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Old 29-01-2020   #1
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Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

This is my first post in this section (usually in the classic 500 section) as I recently purchased a 1978 Fiat 128 sedan.
The car has only covered 2500kms in the last 12 years and while the tyres look like new they are also pretty old. The tyres fitted are 155/70 R13 and the standard tyre I believe was a 145/70. What do people recommend these days? The car is completely standard.

Also, the indicators won't self cancel. Any ideas on how to fix this problem?
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Old 29-01-2020   #2
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

The 128 was a great little car. I loved them and I worked on them (can't say that about too many cars I worked on.....

The original tyre for the 128 Saloon/Sedan was 145 R 13, often Pirelli Cinturato, iirc later they used Michelin ZX or possibly XZX.

www.longstonetyres.co.uk has a guide to which tyre is used on older/classic cars, including the available modern equivalent.

E.g. for the 128, they recommend and stock the Pirelli Cinturato CA67 in 145R13. They describe these tyres as being tubeless, but iirc the 128 used radial tyres but they were tube type. Unless there are safety humps on the wheel rims (I can't tell from your picture), tubeless tyres should not be used without tubes. They have these tyres/tires in stock at 340 for 4 excl. vat.

As you're in N.Z.. you presumably want to source your tyres, there? but the above website is useful to consult for application info. This particular tyre size was also used on the MG Midget, Austin-Healey Sprite, Triumph Spitfire and Lotus Elan Mk1. These other vehicles applications might help you find a tyre supplier, perhaps there's a classic British specialist near you that stocks tyres.

Afaik, if you go down one step in aspect ratio you can go up one step in width, so it would appear that 155/70R13 would be suitable to replace the original 145R13, with virtually the same rolling radius and speedo readings.
You could replace your existing tyres with another set of 155/70R13. Be aware if you go wider than 145, your spare tyre or one removed from the vehicle after e.g. a puncture, might not fit in it's normal place under the bonnet, sorry hood.

Re:- you indicators not self-cancelling. There's a small spring loaded plastic pin on the underneath the steering wheel (you'll have to remove the steering wheel to see it) that is supposed to engage in a hole in the plastic ring that sits above the indicator switch on the steering column.

There is a certain amount of adjustment up and down on the steering column switch assembly - this adjustment is accessible through a hole lower down on the column cowling/plastic shroud behind a large blanking plug, if you look in you should see a clamp with an 8mm bolt head, loosen this to allow the column switch assembly to be adjusted. If you can adjust the column switch up, do so, then lock it in position, turn the steering wheel both ways to allow the spring loaded pin to engage the indicator switch ring, described above.

It's possible that the pin has been broken off the rear of the steering wheel or that something has broken within the self-cancelling mechanism of the indicator switch.

So if the above adjustment isn't successful, you'll need to remove the steering wheel. (It's not difficult). Prise the horn push button off using a knife or small screwdriver. Underneath remove the large horn-push spring. Loosen the 24mm nut a few turns but don't remove it yet. To loosen the steering wheel on it's splines - and this is a special tip, I invented it , - grip the steering wheel firmly on the left and right of the wheel adjacent to the wheel spokes, now push down on the left side and pull up on the right side, then reverse the action - as if you were trying to rock the steering wheel on it's splines (you are!), sooner or later the wheel will come free, remove the nut and then the wheel. Turn over the wheel, you should see the little spring loaded pin (if it's still intact). If you look at the top of the steering column switch assembly you'll see the plastic indicator-cancelling ring that I mentioned above. If you operate the indicators left or right and then you rotate this plastic ring, you'll operate the self-cancelling mechanism and be able to see how it works.

Only thing to watch for is not to damage/bend the 2 brass contacts for the horn push button on the steering column (easy to do so). When you refit the steering wheel you may have to rotate the st. wheel left and right a bit to allow the pin to engage with the hole in the rotating ring.

Hth,

Al.
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Last edited by F123C; 29-01-2020 at 21:57.
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Old 30-01-2020   #3
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

Very helpful Al. The car has tubeless tyres fitted and I had just assumed that tubeless would be the norm by 1978? Looking again and the fitted tyres don't mention a profile just 155 R13. Does that mean they have full aspect ratio? The model of the tyre is Kelly '82' suggesting the correct 82 profile of the 145 tyres that were factory fitted. But what I have noticed when checking the speedo accuracy is it's almost bang on. So I'm figuring that sticking with 155/80 will be best. But admittedly I'm getting very confused
The Pirellis are unfortunately not available here.

I'll have a look at the steering column and see if I can sort the indicator cancelling as you suggested. It doesn't sound too difficult.
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Old 31-01-2020   #4
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

Hi Andrew,

Sorry if I'm confusing you about the tyres.

The 128 always used radial ply tyres. I'm pretty sure the early 128 (chrome bumper model, like your's) used tubed type radial ply tyres. There was a later revised model that had plastic/resin bumpers and rectangular headlights, this had different wheels, so might have had tubeless radial tyres.

Afaik, tubeless tyres were in use before 1978, but I think the 128 retained tubed type because Fiat didn't upgrade the wheels to the safety-hump type that are needed to use tubeless. So the 131 (introduced in 1974?) and the Ritmo/Strada (replacement for the 128)(introduced in 1978?) had tubeless tyres on the new 'safety hump' wheels.

If you examine some cars of this era, you see the difference between the older type and the safety hump rims - this safety hump appears as a hollow/slight depression running around the rim on the flat section between the flange and wheel centre. On the other side of the rim i.e. tyre removed, it looks like a small hump/ridge running around the circumference. It's purpose is the prevent the tyre bead becoming dislodged in the event of deflation/cornering hard if running very low tyre pressure. Iirc there is also a slight taper (c. 5 degrees) to the bead seating on the rim. Many people fit tubeless tyres to older style tubed type rims without any apparent problems - you might recall a lot of discussion on this subject over on the 500 Classic section.

There is also a slight difference between tubed and tubeless radial ply tyres - tubeless tyres have a layer of softer rubber? vulcanised inside, this lining extends out to the tyre beads. This ensures a better seal against the wheel beads. Early adverts for tubeless tyres used to say that this soft liner would seal around small items penetrating the tyre, preventing deflation.

Afaik the U.K Classic Tyre specialists will export tyres around the world, but at a cost..... (340 for a set of new Pirelli tyres in the correct period tread is probably a bargain, but with added carriage to NZ, probably not). Being in Ireland where everything has to be imported, I have to pay attention to this also.
But these specialist tyre companies' websites are often a great source of info. so worth a look/bookmark.

Afaik, the early tyres were, later regarded as having been 100% Aspect Ratio/Profile. Later, when we started getting low-profile tyres, full profile became regarded as somewhere around 80% (I've seen some tyres listed as 81 or 82%)
So, 155R13 would be 155/80R13. These should be fine, they're what were on the car when you bought it. I'm not surprised that your speedo reading is almost spot-on with 155 tyres, Fiat speedos always read fast back in the day, you're just correcting the built-in deliberate (marketing) error (my car can do the 'ton' ).

Looking at the pic of your car, I'm wondering if the wheels are original ? All series 1 128's I've seen had a steel wheel with circular holes surrounding a chrome hubcap., chrome bumpers and circular headlights. Series 2 128's had rectangular headlights, plastic/resin bumpers and lost the chrome hubcaps, instead having steel wheels with a centre trim in black. Your wheels, however, remind me of what was fitted to the 128 3P (sporty 3 door model) model over here. Over here, 128's with chrome bumpers always had wheels with chrome hubcaps.

You'll probably be able to sort out the non-self-cancelling indicators in less time than it took you to read my long-winded description of how to do it

Best of luck with the 'new' car, from the pic it looks like a very nice example.

Al.
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Last edited by F123C; 31-01-2020 at 02:48.
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Old 31-01-2020   #5
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

Don't worry Al, I was confusing myself while researching tyres on Google but I understand now...well more than I did before yesterday at least.

The tube/tubeless thing is a quandary as there doesn't seem to be much/anything available locally in a specific tubed tyre option and my reading (possibly over on the 500 page) highlighted the challenges of using tubes in tubeless tyres, the main one being the rough interior of the tubeless tyre wearing through the tube. My 500 is running tubeless tyres too
I also noticed that the spare in the 128 is an ancient radial in 155 R13 and tubeless and I'm wondering if it's part of the original equipment? The car has low mileage and had one owner until her death in 2008 and then went into storage until now. The upholstery, carpets and 90% of the paint are original so it wouldn't surprise me if the spare is one of the original set.

All that said, I probably need to identify whether my wheels and tube or tubeless and I can't make out any outward indication as you described. I'm pretty sure they are the original wheels too. The 128 was assembled in New Zealand and there was a certain amount of local content required to meet Govt quota regulations so wheels may have been one area and certainly tyres were. It's possible that rim was chosen to suit a locally manufactured tyre. I learnt to drive in mum's 1978 Fiat 128 1100 with the model name "Bello" which had the same wheels. My current car is a 1300 with the model name "Super". I think these were Fiat NZ marketing names, much like the "Bambina" for the 500.

On the indicators; I had a quick look but couldn't see a bung just screws holding the plastic trim over the column. However, it's 35 degrees here today and even in the garage it's unbearable so I've put it off until this heatwave subsides

The car is in remarkable condition. So few of these have survived here having been decimated by rust. This car was rust proofed from new and the owner appears to have adored the car and kept it pristine. Here's a few more of the dealer photos, just for fun.

Thanks again and I'll let you know how I get on.
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Old 31-01-2020   #6
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

Hi Andrew,

You probably won't have any problem using tubeless tyres without tubes even if your wheels don't have this safety hump design of rim - lots of people do this without apparent problem. I'd be guided by people who run similar cars local to you. If you check out cars of around this era, you'll probably spot some with this slight depression on the rims - it usually retains some dirty water after you've been out driving in the rain and the rest of the car has dried off. If you can post a fairly close pic taken at 45 Degrees to the outer part of the wheel rim, I should be able to say which type of rim you have.
But as you say, local content rules for the NZ assembly plant may be the answer to why some things/parts are a little different.

If you do a Wikipedia search for the 128, you'll see where the 128 was also built/assembled in a number of other countries besides Italy, plus pics/details of the variants produced in various countries - as I mentioned to the owner of a 600D in another thread, don't forget about these other countries as a possible source of spare parts. Some of these other countries are lower cost economies e.g. Egypt, so the high cost of carriage might be offset by the low cost of parts - worth considering if you're stuck for something.

I last worked on 128's etc. almost 40 years ago (how time flies when you're having fun ) so I hope you'll forgive me if I don't remember things exactly correctly. My mention of a bung on the steering column cowling/shroud to access the switch assembly clamp, might be on the 127 which had a one piece cover- the 128 might have a 2 piece cover, 2 halves held together by screws. No doubt you'll figure it out whenever your workshop temperature allows work to resume.

Thanks for the extra pics, your car looks exceptional. Sadly, same as you said, most succumbed to the rust bug long, long ago over here.

Regards,

Al.
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Last edited by F123C; 31-01-2020 at 06:12.
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Old 31-01-2020   #7
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

Thanks Al. I'll get the indicators sorted when things cool off.
Parts seem a little harder to find here now as nearly all of the cars have gone to Fiat heaven so it's a good idea to look at those other places where they were popular. Fiat 500s are are still fairly plentiful here with wrecks showing up for sale regularly. I literally just went halves with a mate on a fairly solid looking 500D for $750 (375 quid) with enough parts to fill a small van.

I think I'm going to go for a set of 155/80 tubeless modern tyres as the set on the car are 18 years old now.

Thanks again, I'm learning
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Old 01-02-2020   #8
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

Hi Andrew,

Looking at the above ^^^ pic, it looks to me to be the old style tube type rim i.e. non safety hump type. The valve stem also looks like a tube is fitted, the stem of which looks to me to be too long?

I did some research, the safety hump started to be adopted by the Americans sometime after the 1950's when tubeless tyres (tires ) first started to be introduced and was subsequently adopted by most manufacturer's. But I don't think it's essential for safety as there's a 5 degree taper to the rim adjacent to the flange to ensure a tight seal between the rim and the soft inner liner built into the tyre. I think the safety hump was an additional safeguard to prevent the tyre from moving away from the flange during heavy cornering. To summarize, I think you'll be fine using tubeless tyres without tubes on your wheels - lots of others have done this without any problem.

I'm not sure if you intend to fit tubes in your new tubeless tyres - you mentioned you were aware of tubes being damaged by the non-smooth inner surface of many tubeless tyres - or if you intend going full tubeless and fitting tubeless valves to your wheels?

If you decide to fit tubeless valves, you might check out if the valve hole size in the wheels is the same for tubes and tubeless.(any tyre shop should know)

I usually try to arrange to have the old tyres removed, then bring the wheels home to clean, de-rust as required and re-spray before returning to have the new valves and tyres fitted, balanced etc. It's not unusual to find some rust on the wheel flange under the old tyre, it's important to clean this off, then re-paint as necessary to allow the new tubeless tyre to seat and seal correctly.

Al.
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Old 02-02-2020   #9
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

Thanks Al
I had noticed the unusually long valve stems but hadn't given it any thought. I'll probably just go with tubeless and, like you suggested, I'll clean up the rims and repaint them before fitting new tyres. I'll also get the valve hole size checked as you mention.

I'm sure all your great advice on this thread will help others in the future who are having a search on here. That's why this is my first port of call for solutions and ideas
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Old 02-02-2020   #10
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your kind comments, much appreciated

The reason I mentioned the valves sticking out too far isn't so much if tubes are fitted (unless you frequently park/scrape against kerbs) but if tubeless valves are fitted - scraping against a kerb when parking, can bend an overlong i.e. protruding, valve one way, and if the car is then reversed, it's possible to push the tubeless valve out of it's hole in the wheel rim, leading to deflation, this might not happen immediately, the air pressure will tend to push the valve into the hole, but can happen shortly afterwards. Tyre deflation is not good!

The valve holes for both tubed and tubeless types might be the same but it's no harm in double-checking before painting the wheels.

Way back, old car wheels used tubes which had a larger hole than on modern wheels, when fitting modern tubes, it was necessary to fit available plastic collars to reduce the hole size. This is a little history lesson and doesn't apply to your relatively modern Fiat.

One word of caution I forget to mention - if the timing belt has not been replaced, please do so without delay.
You did mention the car was laid up for several years and that you purchased it from a garage? (if I understood your pictures correctly). Perhaps the garage or yourself has already fitted a new timing belt?

Don't forget to update us re. the non-cancelling indicators and any other issues you encounter, when you get time (and cooler weather).

Regards,

Al.
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Old 02-02-2020   #11
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

good call on the timing belt. It's going in this week to have a new one fitted. I don't know when it was last done as the sticker stating the date and mileage has faded. However, the last number on the date is '2' leading me to believe 2002 or 1992 (was in storage in 2012). Either way it needs doing.

I just received a Haynes manual today and in the short tyre section it doesn't mention tubes but does recommend having tubeless tyres fitted by a professional. It also advises to clean and paint the wheels every few years. So I'm just going to fit tubeless tyres with no tubes after a clean and paint of the wheels.

A local mechanic (called Tony, so I can tell him to fit it again)really helped me out with my 500 struggles recently. He is changing the T belt and also going right through the cooling system as the car overheated on me the last time I drove it due to the fan not cutting in. Also fitting a temp gauge for future peace of mind
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Old 02-02-2020   #12
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

Hi Andrew,

Fitting a new timing belt is straightforward, there's no special tools required.
Good choice of Mechanic, is he Italian?

Failure of the cooling fan used to happen occasionally, usually it was down to failure of the thermo-switch in the bottom? of the rad. Removing and joining together the 2 wires that go to the switch should make the fan run with the ignition turned on. So if the fan fails to work as required when driving, you can just detach the 2 wires and join them together to prevent overheating. As these wires use Lucar terminals, there's no need for tools etc, just slide part of one terminal into the other to make a connection.

Iirc, some/all 128's had the fan wired up so that it could continue to run with the ignition turned off (i.e. wired direct to the fuse-box not via the ignition switch).
This was to prevent heat soak from a hot engine causing fuel vaporisation in the carb.
Some believe it also possibly has a protective benefit on the engine cooling system/cyl. head gasket by allowing the fan to cut in if required - when a hot engine is switched off, coolant circulation stops, and steam pockets can form in parts of the cylinder head.

So be careful when working around the engine in the vicinity of the fan, remembering that the fan may suddenly start up even with the ignition off.

Don't be worried if the fan cuts in as you walk away having just parked the car - it's normal. (back in the day we often had customers think that there was something wrong with their car's cooling fan if it happened).

Regards,

Al.
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Old 12-03-2020   #13
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

Quote Originally Posted by F123C View Post
Hi Andrew,

Fitting a new timing belt is straightforward, there's no special tools required.
Good choice of Mechanic, is he Italian?

Failure of the cooling fan used to happen occasionally, usually it was down to failure of the thermo-switch in the bottom? of the rad. Removing and joining together the 2 wires that go to the switch should make the fan run with the ignition turned on. So if the fan fails to work as required when driving, you can just detach the 2 wires and join them together to prevent overheating. As these wires use Lucar terminals, there's no need for tools etc, just slide part of one terminal into the other to make a connection.

Iirc, some/all 128's had the fan wired up so that it could continue to run with the ignition turned off (i.e. wired direct to the fuse-box not via the ignition switch).
This was to prevent heat soak from a hot engine causing fuel vaporisation in the carb.
Some believe it also possibly has a protective benefit on the engine cooling system/cyl. head gasket by allowing the fan to cut in if required - when a hot engine is switched off, coolant circulation stops, and steam pockets can form in parts of the cylinder head.

So be careful when working around the engine in the vicinity of the fan, remembering that the fan may suddenly start up even with the ignition off.

Don't be worried if the fan cuts in as you walk away having just parked the car - it's normal. (back in the day we often had customers think that there was something wrong with their car's cooling fan if it happened).

Regards,

Al.
Sorry for the radio silence on this project but I'm finally at a point where the car is driving nicely.
I fitted new tubeless tyres to replace the aging, but tubed, tyres. We cleaned up the rims and the tyre fitter (who has also done the mechanical work, and is called Tony) is happy that there will be no issues. It certainly drives better with new rubber.
He replaced the cam belt and tensioner and the reason for the cooling fan fault was a severely clogged radiator. He said that because it had sat dormant for so long the anti-freeze had gone off creating an orange sludge that sank to the bottom of the radiator. That has been fixed and a temp gauge installed. The fan works as it should too.
The rear brakes had been overhauled on one side but the other side was a mess so new flexi line and slave cylinder installed.
The gear change was stiff and odd feeling which was caused by a small rubber block that goes between the floor and the gear change shaft/rod which had been lubricated using a petroleum based product resulting in the part expending and causing the stiffness. Fixed.
Tony found that the ignition was too far advanced causing some pinking. When he set it to the correct advance it had a miss-fire. The distibutor had not been lubricated in years and was showing signs of wear as a result. He gave it a good going over and also fitted an electronic ignition that uses the points as a switch, replaced the leads, plugs etc and discovered the coil was also faulty. It now runs beautifully.

As for the self cancelling indicators; he tried the adjustment at the column but no luck. Unfortunately the steering wheel is badly cracked so he didn't want to risk removing it and cracking it even further. It looks like the wheel damage may have been caused by someone trying to remove it too aggressively.
So I'm on the lookout for a new steering wheel and was thinking about trying to find a 128 Rally wheel or an 850 Sport/124 sport wheel. Are these wheels interchangeable?
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Old 12-03-2020   #14
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

That's great news about the progress you and your Mechanic, Tony have made.
The 128's had a great little engine and I'm sure you'll really enjoy driving it.

Re:- which alternative steering wheels can be fitted?

Iirc, the type of steering wheel you need to obtain is the type that has a small, c. 3mm, spring loaded plastic pin on the underside, which engages with a plastic disc on the column switch assembly in order to provide self-cancelling of the indicators.

This type of st. wheel was fitted to the 127 (all versions incl. the Sport), 128, early 131 (i.e. prior to the Super Mirafiori/Super Brava? which had a single spoke st. wheel, similar to some Citroen models), 132, later 124 Sport/Spider (versions 124CC/CS and later, so 1973 onwards), also possibly the X1-9, Ritmo/Strada.

Afaik, all of these steering wheels fitted onto steering columns that had the same size/no. of splines and used a 24mm sized nut.

I don't think a st. wheel from an 850 Sport, 124 Saloon/Sedan/Familiare or 124 Sport/Spider earlier versions (tipo 124AC/AS or 124BC/BS) will be suitable as these use the older style of indicator-cancelling mechanism - this type had 2? large bumps on the plastic disc on the column switch assembly that cancels the indicators - these bumps fit into 2? recesses on the underside of the steering wheel.

There's also the possibility of using a period-correct aftermarket steering wheel and suitable mounting boss - many enthusiasts fitted such st. wheels back in the day, often in order to get a smaller diameter or 'sportier' look. Many such wheels, or the originals they replaced , end-up hanging on the wall in sheds or appear at car boot sales and similar gatherings. You might get lucky.

It might be a good idea to measure the diameter of the existing steering wheel boss where it fits into the steering column cowling (column switchgear covers) to ensure that any replacement steering wheel you source will fit without modification.

It was also probably a wise decision by your Mechanic not to attempt to remove the steering wheel, given it's cracked condition - at least you can continue to drive and enjoy the car until a suitable st. wheel is available.

But afaik, there is a steel frame under the plastic covering on the standard wheel so it should be feasible (famous last words ) to remove it without totally destroying it.

One trick you could use (apart from the technique, that I described earlier, of alternately pulling/pushing on either side of the rim), would be to loosen the nut (24mm) that clamps the st. wheel in position, by a few turns and drive the car around somewhere safe e.g. a car park - operating the steering wheel while doing 'figure-of-eights' might loosen the st. wheel on it's splines, allowing for easy removal.

Hth,

Al.
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Last edited by F123C; 12-03-2020 at 22:18.
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Old 13-03-2020   #15
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Re: Fiat 128 Tyre size and indicator cancelling

That's great info Al. I have a local Fiat man looking through his stock. He said the same regarding the pin and using 131/132/124cc etc. A 124cc with the spokes painted black would look very similar to a 128 Rally st. wheel from what I can tell.

I won't attempt to remove the old wheel until I have a replacement but I'll be taking your advice when I do.
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