Valve stem diameters and uses

For most "old car" applications the valve stem hole in the wheel rims come in 3 sizes, which are nominally:

- 8mm diameter, observed on some small and Voiturette cars (as well as motorcycles which often used the same tyre dimensions). This 8mm size hole will have an inner tube with what is called either a "TR4" or "TR6" metal stem, both of these stems being virtually identical. At Blockley we use the TR6 stem because the patch that attaches to the tube has a larger surface area, and we like this.

- 11.5 mm (0.453") diameter. The most common size we all know on our cars. This hole size is for use with rubber stem ("TR13") or the metal stem ("TR11") valved inner tubes. 

- 16 mm (0.635") diameter , the largest of the sizes. This fits a rubber TR15 stemmed inner tube. Popular on tractors and some post war cars of the 1940's and 1950's. We supply a well fitting adapter / grommet / collar that slips over the TR13 stem to increase it to the bigger TR15 size making it a snug fit in the hole in the wheel, for use in these wheels that have the 16mm hole. This plastic adapter also has the advantage of additional protection for the rubber stem from any potential sharpness at the juncture of where the hole exits the rim.

The valve stem terms mentioned above TR4, TR6, TR11, TR13, TR15 etc were the numbers assigned to the different valve stem sizes and lengths by the company Schrader, who started up in the 1890's with their invention that is still going strong! TR refers to the Tyre and Rim Association that was set up in the USA in 1903 to set the standard dimensions for these items, based on what already existed, as apart from Shrader there were many other companies producing valve stems under A. Shrader's Son Inc. patents such as Dill, Bridgeport, Michelin and so on. Each company may have initially had their own numbering system but after the agreed standardisation, the same TR number meant the same thing irrespective of manufacturer.

Interesting to note that the cheaper to produce rubber valve stems were not invented until much later on, the patent being granted in 1937, which means that the bulk of vehicles built prior to World War 2 had metal valve stems of one sort or another. The use of rubber stems for an inner tube is really a post war feature, apart from on competition or high performance type cars where the metal stem continued in use, even to this day.

So today when there is a choice with the Blockley inner tubes, why use our metal stemmed (TR11) tube over the  rubber stem (TR13) variety?

Historically valve stems from the dawn of motoring were always metal, bolted into the inner tube. As time went on the metal valve stem became vulcanised onto the tube itself as part of a patch.

The metal stem has a few distinct advantages over the rubber stem, which is why a metal stemmed tube is always preferred in arduous conditions or applications such as motor racing.
The first bonus of a metal "TR11" stem is that there is no risk of this stem chafing or being cut against the hole of the wheel rim in the case of any movement, particularly at the base where an annular brass nut remains on the tube stem.
The second advantage is that very very occasionally a fault can occur on any rubber stem where air can leak between the rubber and the inserted brass housing into which the valve is fixed, causing a slow deflation even though the valve itself is not leaking - something which just cannot ever occur with a solid TR11 stem. Another advantage is the metal stem does not deteriorate, as the rubber stems perish and crack over time.

All metal valve "TR11" valve stems used on our thick butyl Blockley Superior tubes are nickel plated, just as they were in period. We have not yet found an unplated original stem on an original period tube. And this is also the case with the earlier Veteran era tubes. The nickel plating avoids the brass tarnishing and is just another bit of attention to detail, the way we like to do things at Blockley!

And finally mention should be made of the screw on the valve cap, which should always be used to stop the ingress of dirt. At Blockley we supply all inner tubes with metal valve caps as standard (ie not as an extra to be paid for seperately) with a washer inside that will keep air in the tube, even if the valve fails or somehow gets some dirt in there. Having this good seal prevents the dirt as well as moisture contaminating the valve core.

As a postscript, there are also other valve stem sizes (0.302", 0.406", 0.486" etc), used on the earlier Veteran and Edwardian cars and used in Europe even into the late 1920's for use on beaded edge tyres, or as they say in the USA "Clincher" tires. The straight sided wheel came into use in the USA a long time before it was adopted in Europe. These tube types carried on into the Straight Sided tyres that came afterwards, all of which still had an "on centre" valve stem position. The most popular stem had a diameter of 12mm with a outside thread of 26 tpi and Blockley uses this dimension stem today (Nickel plated as they were all originally in period) on the beaded edge / clincher range of inner tubes we produce - the exception being the motorcycle type sizes which have a smaller 8mm diameter TR6 stem.