoke style wheel to break loose effectively neutering any braking power as the wheel was no longer really connected to the drums! Tall tale to scare the rookies? Very possible.
So that is my amateur take on truck wheel styles. Please feel free to share your thoughts or correct my mistakes.