View Full Version : Zinc Wheelweights

38 Super Auto
02-24-2008, 08:58 PM
I did some sorting and smelting yesterday. I have found a new supplier for free wheel weights. It's fairly small, but regular. I was surprised about the number of zinc and steel wheelweights that I found. Anyway, I learned a few things and I wanted to share with some photos.

These photos are all zinc or steel wheelweights - all but three of these WWs are ferrous. Some of this has been reported before - my observations are:

1) Zinc or steel wheelweights are perceptibly lighter
2) When you scratch a steel WW, it only removes the paint. With a Zn WW, there is minimal penetration. With Pb alloy WWs, a screwdriver will penetrate deeper.
3) Zinc or steel WWs produce a higher pitched ring when dropped on concrete. Lead WW make more of a thud
4) A couple of them are marked with a Zn - some have a Fe (steel) with a number
5) Some of the Zn and steel WWs use a different method to attach weight metal to clip. I think due to zinc or steel's higher strength, they don't always bury the end of the clip into the WW metal. This is evident on the RH column of weights in the middle picture.
6) When you squeeze them with pliers, lead alloy WWs deform easily and Zn or steel WWs do not. refer to the RH photo

I think item #6 is the most important for me. I usually do other stuff during smelting and I check on the pot every 5 min or so. I use a slow flame on my cooker and I'd rather not hang aroung and suck up the noxious fumes emanating from the cauldron.

So what I did is spend about 20 min for 50# of WWs, checking each weight to make sure it deforms when squeezed with combination pliers. I slipped the jaw to the larger setting and squeezed each WW on the wire cutting (inside) jaws of the pliers. (see RH photo) As I mentioned the lead WWs deform easily and the Zn or steel WWs do not deform at all.

I know this isn't earthshaking, but I wanted to share for those casters who haven't encountered Zn or steel WWs in the mix. This test requires a little time, but it keeps me from worrying about ruining a batch of ingots with zinc.

Obviously, is is important to remove the zinc WWs before the smelt reaches the melting point of zinc ( approx 780F).


Down South
02-24-2008, 09:15 PM
I counted 19 Zinc WW out of one bucket full of WW last week. There may have been a few more. I found the 19 skimming off clips.

02-24-2008, 09:43 PM
I for one appreciate the information as I’m just getting into scrounging for wheel weights. So far my casting has been for BP only and I used lead pipe.

So thank you for posting so some of us newbies can learn a thing or two………or three

02-24-2008, 09:45 PM
so can we sticky this? as it's commonly asked and this is a good thread!

02-24-2008, 10:28 PM
I've yet to run into a certified zinc wheelweight, but I have found quite a few steel ones. They are marked "Fe", and are easily verified with a magnet. Place the magnet on the end of the weight, because the clips are all steel.

02-24-2008, 11:16 PM
I run into quite a few zinc, steel and plastic in the WWs I get from the GM dealership, but rare in the buckets I get from the independent tire stores.

02-25-2008, 12:03 AM
fe is the atomic symbol for iron, and that's what they are made of. DALE

The Double D
02-25-2008, 12:24 AM
Don't forget to save your zinc wheelweights and send them to me... When I get home in April I will start casting them in my golf ball diameter mould for your mortars and cannons. 50/50 you pay postage.

02-25-2008, 01:15 AM
Any way of getting zinc out of smelted lead ingots? Came up with new source only to find lots of zinc weights in it. Lucky, I saw something was wrong and stopped there. The top of the molten metal was FLUFFY, so I fluxed and skimmed only to remove half of what I had to begin with. It also had a deep purple color to it. Time to put Glasses on and inspect more closely before adding.

Down South
02-25-2008, 10:57 AM
I just dump all of mine in the smelting pot. I do pick out the stick on WW and if I see a suspicious WW, I’ll pull it out of the mix. I smelt at a low temp. Just as soon as the melt liquidifies I start skimming the clips off. This is where I find my zinc WW's still unmelted. The Zinc WW melts at a higher temp and I keep my temp just hot enough to keep the regular WW liquid. I’ve even run test by throwing known zinc WW’s in the mix and watching them. They never melted.

Oldfartz, I’m new to casting and so far have never contaminated my melt with Zinc. I’ve read on this forum that the best way to remove zinc from the lead is to keep the melt at a temp just above what it takes to liquidfy the mix. Leave it undisturbed and the zinc crystals will float to the top and can be skimmed off.

02-25-2008, 11:36 AM
The zinc ones (and steel) float, just skim them off. Has worked since they first turned up over here some 10years ago.

02-25-2008, 12:31 PM
Melting zinc wheelweights is the Grand "Boogie Man" of casters, but even with the most casual of care is completely avoidable.

They melt well above the temperature of lead-based wheelweights and can easily be skimmed off. All you have to do, is skim as soon as the "slush" has gone to liquid - the zinc WW will be intact, and floating among the steel clips and other trash. Skim, and add more, or skim and ladle out into ingots and add more. Don't crank the heat up and go inside for a nap, because then you might melt some zinc.

I say might, because I once tried to melt some zinc wheelweights and was only able to do that after putting a handful of zinc and a handful of lead into an empty pot and cranking it to high for 20 minutes. 10 minutes after the lead had melted the zinc finally went slushy and five minutes after that had melted - barely.

Pepe Ray
02-25-2008, 01:26 PM
Down South
That is wishful thinking!!
Once the Zinc is melted, you are screwed!! It becomes part of the alloy.
Would be akin to trying to separate the whisky from the ginger ale after it was poured.
Pepe Ray

02-25-2008, 02:36 PM
fe is the atomic symbol for iron, and that's what they are made of. DALE

Yes, Fe is the symbol for iron, but put one of them on a grinding wheel and you'll see by the sparks that it is steel.

38 Super Auto
02-25-2008, 03:23 PM
I've yet to run into a certified zinc wheelweight, but I have found quite a few steel ones. They are marked "Fe", and are easily verified with a magnet

454, you make a good point. I went and checked: of all the WWs in the photo, only three were zinc (two of these three had a 'Zn' in raised lettering on the WW.

I will go back and make some clarifications in my original post.

Thanks for the tip. :drinks:

03-02-2008, 06:17 PM
[QUOTE]I for one appreciate the information as I

03-02-2008, 06:19 PM
I for one appreciate the information as Im just getting into scrounging for wheel weights. So far my casting has been for BP only and I used lead pipe.

So thank you for posting so some of us newbies can learn a thing or twoor three

so can we sticky this? as it's commonly asked and this is a good thread!

I'll second the thanks regarding the pictures and information.

I picked up an additional source of WW, and so far, I kid you not, almost HALF of the two buckets are zinc weights. I'm starting to get a nervous twitch every time I toss something in the smelting pot--wondering if it is zinc in drag, or some tranveszinctite wheel weight just waiting to ruin my batch.

And I'll WHOLEHEARTEDLY second the motion about making this particular thread a sticky. I'm in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and thanks to all the flakes that have moved here, our tire shops and dealerships are becoming more flake-conscious.

We're gonna see more zinc wheel weights. Just a matter of time.


07-14-2008, 04:09 PM
Brand new here. Just wanted to say hello to everyone.
I've been casting for about 4 years. Currently I'm casting for a .45 Colt, .45 ACP, and .357/.38
Hate to ask fool questions, and I'm sure it's on another thread somewhere, but what does zinc, melted in with your alloy, do that is so terrible?
I smelt down about 20lb at a time, I pick out the valve stems, used wads of Red Man, etc. beforehand. Then melt it at high heat on a coleman stove, then clean off the clips, plastic weights, etc. But I'm sure (looking at the pics above) that I've melted zinc in with my alloy.
Does zinc just cause consistency problems, or will it harm anything?

07-14-2008, 04:29 PM
Thanks for the information , Great Help

07-14-2008, 08:33 PM
Welcome aboard Potsy, and all the other new guys. Enjoy yourselves, You will probably find more info than you know what to do with here!

Idaho Sharpshooter
07-30-2008, 01:44 AM
Again, The Question: what harm does zinc do? Selous writes in his book about 1880, that they always added zinc to their lead/tin alloy for hardness and to keep it from leading in BP ML rifles. We are talking 10 bore and up.


08-01-2008, 10:51 AM
I have only seen a couple of zinc weights so far. I agree with others that note success with maintaining a more modest smelting temp range. I want to keep my tin, so maybe it is a bit of a balancing act. My set-up is capable of melting zinc, but I let the melt get started slowly until I get a good pool of molten lead in the bottom, then I turn-up the heat and add bulk scrap. Once molten I reduce the heat to where it just stays liquid and I stir the flotsom looking for suspicious "stuff" such as unmelted weights. Once I am confident that no zinc has been missed, I turn it up and let the mix heat to where beeswax will just begin to flame off instead of smoke (it should smoke a bit before bursting into flame and not just flash into flame). Then I flux and skim, holding the pot at about that temp and reflux/skim again after 20 minutes. So far, so good - heaven forbid I should have to purchase a thermometer and keep notes ;-)


08-01-2008, 11:01 AM
zinc does not pour as well and needs high heat.if you get good castings you can use it.it wont hurt the gun.the bullets will be light.they used to put zinc washers in special molds as gas checks or scrapers. :coffee:

08-19-2008, 06:54 PM
if you think you have zinc in your alloy, some can be removed by melting at a temp around 650 deg, the zinc will float to the top and can be cleaned off, it will look crinkely, as for casting alloys with zinc in them, a temp of 800 or higher will do it, just do not over heat your mold, Aluminum molds are bad about warping, the boolits will be a little light but very hard, I do not recomend more than 5 % zinc if possable

Mark Daiute
09-06-2008, 08:06 AM
Well, I finaly realized something. I had about 40 lbs. of lead go weird on me once. I was melting my lead over a fire in the fireplace when it got all gummy.

My furnaces are too old and tired to get hot enough to melt zinc. Probably a good thing. Evidently the pot in the fireplace was hot enough (for a while) to melt zinc. That pot is unbelievably heay, probably 50lbs. or more. Now I know that I have to get the fire hot enough to melt that zinc out.

09-10-2008, 05:03 PM
Has anyone seen this report: Annual_Report_of_the_State_Mineralogist.pdf?

They discuss a number of ways to separate zinc from lead.

Not sure any of the procedures are possible at home. One process involved using silver melted in the alloy, the zinc bonds to the silver, and then is removed. Another possibility was using steam, so that one is out. The silver and zinc can be separated through cupellation. yea, it sounded familar, but I still had to look it up. Cupellation is putting the zinc and silver in a clay or bone ash pot and heated. The zinc bonds to the pot and the precious metal, silver, is pure.

The report does say that zinc bonds to the lead preventing separation from smelting.

10-09-2008, 11:44 PM
I have been buying lead at the local scrap dealer. Sometimes I find ingots. How can I tell if the ingots have zinc in them?

10-10-2008, 12:10 AM
it depends on what you want to do with the lead. zinc is ok for boolit making not for shotmakers. I you want to get most out it is a temp thing and takes some time to do. This is where you dont want any type of flux. I dont have the temps here now but this will give you an idea lead melts at around 600 tin around 650 zinc 750 -800 antimony 900 so you take a thermometer and heat the melt to 1000. Then start letting it cool down . At about 850 the antimony will float and look gummy skim that off into one batch. let temp drop to around 650 and the zinc will float skim that off . Let temp drop to 600 and the tin will float and dropping more will only be the lead that should keep a blue scum on it I guess that is why the symbol PB pure blue. The temps that i have posted is not perfect but you get the idea. I will get the temps and post . This does NOT make each pure but will get most to seperate. To get pure takes much more controled heat

10-31-2008, 05:48 PM
Save your zinc WW for putting in your radiator to help stop electrolisis, if you have an engine with cast iron block and aluminum heads they will get eaten up in time, the zinc is a sacraficial
anode, beats throwing them away.

11-10-2008, 12:45 PM
Boolit Master, Thanks for your excellent posting on identifing Zinc & steel wheelweights. Your process works great. I have found a number of Zinc and steel wheelweights in my buckets of wheelweights. I have also passed on your process to friends, some who have been casting for a number of years, everyone agrees that it is a great way to keep Zinc out of the casting pot. Thanks again

11-18-2008, 01:07 PM
The zinc ones (and steel) float, just skim them off. Has worked since they first turned up over here some 10years ago.

+1........Same here!:castmine: