Last time we talked about tires: why they are prone to punctures and other problems and the type of tools you should store in your 4WD vehicle ( No Need to get Spun Out over your Tires ).
Now I’d like to discuss the more common tire-related problems you’re likely to face while off-road and how to fix them.
Lose a bead – Occurs quite often while making a hard turn on a soft surface. Because the tire is aired down, there isn’t enough internal pressure to keep the sidewalls from collapsing inwards.
You usually can reset the bead without removing the wheel from the vehicle. Jack up your vehicle and wipe away any dirt from the inside of the rim. Attach a compressor and begin airing up. Reach around the back of the tire and grab rubber. (You may need a buddy to help with this.) Pull the tire toward you so it can start holding air. Keep pulling and holding until the bead resets.
You don’t need a big blast of air to do this. A little ARB compressor, pumping out about 1.27 CFM, is sufficient. Be patient. This will take time, but eventually you will hear the bead pop into place. (Make sure no one’s fingers are in the way!) Lower the vehicle and put away your tools.
Puncture – A standard puncture is actually rather easy to repair. Everything you need is in the tire repair kit. (If you haven’t purchased one yet, I suggest you do so now. A good one is sold by Viking Off-Road – http://www.vikingoffroad.com/ . It is a very complete kit in a soft sided bag that will fit places those hard plastic ones don’t. )
First, lubricate the hole with some white grease using the probe tool provided. This will allow the plug, which is very sticky, to enter freely. Feed a plug through the eye of the plugging tool until it is about halfway through. Insert the eye of the tool into the hole. The plug will be folded over as it’s being fed into the hole, so you’re left with two ends sticking outside the tire. Leave about ¾” of the ends visible. Hold the collar against the tire as you pull out the plugging tool to keep the plug in place.
Trim off the excess, and apply some sand or dirt to the stubs. The stickiness attracts twigs, rocks and other debris which could pull the plug out.
One plug will work for punctures caused by nails, cactus needles and other thin items. If the hole is much larger, use two or more plugs.
Although the plugs are designed for punctures in the tread portion of the tire, they can be used to close a gash in the sidewall in a pinch. DO NOT attempt to drive on hard pavement with a plugged gash, however. The plug may not hold, and you could face a nasty blowout.
Break a bead – Amazing as it might sound, there are times when you need to break a bead. For example, you may have to replace the valve stem or clean a rim to stop a bead leak. Bead leaks are rather common while driving along ruts. The rim slides down the edge of a rut and jams dirt and pebbles into the bead.
Take the tire off the vehicle and lay it flat on the ground next to another vehicle. Pull the valve stem core so you’re not fighting the tire pressure. Set the foot of a Hi-lift jack on the tire just short of the rim. Begin jacking against the other vehicle. The weight of the vehicle pushing against the tire will cause the bead to pop.
Be patient with this process. Some tires need to be nearly flattened before the bead breaks. You can usually get by with jacking on just one side of the tire, though you may need to step on the other side to help it along.
Do not jack your disabled vehicle as part to this process. You will lift it slightly off the jack stands in place, causing a dangerous situation.
Another option is a pair of tyre plyers. Popular in Australia, hence the odd spelling, they allow you to break a bead without removing the wheel. I don’t carry one but when others had them they work fine.
Replace a valve stem – Remove the tire and break the front bead enough so you can reach the back of the valve stem. Cut the old one off. Don’t worry about the chunk that you drop in the rim; that won’t hurt anything.
Apply a dab of white grease on either the valve stem or hole in the rim, and feed the stem through. Use the multi-function valve core tool to pull the valve through. It’ll snap into place when seated properly. Do not use pliers for this, as you could ruin the valve stem. One end of the multi-function valve tool is threaded so it will grab the valve stem nicely.
You’ll note that in order to replace the valve stem you need to know how to both break and restore a tire bead. That’s why I discuss those skills first.
They, along with the others, are not difficult to learn or use. And they come in really handy when you face a flat out in the middle of nowhere. Study and practice these skills at home so your next off-road adventure isn’t deflated by a flat tire.