Title:
Article for protecting lugs and lug nuts from corrosion and freezing
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An article of manufacture for protecting the lug nuts retaining wheels or rims of vehicles, particularly boat trailers and the like, from corrosion and, ultimately, freezing of the lug nuts, consisting of a flexible, water-impermeable cylindrical cap open at one end and adapted to be positioned over each lug/lug nut assembly securing the wheel or rim to the hub of the vehicle, the cap having an open end for positioning the cap over the lug/lug nut assembly, the end of the cap opposed from the open end being closed, the cap containing a viscous reagent for protecting the lug/lug nut assembly against corrosion prior to being positioned over the lug/lug nut assembly; and lug/lug nut assemblies including same.



Inventors:
Insinna, David E. (Sarasota, FL, US)
Application Number:
10/068757
Publication Date:
08/14/2003
Filing Date:
02/08/2002
Assignee:
INSINNA DAVID E.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B60B7/00; F16B33/00; F16B37/14; (IPC1-7): A47G3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WILSON, NEILL R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
David E. Insinna (Sarasota, FL, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An enclosure for protecting lug-lug nut assemblies adapted to hold a rim or a wheel on the hub of a vehicle, consisting of a flexible cap made of a moisture-and liquid-impermeable material, the cap having an open end so that the cap can be slipped over the assembly, the cap being of a width which will snugly engage the lug nut and of a length such that it can be inserted until the cap covers at least that portion of the lug extending through the lug nut as well as the lug; the cap being at least partially filled with a viscous protectant against environmental forces that can cause freezing of the lug nut, the amount of protectant in the cap prior to insertion over the assembly being sufficient to cover the lug nut and at least that portion of the lug extending through the lug nut.

2. An enclosure as defined in claim 1 wherein the relationship of the internal dimensions of the cap to the lug-lug nut assembly is such that the cap will fit snugly over the assembly and will enclose substantially the entire length of the lug.

3. An enclosure as defined in claim 1 wherein the viscous protectant is selected from the group consisting of oil and grease.

4. An enclosure as defined in claim 1 wherein the amount of viscous protectant in the cap is such that at a portion of the protectant will ooze out of the open end of the cap due to the external pressure exerted as the lug-lug nut assembly is advanced within the cap.

5. A motor vehicle having a plurality of wheel hubs for movement of the vehicle, each wheel hub being fitted over a vehicle axle, each wheel hub assembly having secured thereto a lug adapted to receive a wheel or a rim and a lug nut adapted to being threaded onto the lug to tightly secure the wheel or rim to the hub; each wheel hub assembly having an enclosure as defined in claim 1 for protecting the lug-lug nut assembly from corrosion and freezing.

6. A motor vehicle as defined in claim 5 wherein the relationship of the internal dimensions of the enclosure to the external dimensions of the lug-lug nut assembly is such that an enclosure will fit snugly over the lug-lug nut assembly and will enclose a lug nut of the assembly and at least the portion of a lug extending through a lug nut threaded onto the lug in order to tightly secure a rim or wheel mounted on the lug to the hub assembly of the vehicle.

7. A motor vehicle as defined in claim 6 wherein the viscous protectant in the enclosure is selected from the e group consisting of oil and grease.

8. A motor vehicle as defined in claim 7 wherein the amount of viscous protectant initially provided in the enclosure is such that a portion of the protectant will ooze out of the open end of the enclosure as a function of the external pressure exerted as the enclosure is advanced over the lug-lug nut assembly.

9. A motor vehicle as defined in claim 5 wherein the internal dimensions of the cap to the lug-lug nut assembly is such that the cap will fit snugly over the assembly and will enclose substantially the entire length of the lug.

10. A motor vehicle as defined in claim 5 wherein the vehicle is of a type that, in use, is intended occasionally to be partially submerged in water.

11. A motor vehicle as defined in claim 5 wherein the vehicle comprises a boat trailer.

12. A method of protecting the lugs and lug nuts of a motor vehicle subjected to the corrosive forces of moisture and water against corrosion and freezing comprising the steps of: (1) covering each lug nut and at least the portion of the lug extending through the lug nut to removably mount a rim or a wheel on the vehicle with an enclosure consisting of: (a) inserting a flexible cap made of a moisture- and liquid-impermeable material and having an open end over each lug of a lug-lug nut assembly to be protected through the open end of the cap, the cap being of a width which can snugly engage the lug nut and of a length such that it can be advanced through the open end of the cap to enclose both the lug nut and at least that portion of the lug extending through the lug nut to secure a wheel or a rim of the vehicle mounted onto the lug, the cap being at least partially filled with a viscous protectant against environmental forces that can cause corrosion and freezing of the lug nut to the lug, the amount of protectant in the cap prior to insertion being sufficient to cover the lug nut and at least that portion of the lug extending through the lug nut; and (b) advancing the cap over the lug-lug nut assembly to at least enclose the lug nut.

13. A method as defined in claim 12 wherein the cap is advanced until it encloses substantially the entire length of the lug.

14. A method as defined in claim 12 including the step of cleaning up and protectant which has oozed out of the cap during insertion of the cap over the lug nut.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] As is well known in the vehicular art, there is a tendency for lug nuts extending from a wheel hub to freeze up in time, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to remove the lug nut, e.g. to remove or replace a tire on the vehicle without breaking the lug nut or twisting it off its hub. This problem, attributed mainly to the presence of moisture, is extremely acute with boat trailers and the like which remain partially submerged in water after the boat has been removed from the trailer while the boat occupants are enjoying several hours of boating and/or fishing.

[0002] This problem frames the task of the present invention.

[0003] There have been several suggestions in the patent literature of articles or processes for obviating this problem, the most relevant to the instant application being considered to be the invention described and claimed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,273,658 B1 issued to Patterson et al. Aug. 14, 2001 from application Ser. No. 09/492,397 filed Jan. 27, 2000, which patent can fairly be stated (at least by hindsight, as will be discussed subsequently) to be the starting point of the present invention.

[0004] Consequently, in order to fully appreciate the nature and objectives of the present invention, the Patterson et al patent will be discussed in detail hereinafter.

[0005] It is pointed out initially that while both the aforementioned patent and the instant application define closure means that find great utility in vehicles in general, both are particularly directed to the freezing problem in boat trailers and the like where (see for example the patent Abstract, col. 1, lines 19 et seq.) it is pointed out that “one of the most common places where one finds frozen lug nuts is on the hub of boat trailers. This is because the entire hub of a boat trailer is often submerged in water (fresh or salt) during the course of launching or loading a boat onto the trailer . . . ” As a result, the patentee very correctly notes the lugs and lug nuts are prone to become rusted and thus become tightly bound together.

[0006] The patentee thus fairly concludes:

[0007] “Therefore, there has been and continues to be a need for some type of protective device to house and enclose lug and lug nuts that extend from boat trailer hubs and other vehicles that have hubs that are sometimes submerged in water or exposed to the elements of weather.”

[0008] In the short SUMMARY AND OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION, it is stated, in substance, that the problem to which the application is directed is said to be solved by providing an enclosure that is designed to fit on a lug extending from a hub and to enclose a segment of the lug along with a threaded lug nut. Along with the enclosure that is placed around the lug nut and the lug is included within the enclosure a quantity of grease, protectant or other lubricant compacted around both the lug nut and the lug so as to protect them from the deleterious effects of moisture, specifically corrosion and freezing of the lug so that it cannot easily be removed with a wrench or other tool customarily employed for that purpose.

[0009] Moving over to Col. 2, we see that the enclosure 10 is generally cylindrical in the form of an open-ended cylinder. Two alternative embodiments are presented.

[0010] In the embodiment of FIG. 1 (as discussed in Col. 3), a conventional hub 30 includes a plurality of lugs 32 projecting therefrom, each having a lug nut 34 threaded thereon, all in known manner, to secure a rim or wheel 36 to the hub. A series of open-ended enclosures 10 are provided, one for each lug/lug nut 32,34 for securing the rim or wheel to the hub. In order to complete the enclosure 10, a snap on end cap 20 is provided to cover the open end of the enclosure. On the end opposed from the open end of the cylinder to be covered by the snap on cap 20 is a second opening 12 through which the lug from the hub can extend to within the cavity of enclosure 10.

[0011] In operation, the lug nuts are first removed and the enclosure 10 is then inserted over each lug 32 by projecting the lug through the lug openings 14. The enclosure is then pushed tightly against the wheel or rim 36 lying exteriorly of the hub 36. Once the enclosure 10 is fitted onto the lugs 32, lug nuts 34 are then rethreaded onto the lugs through the open end of the enclosure. As alluded to above, after this is done, grease or lubricant is introduced into the enclosure and the end cap 20 is snapped on to complete the enclosure surrounding and consequently protecting the lug and lug nut assembly.

[0012] As the patentee, Patterson, very correctly points out in Col. 3, lines 51 et seq., “While this disclosure suggests protecting both the lug nut 34 and the lug 32, it is vitally important to protect the lug extending outwardly from the lug nut. This is because the problem of frozen lug nuts arises because the outer ends of lugs become so rusted or corroded that the lug cannot be screwed past the rusted or corroded outer end. Thus, it is very important to protect the exposed outer end of the lug 32, Consequently, when placing the grease or lubricant within the enclosure, it is important at the very minimum to spread an application of grease or lubricant around the exposed end of the lug 32.”

[0013] FIGS. 3-7, the remaining Figures in the case are directed to an alternative embodiment which does not require the burden of first removing the lug nuts from the lugs and then later rethreading them over the lugs.

[0014] As described in Col. 4, the second embodiment comprises a flexible enclosure 50 having an open cavity 58 designed to receive a lug nut 34 through front opening 56. On the end of the enclosure opposed from the open end 56 is a grease fitting 68 threaded through opening 54. In use, the entire protective enclosure 50 is pushed onto the combined lug 32 and lug nut 34. Grease or other lubricant is then injected into the enclosure through a grease gun or the like (not shown) via grease fitting 68.

[0015] To summarize, both embodiments in the '658 patent show a protective enclosure having a pair of openings at opposed ends of the enclosure. The patented enclosure is of elegant design and will clearly perform the task for which it is designed, namely preventing corrosion and freezing of the lugs and lug nuts retaining the wheel or rim on the hub of a vehicle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0016] The present invention is also directed to an enclosure designed for the same purpose, namely to prevent freezing of the lug nuts on a boat trailer or other vehicle. However, the present invention is designed to be cost-effective and consequently was designed to accomplish the same purpose as the patented device in a much less expensive and manipulative way utilizing less sophisticated and relatively inexpensive commercially available materials.

[0017] Specifically, the enclosure article of the present invention is of vastly simplified construction, comprising a cylindrical cap open at one end and adapted to slide over a lug and lug nut assembly, the wall of the cap being of a diameter for fitting snugly in close proximity to the diameter of the lug nut and being of sufficient length to permit the base of the wall defining the opening of the cap to engage the hub, thereby forming, in combination with the hub, an enclosure protecting the lug/lug nut assembly from the degradative environmental effects which contribute to the freezing of the lug nut on the lug. No other structural components are required to achieve the essential task of the invention.

[0018] Prior to insertion of the cylindrical enclosure, it is filled partially with grease, oil or other reagent for engaging the lug/lug nut assembly to protect it against corrosion and freezing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

[0019] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a protective cap contemplated by this invention, the cap being partially filled with grease, oil or other viscous reagent for protecting the lug/lug nut assembly; and

[0020] FIG. 2 is a schematic view, partially exploded, illustrating the utility of the invention to protection of a rim, wheel or tire of a vehicle such as a boat trailer.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0021] As was stated above, common to both the invention described and claimed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,273,658 of Patterson and the instant application is the task of preventing freezing of the lug nuts holding a rim or tire on the hub of a vehicle, particularly a boat trailer.

[0022] Patterson solves this problem in a manner which Applicant considers to be overly designed so that the two alternative designs of Patterson are considered to be much more expensive to manufacture than necessary in order to solve the stated task of the invention. [Applicant has no knowledge of whether or not the Patterson concept has enjoyed any commercial success. If it has not, it is believed that the cost of manufacture may present a cost factor contributing at least in part to the lack of commercial success.]

[0023] In paragraph 3, supra, under the BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION, Applicant has alluded to the fact that the Patterson patent can be fairly stated, by hindsight, to be the starting point of the invention. Applicant so stated this to be “by hindsight” because Applicant had no knowledge whatsoever of the existence of this patent until after he had in fact actually reduced his invention to practice. Specifically, it was only after Applicant's patent attorney caused a novelty search to be conducted prior to advising whether in his opinion there was patentable novelty to warrant a patent grant, that the Patterson patent was uncovered by the searcher and subsequently brought to Applicant's attention.

[0024] The conclusion reached was that the simplicity of the instant invention was vastly superior in terms of cost and availability of materials as well as the manipulative steps demanded of the user of the invention. For these reasons, the present invention provided very substantial advantages over the Patterson design. Further, it is stressed that the invention which is described and claimed in the instant application was in fact reduced to practice prior to any knowledge, directly or indirectly, of the Patterson invention.

[0025] The invention which Applicant asserts to be a solution to the stated task neither disclosed nor suggested by Patterson, will best be understood by reference to the drawings taken in conjunction with the following detailed disclosure.

[0026] With reference to FIG. 1, it will be observed that cap 10 for protecting the lug nut and at least that portion of the lug extending through the lug nut consists only of an open-ended cylinder formed of a flexible moisture- and liquid-impermeable material, e.g. a flexible polymeric material such as a polyvinyl, polyolefin or polyurethane resin, having a sidewall 12 and a bottom wall 14 joined together to form a continuous hollow cylindrical chamber 18 open only at end 16 opposed from closed end 14. As seen both in FIGS. 1 and 2, unlike both embodiments of Patterson, cap 10 will be partially filled with grease, oil or other protectant 20 prior to use to enclose a lug/lug nit assembly. It is within the scope of this invention to provide the protectant prior to use in any of the following three ways: (1) the caps sold to the consumer may contain a predetermined effective amount of protectant already introduced therein; (2) including in the package of caps sold to the consumer is a packaged quantity of protectant sufficient for all the caps 10 contained in the package for the consumer to put into the individual caps as needed; or (3) since the protectants contemplated by the invention are all per se known in the art, no protectant is included in the package, leaving the individual consumer free to select and obtain the protectant of his or her choice as well as the means for introducing it into the individual caps, e.g. manually or with mechanical means such as a grease gun or the like.

[0027] While individuals may doubtless prefer the convenience of alternative (1) or even alternative (2); commercial establishments such as marinas servicing a large quantity of boats may find it far more economical to purchase large quantities of the protectant in bulk and thus may prefer alternative (3).

[0028] FIG. 2 shows the use of the caps 10 of this invention to protect the lug nuts and lugs employed in per se known manner to secure wheel or tire to a vehicle subject to corrosion and consequently freezing by the degradative environmental forces to which the vehicle is subjected.

[0029] As illustrated, only a pair of lugs 30 are shown threaded through lug openings (not shown) in wheel hub 36 extending over trailer axle 38. In the illustration, one of the lugs 30 has a lug nut 32 threaded thereon and the lug/lug nut assembly is covered by cap 10 extending to wheel hub 36. The other assembly of lug/lug nut 30,32 and cap 10 is shown in exploded form for ease of illustrating the assembly.

[0030] An important convenience feature of the invention, as shown in both FIGS. 1 and 2 is that cap 10 contains the desired quantity of protectant prior to assembly. Since the typical assembly for mounting a wheel or tire includes 4-6 lug/lug nut assemblies, the feature of having the cap pre-filled with protectant can easily be appreciated.

[0031] As alluded to earlier, caps 10 are commercially available (for other uses) in varying sizes which can accommodate different lug nut sizes. By way of illustration, Applicant has been able to purchase large quantities of caps 10 on the open market from Niagra Plastic Composites, which caps have a length of approximately one inch and an internal diameter of ⅞ inch and which were employed in actual reduction to practice to protect lugs having a half inch diameter in assembly with lug nuts having an external width of about ¾ inch.

[0032] In the actual studies, the lug/lug nut assembly illustrated above was employed for as much as three years to hold a tire onto the hub, and during that time, periodic removal of the lug/lug nut assembly revealed no problem of rusting or freezing, nor were there any problems of the cap falling off the lug nut during normal driving of the vehicle, thereby establishing that there is no need for the assembly including the cap to be secured to the lug/lug nut assembly by mechanical means, as was done in the Patterson invention.

[0033] To recapitulate, the present invention consists of a flexible cylindrical cap open only at one end so that the cap can be slipped over one of the lug nuts and at least the portion of a lug extending through the lug nut of a plurality of lug/lug nut assemblies for holding a rim or wheel onto the hub of a motor vehicle in which the lug/lug nut assemblies are subjected to environmental forces which can cause rusting and, ultimately, freezing of the lug nut so that removal of the lug nut for customary procedures such a tire changes or rotation of the tires on the vehicle is extremely difficult if not impossible without destroying the lug or the lug nut.

[0034] The open end for slipping over a lug/lug nut as discussed constitutes the only opening in the otherwise moisture-and liquid-impermeable cap which, as mentioned is of a width and length to fit snugly over the lug nut and to cover the entire assembly by pushing it until the open end abuts the hub, thereby completing the enclosure of the lug/lug nut assembly.

[0035] As mentioned, to assure complete protection of each assembly, each cap is prefilled with a viscous reagent, e.g. grease, oil or other per se known protectant for the assembly. In operation, on inserting the cap, as discussed, the partially filled quantity of protectant will thoroughly cover the lug nut and at least that portion of the lug extending through the lug nut tightened thereover. As the cap is pushed up against the hub, as will be anticipated a portion of the protectant may and in fact will typically “ooze out so that wiping with a rag or paper towel may be advisable or necessary.

[0036] Also as mentioned, for the cost factor and the convenience of the user, the present invention employs only materials that can be readily purchased by the user. By way of example, the caps contemplated by the invention are commercially available in sizes to accommodate all standard lug/lug nut assemblies, e.g. those menioned above an employed in acutual reduction to practice of the claimed invention.

[0037] As used herein and in the appended claims, the term “motor vehicle” includes within its scope boat trailers (the vehicle to which this invention is particularly directed), whether permanently attached to an automotive vehicle, e.g. an automobile or truck, or releasably secured thereto, as well as outboard motors and the like.

[0038] While the present invention has been described in detail so as to enable those skilled in the art to which it pertains to practice same and to understand the metes and bounds of what Applicant envisions to be his invention, it is nevertheless intended that the foregoing description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings be construed as being illustrative only, the scope of the invention being as defined in the appended claims.