Handle with Care

John Baxter | May 01, 2012

How to remove, repair, replace and rebalance your tires when they’ve been tread upon.

A simple cage like this will absorb the deadly force created if a tire blows apart during inflation.

Truck tires are designed to combat extreme road stresses, so it’s easy to conclude that when a repair is needed, almost any repair technique will do the job. But tires are fragile in many respects. They’re poorly adapted to survive rough handling of the bead or inadequate repairs.

Failure to use the proper tools and repair techniques often means, at minimum, the waste of a casing that otherwise could be retreaded. At worst, it could mean a blowout at high speed.

Tires need to be removed from the rims using flat, smooth, spoon-like tools designed to spread out the pressure needed to pry them off so concentrated force won’t damage the cords inside the bead. You can purchase simple, unpowered tire tools at a reasonable cost.

For example, Gaither Tool Co., which was started by an owner-operator, produces inexpensive tools that safely de-mount and mount tires.

This device, used to gently work the bead off the rim, is part of a kit that allows damage-free tire work.

Before doing their own tire work, owner-operators should get formal training, says Curtis Decker, manager of product development for NAFTA products at Continental. “It costs less than the cost of one tire,” he says.

Whether using tire irons or a powered tire mounting machine, says Goodyear Marketing Communications Manager Tim Miller, use the proper amount of a non-petroleum lubricant. “Too little lube can result in the beads being damaged and the tire bead not slipping completely up on the flange of the wheel,” he says. “Too much lube can create moisture inside the mounted tire that can lead to excessive inflation pressure buildup.” Tires not slipping all the way up the flange can leak or be poorly balanced. Fluids left in the tire will evaporate from heat, raising pressure abnormally.

Before setting up your own tire shop, consider viewing videos at michelintruck.com, which explain good mounting practices, says Michelin Customer Engineering Support Manager Doug Jones. “Then get a catalog from a company that sells tire mounting equipment and accessories,” he says.

Types of repairs

It is never acceptable to just plug a tire from the outside to fill a nail hole. The tire must be de-mounted and sealed inside with a patch. Otherwise the moisture in the inflation air will corrode the cords, weakening the tire and rendering the casing useless.

Proper repair requires removing the tire from the rim, says Miller. “The hole must fall within the ‘repairable’ area of the tread – between the shoulders of the tire. The repair must be made from the inside out, following procedures described by the repair material manufacturer.”

Michelin’s “Nail Hole Repair” video, among others, are good sources for this topic, says Jones. “Just installing a plug is never a good option for a nail hole or tread puncture,” he says. “The plug and patch and/or the two-piece nail-hole repair device are better options.”

Bridgestone’s series of “Real Questions, Real Answers” advertisements notes that nail hole repairs can be done only in the crown area, which is the center portion of the tread. The outer tread band, which is integral with the shoulder on either side, is not to be repaired. The repair’s diameter must not exceed