Chapter 9 – Wheel Pants
[Note: There is not a Chapter or specific place that covers wheel pants in the Long-EZ plans, so I’m putting them under the closest subject by function: the Main Gear]
6 January 2013 — I was told by a few of the Old Guard that Sam James makes some great wheel pants. So I caught up with him at an EAA breakfast in Ft. Meyers a few weeks after I ordered them and picked them up. The wheel pants are sized for a 500×4 Lamb tire. Again, trying to keep things light!
25 February 2016 — After I finished up with the gear fairing, I rounded up all the wheel pant components to have them on hand as I start moving towards installing them.
25 August 2016 — I started off today doing hours of research on the wheel pants installation. I’m not sure what happened, but I compiled a bunch of info on wheel pants in a PowerPoint slide deck earlier this year and couldn’t find the darn thing! I did go back and review Wayne Hick’s sage advice on his phenomenal web page: Chapter 9: Wheelpants and also Bernie Siu’s, Nate Mullins’, and Joe Coraggio’s sites for wheel pants install info. I compiled a bunch of it into a doc and printed it off as my “Everything you needed to know about installing wheel pants” guide!
In fact, while reviewing Nate & Joe’s adventures on their recent (respective) finished flying Long-EZs it was then that I made the decision NOT to move forward with a full-on install of the wheel pants. Why? Well, after a fair number of high-speed taxi tests and numerous landings both Nate & Joe have had significant tire wear issues. Keeping Nate & Joe’s experiences in mind, I figure at some point I may very well need to modify the wheels’ camber in addition to possibly having to modify the toe-in. If those issues do play out, then having hard mounted wheel pants would require a significant rework of the wheel pants. Taking all this into account, I simply don’t feel that it’s prudent to move forward with the actual full-on wheel pants install. However, I do want to lean far forward and be as prepared as possible when I do go to install the wheel pants so that the installation will be optimized, smooth and quick.
As I’ve stated before, I’ll be using the Vans axle nut that has a K1000-4 nutplate installed in the end of it specifically for mounting wheel pants.
As you can see in the pic above, the Matco axle nut has essentially a built-in washer at its base. Thus, I cannot simply use the Vans axle nut as a replacement for the Matco axle nut (which it was designed to do). If you look at Bernie Siu’s website you’ll see that the Matco wheels that he and Wayne use incorporate a separate washer underneath the axle nut, unlike my wheels. The separate parts enabled Bernie to machine a lip on the Vans axle nut to keep the washer centered. Again,as you can see above, my version of the Matco wheel does not have a separate axle washer and nut, so doing what Bernie did is simply not an option. However, cutting the Vans axle nut shorter to only 1″ in length (pic below), will allow me to mount the Vans axle nut over the Matco axle nut in the same manner that Wayne Hicks did.
31 August 2016 — I started off today by heading to breakfast and writing out today’s task list on a 3×5 card for the initial steps on the Wheel Pants. To reiterate, I’ll be prepping the wheel pants just up to the point of installing them, which I will then do after the plane has been flying for a while. Not my idea of an optimized install, but as I said before, there’s just too high a chance of having to rework some of the wheel & axle geometry. Thus, Wheel Pants install will wait!
My goal today was to get the gear pants sanded, split, widened with spare foam and then glassed. As you’ll see, I met that goal on the front halves of the wheel pants, but alas, I will have to finish the aft side pants tomorrow. If you missed why I’m making all this effort to widen what appears to be a perfectly good set of wheel pants, check out Wayne Hick’s explanation on his Cozy build site . . . none better.
I started out by getting a good idea of the center lines for both the vertical and horizontal planes. After trimming the outside of the opening for any offending glass or epoxy goobers, I then set one side of the pant in between 2 squares. I then pushed the squares in as far as they would go, ensuring that they too were in fact square to each other. I then measured and marked the center on all 4 sides. I then flipped the wheel pant half 180° around and did it again.
On the next forward wheel pant half I turned the center line finder assembly 90° so that I could more easily check the top and bottom center lines vs the sides. Since I’ll be splitting this sucker down the middle, at this point probably better that I am more zeroed in on the top and bottom marks.
I proceeded to check the center lines on all 4 wheel pant halves, doing each one twice as described above to ensure that I had the correct marks.
Here are the bottom of the wheel pants. The centerline mark is pretty much aligned with the mold seam of each wheel pant half.
However, the top sides tell a different story. These are all off by about 0.15-0.2″ from mold seam, which intuitively one might call the center line. Hmmmmm . . . .
In prepping the wheel pant halves for sanding, I didn’t want to lose my centerline mark on the nose, so I took my German saw and made a nick-mark into the nose of each wheel pant.
I then measured just a hair over an inch from the centerline all the way around the forward wheel pants to identify a 2″ swath for sanding.
I then took the wheel pants outside and sanded the 2″ band around the centerline.
And then did the same for the aft wheel pant pieces.
I then brought all the wheel pants back into the shop, cleaned them up & wiped them down quickly to get all the sanding dust off of them. I then ran some tape down the centerlines and marked the center cut line with a Sharpie.
Here are both aft wheel pant assemblies marked for cutting.
This is the “after” pic with the aft wheel pants cut down the centerline. I left just the aft vertical spline in place just to make it easier (hopefully!) to glass in the widening wedge.
After a decent amount of sanding and using my Fein saw, I finally got these guys all split in two.
I then dug out some 1″ thick crap urethane foam I have and used that for the widening blocks.
And simply aligned the straight edge of the wheel pant along a straight side of the foam, then marked the foam about 1/4″ bigger than the wheel pant piece.
I then cut out the urethane foam widening pieces.
Here’s the first widening piece I cut for one of the aft wheel pants.
I then used a hot glue gun to attach the 1″ thick urethane foam widening piece into place onto the inboard side of the forward wheel pant.
Here’s the best close up shot I could get of the hot glue between the foam and wheel pant.
Here’s both forward wheel pants with their new 1″ thick widening piece mounted using hot glue. I have to say that although the glues seemed slow in setting up, it worked like a champ!
Here’s another shot of the forward wheel pants with the 1″ thick widening piece in place.
I then took the halves outside and used a sanding block to shape the 1″ middle foam and contour it in.
I then cut out two pieces of BID off the cutting table measuring 32.5″ x 6.5″ for the 2-ply 3″ BID tapes that will go all the way around the front of these forward wheel pants.
In the pic below, I’ve already micro’d the urethane foam, but more importantly I was after the minor gaps between the foam and the wheel pants’ interior edge. You can also see that I pre-pregged the BID and cut it to width & length. I took this pic immediately before laying up the first BID tape.
Before I pulled off one side of the plastic on the 3″ wide BID tape, I marked the top plastic at 1-inch intervals across it so that I could line it up correctly over the 1″ wide widening foam.
Here are both front wheel pant parts with the 3″ wide 2-ply BID layup in place.
I had planned on peel plying all of it, but it really was a pain, and late, so I just did the tops sides and a little bit of the outer edges on the bottom side of one of the pants.
And here’s another shot of the front wheel pants with the 2-ply exterior widening layup in place!
1 September 2016 — I started out today by using the Fein saw to cut off the overhanging glass from last night’s layups on the front side wheel pant pieces. I then cleaned up the aft edges where I had just removed the glass. I pulled the peel ply and cleaned up some of the peel ply strings and goobers, then I went to work on cutting the glass for the wheel pant aft side pieces (sorry, no pics of the front side pieces).
Kind of a fun point of note (at least I think so…) is that after all these years of estimating cutting BID at a 45° bias, I thought I’d do a quick check to see how I was doing. Not too shabby.
Back to work! Probably the part I was dreading the most –because it’s challenging, and I’m lazy!– is cutting and shaping the wedges to widen the wheel pant aft side pieces. It is a straight taper from 1″ at the front side to as near a razor’s edge as one can get it at the aft end. Here’s the first piece I did. Not horrible, but I did nick the front edge enough that it was just over 0.9″ vs a full 1″ thick. So I notched the front and put in pieces of unblemished urethane foam to ensure the front edge was at 1″ thick.
Below are pics of the widening wedges. The left pic is the first one I made. The right pic shows the 1″ thick urethane foam edge marked up for cutting of the major material to be removed with a hack saw blade, then the rest “fine” sanded with a 17″ sanding block with 32 grit sandpaper (note that you can see the cured layups on the wheel pant front side pieces).
Here’s the first aft side wheel pant piece widened with the urethane foam.
After I worked on the other wheel pant aft side piece a bit to let the glue harden, I then trimmed up the foam widening insert with a sanding block to match the existing sides.
I then did the same with the other wheel pant aft side piece.
Here’s a shot of both wheel pant aft side pieces trimmed and ready for glass.
I wet out 2-plies of BID measuring 26″ x 6″ in a pre-preg setup. I then marked the cut lines on the plastic. Note that on the wheel pant aft side pieces the glass tapers into a wedge from 3″ at the front side down to 2″ at the aft vertical fin.
Here you can see the BID tapes’ taper more distinctly. The small rectangular pieces are glassed onto the front lip first, then just barely covered on the aft edge by the BID being laid up down the spine of the wheel pant aft side piece.
As I was marking up the pre-pregged BID tapes, I made sure to use a CL mark in order to have a reference when laying up the BID onto the wheel pant aft side piece. Below you can see that I’m just about to remove the top pre-preg plastic strip.
I then peel plied the BID layup on the wheel pant aft side piece. Once I was done with glassing the first side of the first wheel pant aft side piece, I then set it aside under a heat lamp and started working on the other wheel pant aft side piece. This allowed the first side to get just a little curing under its belt before laying up the opposite side of the wheel pant.
Here’s the last external widening layup on the first wheel pant aft side piece.
And here are the 2 wheel pant aft side pieces all laid up with 2-ply BID tapes for widening. This is one task I’m glad to have behind me! From here on out these widening steps should get exponentially EZ-er!
2 September 2016 — Today I completed the majority of the heavy lifting on the widening of these wheel pants! I started by pulling the peel ply and cleaning up the 2-ply layups on the outside of the wheel pant aft pieces. I then used the Fein saw to trim the overhanging glass.
Again, the hardest part of widening these wheel pants is in the rear view mirror and now all that’s left to do is to remove the 1″ urethane foam spacer & the hot glue, and then layup a 3″ wide single ply of BID on the inside of each pant.
Here’s a shot of all the sides of the wheel pants with the 1″ urethane foam spacers in place.
I grabbed the forward wheel pant assemblies and began removing the foam spacers by first simply removing the majority of foam.
I then used a hack saw blade to cut as near as possible to the inboard surface of the pant.
Using the same hack saw blade, I then ran it down the channel created by the edge of the 1″ foam spacer. Besides popping out chunks of foam, the cutting edge on the hack saw blade came in real handy to remove the stubborn foam along the hot glue joints.
Yep, the hack saw blade made quick work of removing the remaining urethane foam!
Technically this pic is out of order since this is the second wheel pant, but I threw it here to show the foam spacer removal.
When I took the pic of one of the pants sans spacer vs. the other one, I noticed that it looks as if the one without the spacer is MUCH bigger than the other pant piece.
So I put the pant ‘halves’ together to check and they are very close in size & shape. In fact, since the camera is at a slight angle, it shows the “corner” but doesn’t capture that the height of these pants are very close to identical.
Here are the front halves of the wheel pants with the 1″ urethane foam spacers removed and ready to be prepped for glass. After I took this shot, I took these outside and Dremelled the edges of the channels to give the ply of BID a better transition between the old & new surfaces. I also lightly Dremelled out 1″ along the edge of the spacer strip to ensure all the hot glue was removed and that the glass was textured for new glass. The final step was to work over all the areas to be glassed with some 32 grit sandpaper.
I then pre-pregged 1-ply of BID, 3″ wide x 29″ long. Since I wasn’t overly concerned about any irregular surface on the interior of the wheel pant, I used 3 pieces of BID in each pre-preg setup and simply overlapped them by an inch. As I did on the exterior sides, I marked the top plastic of pre-preg with 1″ hash marks in a few spots to give me good reference points for laying in the glass.
For strength I used flox as a transition within about the first 3/4″ of each pant opening edge in the channel that was created by the 1″ foam spacer. For the rest of the interior channel I used micro as a transition.
When the BID was in place inside the wheel pant I had about a 3″ overhang on one side, which I merely cut off and used as an extra ply at the very front of the wheel pant in the nose. With the layup complete, I then peel plied the aft edges (closest to the pant opening) of the layups to keep the prickly’s at bay. Plus, there will need to be some reinforcement glass laid up around the edges, so I want the glass as ready to go as possible.
I can say that I’m officially finished widening the wheel pant nose pieces! I’ll let these cure as I head into DC for a well deserved dinner!
I will make a final note that in seeing how much time it is taking to get these wheel pants prepped, I really am glad I am doing it now rather than later, after the plane is flying and I’ll be in the fly (vs. build) mode!
3 September 2016 — Today I started off by pulling the peel ply and trimming the overhanging glass on the front wheel pant pieces. So, as far as widening, these are done!
I then removed the 1″ urethane foam spacers from the aft wheel pant sides in the same fashion as I did the front pieces.
I cleaned off the hot glue and scraped off any extra foam remnants from the interior junctions.
Below are both rear wheel pant sides ready to be prepped for the interior 1-ply BID layup that will finalize the widening of the wheel pants.
And here’s a shot of the wheel pants after I took them outside and Dremelled the edges of the “old” existing wheel pants to provide a bevel to allow the BID a better grip. As with the front wheel pant sides, I also gave all the surface areas that will be glassed a good sanding with 32 grit sandpaper.
Finally, here’s a shot of the interior 1-ply BID layups on the aft side wheel pants pieces. Again, as with the front wheel pant pieces, I peel plied the opening areas.
5 September 2016 — I’m starting off this post with a shot of the pre-widened wheel pants along with a shot of the widened wheel pants.
Back to following Wayne Hick’s steps for mounting the wheel pants, I squared up the receivers on the front wheel pant assemblies and the flanges on the aft side wheel pant assemblies. After I squared up the wheel pant mating areas, I sanded down the internal edges of the front wheel pant sides and the flanges on the aft wheel pant sides to prep them for mounting.
Now, Sam James –who makes these wheel pants– will tell you that you have to cut the wheel slots before the aft flanges will fully fit into the front wheel pant sides’ receivers. In fact, both before & after I widened the wheel pants, the best I could get in assembling the wheel pants was 3 corners in with one corner prominently hanging out. Well, I guess these are still exactly the same after I widened the wheel pants!!
Nonetheless, I set the wheel pants up as closely as possible to being a mated pair and shot a couple of pics below:
And here’s a head on shot with the wheel pants almost mated together….
I then rechecked the centerlines and waterlines as compared to the ones I had measured “pre-widening.” I have to tell you that although I was double-checking center mass/center lines, it was nice that everything looked spot on after the wheel pant widening.
Here’s another shot after all the CL’s and Water Lines were marked.
I then checked the front wheel pant parts to find both the Centers & the Waterline.
Here’s another shot of the forward side wheel pant getting measured for actual width and actual centerline.
Here’s the final result of finding the wheel pants’ nose CL.
6 September 2016 — Today I started out by refining my wheel pants prep plan and then went down to the shop to get some work in on the wheel pants. My current issue is one that many builders seem to be confronted with, but oddly enough I’m starting to see a possible nascent trend that only 400×5 tire users seem to be afflicted by ? . . . and that is that until some type of slots are cut into the bottom of the wheel pants for the tires, the front and back half of the wheel pants can’t be mated together. Nate Mullins certainly had this issue.
As it goes during many a times during this build it was time to take yet another leap of faith and cut into the bottom of the wheel pants. Of course I don’t know exactly where the wheel will reside in each wheel pant, which prompted me to look at a myriad of pics from other builders’ installs. I decided to shoot for center mass: 4″ forward on the front side of the wheel pants and 3.3″ aft from the front edge of the aft side wheel pants.
Since I would destroy the bottom CL mark by removing the glass on which it resides, I decided to move the CL marks out of the lines of fire on all the wheel pant parts. I grabbed my tape and a plumb bob line and ran the line down the CL of the wheel pant… Uh, except maybe I should aim for the correct side of the wheel pant! (I started on the top of the wheel pant in the pic below, but luckily I caught my error!)
Ok, the BOTTOM of the wheel pants… this is much better!
I then marked the aft edge of the front side of the wheel pants for certain destruction and mayhem! Hoo-ah!
I then extended the centerline mark rearward on the aft wheel pant pieces as well.
And marked out the areas of certain destruction on these as well!
After cutting out the notches in each side of the wheel pants, I still couldn’t get the aft flanges into the front side receivers! I ended having to extend the notches another 1/2″ forward and aft, respectively, into the wheel pant assemblies.
Voila! It finally worked [BARELY] and after a fair bit of wrangling –and 3-1/2 years!– I finally was able to mount the back part of the wheel pants into the forward assemblies for the first time ever! And I bought these suckers from Sam James back in January 2013.
Here’s the first shot of my wheel pants assembled into one single unit per side! However, the fit is still really tight so the first order of business tomorrow is to give the flanges and receiver mating surfaces another intense round of sanding.
Excited to see actual, assembled wheel pants, I set them next to the gear strut for a quick mockup just to get a feel for the general size and shape.
Another shot of my quick wheel pant mockup.
Now that I know the wheel pants actually mate together (and that none of the vertical or horizontal centerline marks are off by more than 0.1″), I’m really happy and confident that the wheel pants should mount & fit nicely over the wheels and onto the gear struts!
8 September 2016 — Today I pressed forward with rigging the fuselage in a 1.5° nose up attitude to facilitate making the cardboard silhouettes called out for in the wheel pant installation instructions to mount the wheel pants.
Then tonight I got to work sanding the mating surfaces of the wheel pants. I worked on both sides of one wheel pant for nearly an hour, and it did go back together easier . . . somewhat.
I then started on the aft end of the second wheel pant. The flange on the aft side pant isn’t too terrible difficult to sand, but the inside edge of the front side wheel pant is a bit more challenging. After nearly 1-1/2 hours of straight sanding, I decided to punt and use the Dremel Tool tomorrow on the front side.
On the wheel pant that I did fully sand, I followed Bernie Siu’s method of verifying the front midpoint meets the aft midpoint meets the side midpoint. In other words, I set out to ensure that the midpoint waterline was straight horizontally all the way across my wheel pant… which it wasn’t. The nose was about 0.5″ high, so I had to work the wheel pant back and forth to get the nose down so that all the lines matched up with less than a 0.1″ discrepancy (these are naturally odd shaped wheel pants that are not symmetrical…I’ll take less than 0.1″ any day!).
To reiterate, I plan on working on the wheel pants as far as I can in the plans without actually installing them. Again, I want to have as much wheel pant “money” in the “bank” for later on so that I’m not spending a lot of time on these after I have the bird flying.
27 September 2016 — An important point to note from RR 2016. I had a good discussion with Mike Toomey on wheel pants. He gave me a number of tips on how I could continue with my install now, but by minimizing the actual tire cutouts on the bottom of the wheel pants I could then do a final configure on the pants after my 40 hours are flown off and simply widen the pant holes for the wheels in relation to the wheels after I do any mods. With the advice I got from Mike in my back pocket (I’m convinced!), I’ll be moving forward with a near-total install of the wheel pants after I get the low-hanging fruit task list knocked out and the canard & elevator install finished.
19 October 2016 — So, there I was . . . it was late afternoon, and the days are getting shorter. Also, this warm weather spell is supposed to end tomorrow so I figured I had better get outside and do some saw work . . . er, uh, I mean some milling work! Ok, milling work on a poor man’s milling machine, aka “a table saw.”
I bought a 2.5″ wide x 0.5″ thick bar of 2024 from ACS specifically to make my inboard mounts for the wheel pants. I did a quick measurement of one of the inboard axle bolts & plate, then marked off the 2024 bar stock for cutting.
I stole the idea for these from Bernie Siu, who ended up with this style after 2 prior iterations of inboard wheel pant mounts, including the original style called out by Gary Hertlzer in the instructions. These are bit more “elegant” in style, and if all plays out the way I intend, the horizontal “bar” will be able to be used to jack up the gear leg to change tires, etc.
I want to point out that these are in the ROUGH stage, since, as I mentioned before, I had to use the poor man’s milling machine to get these ginned up.
Here’s a profile shot of the wheel pant inboard mounting brackets. I thinned the top and bottom plate material down to 1/8″ by cutting into the 1/2″ bar 3 times, an 1/8″ at a time (for a total of a 3/8″ deep cut).
Another shot of the wheel pant inboard mounting brackets.
14 November 2016 — Today the weather was nice so I got to work outside to complete quite a number of cuts that were required with aluminum pieces & stock.
The first task was something that I’ve needed to do for a while now. Since I finally got the correct sized Adel clamp in my latest ACS order, I was able to clamp down the Matco wheel axle nuts (from VANs Aircraft) that are used to mount the outboard sides of the wheel pants. Since I won’t be using them as per their original design, I need to shorten them to 1″ in width from outboard to inboard. Specifically, I won’t be using the cotter pin holes, so those are going away.
Just as I did my LWA9s & CNLs, I clamped the axle nut extensions into the Adel clamp & secured it with a screw. I then took my time to ensure that the axle nut was 90° to the mounting board.
I then used my saw to slowly cut the axle nut down to 1″ width.
The actual width came out to be more like 1.05″, which works fine.
Here’s a shot showing both axle nut extensions cut to 1″ in width.
And a closer view . . .
23 February 2017 — When I spoke with Rich at Aircraft Extras about adding new AG6 warning screens (shown below) to a couple of new chips for me, I added a bottle of canopy cleaner and a tire air nozzle extension to the order to optimize shipping costs. This nozzle should fit through the small spring door hatch on each wheel pant to allow for an easier time of reinflating the tires with air.