Tires are some of the most important yet under-appreciated parts on a vehicle. Without them, we literally could not get around.
Despite improvements in technology over the years, some 4WD owners still are very cautious when it comes to driving off road. An obvious sign is tires that aren’t aired down sufficiently. Apparently the drivers were trying to avoid risks related to under-inflated tires.
Sure, problems like a broken bead can occur. But those can be fixed rather easily. All you need are the proper skills and a handful of tools. With those under your belt and in your vehicle, you can handle most situations involving tires. It’s a lot simpler than you think to gain the peace of mind you’d like to have while driving off road.
Some people wonder why we don’t just throw on the spare every time. Think about it. By putting on your spare, you’re basically using your safety net. You should try to fix the main tire first. Unless it’s damaged severely, you should be able to use it again. And you’ll still have the spare as a back up.
If you immediately throw on the spare, you’re left with no other options. You have to hope that the spare will carry through the remainder of the course, or you head for home.
There are times, however, when you need to use the spare. If you’re ever in a dangerous situation that requires a quick exit, or you’re simply unable to make the necessary repairs, put the spare on and drive to a better location. Safety always comes first.
Tires take a pounding on the trails
Let’s take a look at tires and see why they are so prone to problems. First, they take a lot of abuse. They shoulder the weight of our vehicles, and are forced to carry us over some really nasty terrain. (Even pavement takes its toll on tires.)
On top of that, we air down the tires before hitting the trails. The weight of the vehicle causes the sidewalls to bulge making them susceptible to cuts and gashes. At the same time, with reduced air pressure the tire is unable to hold the bead as well, so we see a fair number of busted beads under these conditions.
The softer tire also increases the chance that a rim will get banged up on rocks. In addition, a valve stem can be damaged or torn out while driving through tight spots.
The types of problems you are likely to encounter fall into four general categories. To drive confidently off-road you should know how to:
- Fix a popped bead
- Plug a puncture
- Break a bead
- Replace a valve stem
The tools you’ll need include:
- Hi-lift® jack
- A rag to clean out the rim
- (optional) Steel brush on a long handle
- Plug kit like UDS Hardware’s Kit, Safety Seal® or ARB’s Speedy Seal
- A couple extra valve stems
- Multi-function valve core tool
Next time we’ll discuss each of the four important tasks in greater detail. The skills and tools needed to handle those situations provide you peace of mind so you can more fully enjoy your next off-road adventure.