I’ve been mounting and dealing with tires for decades now. Sometimes in perfect situations, sometimes in miserable situations.
Tires are, unfortunately, something almost everyone with a land based vehicle will have to deal with, at one time or another. (Those of you with tracked vehicles, hovercraft, etc…pipe down).
Not only having a deserved reputation for being a bit fragile, you also have to take into account things like tire size, gearing changes, offsets, caliper clearance issues for the wheels, what size wheel, and on and on. Seems endless.
But in this post we’re going to talk about a tire situation that many folks running campers, bug out vehicles, or your various other survival wheels will have to deal with.
What happens when you roll that tire off the rim while doing a turn, and having the tire aired down or partially deflated due to damage? Once you pull over and assess the tire, whether or not it needs repair, then it comes time to remount the rubber…and therein lies the rub.
Large tires can be a royal pain to re-seat. Depending on how old the tire is, how hot or cold the rubber is, wheel size and a few other variables, your tire might self seat itself on the wheel rim, or you might see a large gap between one edge while the other edge is solidly on the wheel. Usually you’ll see this kind of situation when you’re running over-sized wheels and tires, but you can sometimes see it with stock units too.
So you’re in a situation where you need to re-seat a tire.
How do you do that?
Old school tried and true methods like running a strap over the outer diameter of the tire and cinching it down sometimes works. If the rubber is old, or the tire/rim gap is too large, or the tire is simply too resistant, that doesn’t work. It’s always worth a try though.
Another good old method is to spray some ether or gas into the tire, wait for it to vaporize a bit, and then flick a match into the tire. This results in a minor explosion, that hopefully re-seats the tire. If it’s not done right, it results in one of two things – the tire doesn’t re-seat, or the alternative, the tire explodes. Which can be lethal, by the way. This is one of those methods you need to practice, but the problem is the practice can lead to some unwanted results, like losing an arm, or for that matter, decapitation of bystanders.
No, I’m not exaggerating.
Doing the fire and flame reseat is always a bit of a tense moment, but there’s a better tool and method out there.
Enter something called a “bead seater”. I always called them Cheetahs, but that’s also the name of one of the manufacturers, so maybe calling them a generic term is best. Basically they’re a small air tank, with a large ball valve, and a way to direct the blast of air out of the valve and into the tire. Big volume of air suddenly inflates the tire and seats the bead, and boom, job is done. Just keep your air line chucked to your tire valve and inflate away until you get to your desired pressure.
Note that you’ll still need a source of air – a good compressor, a York A/C compressor conversion works fine, or of course you can use shop air.
I had a couple of HMMWV/Humvee wheels and tires I had to mount, recently. No amount of strapping did a damned thing. So I bit the bullet and added to my personal tool kit, and bought a bead seater off of Amazon. Not as pricy as a Kentool, or a real Cheetah, but I’m pretty sure it is 99% of those, and at better than half their price. Pumped up to 80psi, and it took first tries on both tires to pop them right onto the bead. I should have bought the darned thing decades ago, would have saved me a hundred hours or so over the years, without a doubt.
This is the model I bought, and I think I’ll be buying another one, just to keep on the truck. Highly recommended!