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Tires and Beads - Keeping them together

Tires are a wheelers best friend.  Without a good set of rubber under the 4x4, you are not going to have a good experience.  Inevitably, you will encounter a time when tire problems will happen.  

The trailhead ritual starts with airing down the tires to improve traction on the trail.  As you are letting air out of the tire, you are increasing the risk for popping the tire off the bead seat.  And, there are a number of good and not so good solutions to re-seating the bead.

First the good.....

Best bead seating on the trails is done with a ratchet strap (the vehicle tie-down type with hooks on each end).  Ratchet straps come in a variety of widths and lengths with two inch width being a common size and a good accessory to carry.

1.  Starting with the tire off the vehicle and on flat ground, clean any sand, mud or other crud out of the tire and off the wheel rim edge.  Then, wrap the ratchet strap around the tread of the tire and tighten it until the tire is compressed.  At this point, the tire beads should be touching the bead area of the wheel rim.

2.  Take your small plastic bottle of liquid hand soap (if you do not carry a small bottle of liquid soap, you will now) and pour a couple of tablespoons into an empty can or bottle. Add water until the can (or bottle) is half full and shake until you have a frothy mixture. Pour the soapy mixture around the bead on both sides of the tire.  Try to tighten the ratchet strap as much as you can.

3.  Remove the valve core from the valve stem on the wheel rim to let air enter the tire faster. Quickly fill the tire with air.  You need to have an air compressor with 3 cfm air flow and a small tank to give it that first big rush of air.  A better for air source is a CO2 tank such as Ultimate Air. Increase the output regulator a little more than normal to provide an initial rapid air flow.

4.  When the tire beads seat, you will hear a pop.  Stop filling with air and replace the valve core in the valve stem.  At this point, you can loosen and remove the ratchet strap. 

5.  Continue filling the tire to the maximum rated air pressure. Check for air leaks around the wheel rim and bounce the tire on the ground to ensure the bead is securely seated. 

6.  Air the tire down to your usual pressure, mount it back on the vehicle and you are ready to continue your wheeling adventure.

A winch cable can be substituted for the ratchet strap used in Step 1.  All other steps apply until you reach Step 4 when you loosen and remove the winch cable.

The “bad” methods involve the use of ether, gasoline, or other volatile fluid and a match.    While it does work, it does pose a risk of bodily injury.  In addition, open flames are not a good idea in many fire prone wheeling areas.  

Be safe and carry a ratchet strap and a small bottle of liquid soap. 

Article orginated from a posting in the 4x4Wire TrailTalk General 4x4 Discussion Forum

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