25 July 2012

Maintenance: Tire Changer Mods

About a year ago, I picked up a used Harbor Freight Manual Tire Changer and the Motorcycle Attachment (which is no longer available as I type this).  When I bought mine, used was the only option however now they have them available on eBay.  I knew that it needed modification so it wouldn't do too much damage to the wheels.  There are a plethora of pages out there that explain how to do it and I used information from many of them when I did the mods for mine.

A couple of months after I got it, I tried to change my front tire without doing any mods because the guy I bought it from said it could be done and I was broke enough to find out.
Before I could use it, I had to stabilize it.  My first attempt was with a 2 x something board I had in the garage.

That was a miserable failure.  The thing wobbled something awful, so I went back to my wood selection and chose a bigger board.  It was only a temporary solution so I could get the tire changed.  The bigger board worked a lot better.  It allowed me to get the bead broke and the tire off of the rim.  I did have one problem though.  Since I got mine used, it came without instructions.  Tightening the rim in the changer was not as intuitive as I thought, at least not for me.

I struggled to keep the rim still in the changer and as a result scratched the rim pretty good.  Later, I struggled to the the Bridgestone BT-21 on the rim and scratched it pretty good in the process.  In the end I was frustrated and gave up.  Cruzman came over and saved my bacon.  He figured out how to tighten the rim in the changer but we were still unable to use it to get the tire on the rim.  We ended up on our knees with blocks of wood and tire irons rendering my investment in the changer useless except for the bead breaker.  I used that without scratching the rim at all.  But it did give me some valuable experience that I hoped to apply to my next tire change.

One thing was certain, I couldn't operate the changer without scratching my rims like the previous owner did.  My first mod to the changer would be some type of rim protectors.  After looking at various solutions, I found some rim guards on eBay that looked like they might do exactly what I wanted.  Add $35 to the $50 I paid for the changer.  I had to cut them to fit and use some cut up cutting board for spacers but it turned out pretty good.

I also figured out the correct way to secure the rim in the changer since Cruzman didn't show me how he did it the last time.

The key is the collar should be against the tire changer near the tightening thingie rather than against the rim holder like I kept doing it.  Once I figured that out, I had the rim secure.

The next thing I did was remove the legs and put the changer base on a piece of wood reclaimed from a rickety entertainment center.  Now I can just remove 4 nuts for easy storage and the stabilizing piece isn't so big that it's in the way.  I did forget to leave space to support the rim but that's no issue because I have enough wood blocks.

After letting my Bridgestone BT-23 sit out in the hot sun for a few hours, I figured I'd have no problems getting the rim on the wheel.  I got it 3/4 the first time and thought I understood what I did wrong so I could correct those mistakes.  I was so wrong.  The BT-23 sidewall is even stiffer than the BT-21!  I couldn't even get it 1/2 way before it'd slip off again.

I consulted several videos about installing stiff sidewall tires to no avail.  In the end, Cruzman came over and saved my bacon again.  I think if I want to change my tires myself, I may need to change my brand of tires.  Those Bridgestones seem to resist every effort to go on the rim unless you have two people on the ground with the rim supported on wood blocks, three tire irons, cursing, grunting, praying, and luck to get the darned thing on.  He said he didn't think he could get it on by himself but I think he said that so I wouldn't feel like I got in his way while I was trying to "help".

Cruzman won't always be there to save my bacon so I need to be able to do this myself.  Not only that, I bought the changer to change tires not just break beads and scratch rims.  I solved the latter problem, next is to resolve the former.  I think I'll spend some more money to do that and order the no-scuff tire tool.  Even with that, my changer will still be cheaper than the alternatives that are out there now.

Once I master the tire change, I'll get my rims re-painted!

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer


  1. I think you're missing a tool yet. If you had something like [url]http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-202214072/h_d2/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&keyword=irwin+clamp&storeId=10051#.UNDMb3eDl8E[/url], you could get by with only two irons to mount your tire.

    1. You're probably right but the yellow think is supposed to do the same thing. I do plan to pick up a few of those though the next time I'm at Harbor Freight. Thanks for the comment and reading my blog.

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