History of the WheelLugGaugeTM
Where did the idea of the WheelLugGaugeTM come from?
I had been looking for a way to match up wheels and hubs for years, at least since the 60's when I started working on cars for fun. I had tried several different ways to measure wheels and hubs over the years, but had limited success with my attempts at finding a quick and easy way to do it. This was particularly so when working with the popular five bolt wheels and hubs. There is not an accurate way to measure them because there is not a reference point to show you the diameter or the pattern. I just couldn't find a way that worked well enough to suit me. I have been accused of being a perfectionist, so whatever method I devised had to be accurate, not just 'close enough'.
Anyway, on July 4th of 1991, my family and I were attending the holiday festivities at the local marina where a local daycare center was having a fund raising auction. We were successful bidders on a bundle of lumber donated by a lumber mill in a neighboring town. The lumber was still there, about 45 miles away, and I had to find a way to get it home. I looked in a classified paper and found a homemade trailer in another city that would be big enough to handle the load. It didn't have a spare when I purchased it and the tires were really dry-rotted so I wasn't sure it could make the 60-mile trip home, much less the trip to the lumber mill. I definitely didn't want to take it anywhere without a spare, but I got it home okay. When I got there, I tried a half dozen spares on the trailer but none of them fit. Except the obvious fact that it was a five-bolt pattern, there was no way of knowing what the mounting pattern of the wheels and hubs was, or what kind of vehicle they originated from. The search for the correct wheels was too labor intensive because it was all trial and error. If I could find the right size wheel before I tried the darned thing on, it would be so much easier. I worked graveyard at the time and decided to go to bed. I was tired and frustrated.
When I got up that night, the challenge of finding the right spare was still on my mind. I knew the key to the problem was measuring the distance between adjacent bolts of the five bolt pattern. By the time I got to work, only five miles away, the gauge idea was nearly formed in my mind. When I got home the next morning, I fashioned a rough prototype out of scrap aluminum to see if the gauge idea was feasible. It was. I used the prototype to measure the hubs on the trailer and a couple of extra spares I hadn't tried the day before. They matched using the gauge, so I put them on the trailer and they are still on it today. (I got the lumber home without incident, by the way. Made a great shed.)
I liked the prototype so much, I wanted to try to manufacture the gauge I'd come up with. I knew other people would have a use for this gauge also. I sent the wife to the public library the next time she was in town to pick up some books for me on metallurgy and manufacturing processes. She liked the idea so much, she came home with books on patents.
I decided it would be worth the trouble to get a patent. Not having the money for a patent attorney, (or having a mild dislike for lawyers in general) I decided to do it on my own. I read the books the wife had brought home and got addition information from the Patent and Trademark Office. I filed the first application for a patent in December of 1991. That was the start of several amendments and one 'continuation-in-part'. The patent was finally allowed in April of 1995.
The first name I came up with was "PentaGauge" because I was only thinking of five bolt wheels. When I explored the possibilities of using the gauge on sizes other than five bolt patterns (four, six, eight, and ten) I knew "PentaGauge" wouldn't work. By this time I found out that when you're doing a lot of thinking, when you wake up in the middle of the night you better write things down. WheelLugGaugeTM came to me in my sleep.
During the process of filing for a patent, I decided to go ahead with plans to manufacture the WheelLugGaugeTM. I thought we could get it to market for under $5,000. We went ten times past that figure before we made a dime.