CHANGING A TIRE WITH IMPROVISED TOOLS

David Jackson | UTV Maintenance | September 19, 2019

At Intimidator UTV we like to hit the trail prepared with plenty of tools, a spare tire and wheel, winch, and plenty of friends around to lend a hand when something goes south. But we’re not always so well stocked. 

Sometimes we hit the trail with just us, a buddy, and a toolbox. When we leave the jack at home, how do we take care of a tire when it blows? Or worse, what if the tire bead comes off the wheel? Here's how to get the job done.

When you need to get the weight off your wheels, there are a few ways to get it done without a jack. These techniques use the environment around you and simple physics to make them work. One of these techniques should suit you no matter where you ride. 


OFF CAMBER 

Closeup of black Ranger UTV with front tire in air


The off camber method involves elevating the tire that needs to be changed in the air by parking the other front tire on a rock or log. The easiest way to do it is to find a rock, log, or mound and park one front tire on it. If you’re at the right angle, you’ll be able to rock your machine back and forth to take weight off one front wheel or one rear wheel.

Say you want to change your rear passenger tire. You’d want to get your front passenger tire onto a high point so you can use your front passenger and rear driver tire as the pivot point. Rock your UTV to the left and your rear passenger tire will lift off the ground. 


WINCH OVER

Our favorite way, and the way you’ve probably seen most often on your rides requires a buddy with a winch. The method to get your tires off the ground is simple enough.

  1. Have your friend anchor their winch line to the top of your cage on the same side that your busted tire is.

  2. Your friend, parked off to one side of you, winches across your machine and lifts the busted tire off the ground.

That’s it. Two steps and you’re done. Easy peasy.


WINCH UP

If you don’t have a good boulder to roll up on and you don't have a friend with you, there are other ways to get your tires off the ground. One method is to take your winch line and hook it up to a tree above you somewhere. This method is EXTREMELY dangerous, and Intimidator UTV does not recommend this method unless you are in a dire emergency and it is life or death.

Pull the winch in and you can raise your front end off the ground to whatever height you want. This method has some obvious limitations, though: 

  1. You need a tree. 

  2. You need a strong tree. 

  3. You need to be able to get up that tree to a point where you can actually wrap your winch line (with a tree saver) around the trunk above a branch. Some trees don’t have a suitable anchor point anywhere near the ground.

If you get past all those hurdles, you can get away with some impressive lifting action. (We used a 10 ft ladder to find a good anchor point) 


MAKE A RAMP 

A slightly more consistent way to get weight off your wheels is to build your own ramp. This technique is easier than it sounds and all you need are two logs or a log and a rock.

Lay one log on top of the other in a ‘T’ shape, then drive up the ramp so that your skid plate—not your suspension—rests on the inclined log. Throw your brakes on, chock your wheels, and you’re ready to get to changing.  

This technique is best suited for changing your front tires. You could back onto a ramp like this but shifting your weight forward while relying on your front wheels only to push your machine can be pretty hard on your front axles. 


MAKE A BUMPER JACK 

When you need to lift your front end and all else fails, you can use a single length of timber to make a bumper jack. This tip comes straight out of the US Army handbook for Recovery and Battle Damage Assessment and Repair

Here’s how to make a bumper jack: 

  1. Find an appropriately stout log at least six inches in diameter between four and five feet long. 

  2. Jam the bottom of the log into the ground under the front-end of your vehicle. This will be the anchor point for the log so make sure it’s secure in the ground. Digging a small hole can be helpful. 

  3. Secure the log to your bumper at an angle using ropes or chains. From the side, it’ll look like you just ran over a pole. Whatever lashing you use must be secure enough to hold the front of your machine in the air once the log straightens to vertical. 

  4. Back up your vehicle slowly until the log straightens and lifts your front-end off the ground. 

  5. Put the parking brake on, chock your rear wheels, and you’re ready to change a tire. 

To use this military method, you need a bumper that’s Built for Battle, otherwise you might end up doing more harm than good to your ride.


HOW TO RE-SEAT A TIRE BEAD 

What if your tire comes off the bead and you don’t have a spare? How do you reseat a tire bead without a special compressed air bead seater tool? The best method is to use ratchet straps. 


RATCHET STRAP METHOD (Recommended) 

Yellow ratchet strap


A ratchet strap can be used to reseat a bead once your tire is back on the wheel. 

Reseating a bead using ratchet straps is safe and easy. Plus ratchet straps are a standard tool in just about every rider’s toolbox. The only other tool you need is an air compressor.

Here’s what you do: 

  1. Get your tire back on the wheel. You may or may not have to do this depending on how badly you screwed up, but we always find that a good crowbar does the trick.

  2. Clean the bead. Use a rag to remove any dirt or debris. 

  3. Lubricate the bead using soapy water. This helps your tire seal against the wheel. 

  4. Wrap your ratchet strap around the tire and tighten them to squeeze the tire bead and the wheel together. You may need to move the straps closer to the inside or outside edge of the tire to apply pressure more directly on one bead or the other. 

  5. Once tightened sufficiently, start filling with air. You only need to get enough air in it to seat the bead—don’t overfill before taking the ratchet strap off.

Once you remove the ratchet strap and fill your tire to the correct PSI, you’re ready to roll. 



GET CHANGING

Changing tires on the trail and reseating beads is no big deal. It’s amazing how far a few tools and a little ingenuity will get you. Be sure to check out our roof racks to hold the spare tire, making sure you’re prepared for the worst.


SAFETY FIRST

When in doubt, back out. Intimidator UTV encourages everyone to use common sense and put safety first when operating one of our UTVs. Although these tire-changing methods have proven to be extremely helpful in previous years for many of our customers, that doesn’t guarantee that it will absolutely work for you. Do not compromise safety whatsoever. If necessary, back up and come up with another plan - a plan which may involve walking out, getting to a spot where you have a cell signal, or even yet, have essential survival items in case you are forced to stay with your UTV until help arrives.