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how to use a tire changing machine

Our Guide To Using A Tire Changing Machine

A tire changer is a useful tool for your tire shop, garage, and even at home, especially if you have multiple working cars or live upstate in rural areas.

Whether you are a professional or just a regular car owner, knowing how to use a wheel clamp tire changer machine is essential in the automotive world. It's a worthy investment that will save you money in the long run, no matter the reason for purchase.

What is A Tire Changer?

A tire changer is a machine used to help dismount and re-mount tires from wheels.  There are a variety of tire changers that have different functions and features, but the basic function is always the same. Technically, there are two main classes of tire changers:

Hydraulically operated - these types of tires changers use hydraulic fluid and compressed air to press down the tire, breaking it free of its seal to the wheel.

Manually operated - as the name implies, manual tire changers require slightly more effort to operate. You have to press down a lever manually and occasionally move the tire to break the tire bead.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both types, but overall they all do the same thing: help you quickly safely change your tires. A good tire changer will be built from strong materials with high-quality construction, so it can easily withstand years of hard use.

Car & Truck Tire Changers

Understanding Tire Changers

First, before you can get to operating tire changer machine, you should first learn about the types and their different specialized functions:

Tilt Back Tire Changers

They usually have an external clamping capacity of 28" and an internal clamping capacity of 30". This makes tilt back tire changers easier to use and more practical options for bigger tires, especially since you won't have to keep on screwing and unscrewing the head.

Swing Arm Tire Changers

This type of tire changer is most common in commercial tire shops. It's designed with 4 adjustable tabletop jaws providing a wider clamping range. All four tabletop jaws can be simultaneously adjusted for mistake-free clamping.

The hi-grip jaw covers provide sufficient mounting torque to protect your wheels.

The only disadvantage of the swing arm changer is that you have to constantly unscrew the machine's head to fit different sizes of tires. However, this can be overlooked as they are easier to use, efficient, and more affordable in the long run.

Leverless/Touchless Tire Changers

Better suited for low-profile tires.

Leverless tire machines are the most common type you will find in automotive shops. They are top of the line and cost more than the tilt back and swing arm changers.

However, the value of investing in a leverless tire machine is totally worth it. They require very little training to use and are more efficient in removing the tire and re-mounting it back (without bead damage if you are only rotating/switching tires between wheels).

The most loved feature of a leverless tire changer is its ability to lift and set down heavy rims on its own. The operator doesn't have to do the heavy lifting manually, which is a major plus point in busy tire shops. A good example of a leverless tire machine is the Ranger RV1 Wheel Guardian Touchless Tire Changer.

Heavy Duty Tire Changers

Heavy-duty tire changers are mainly used for larger vehicles, especially in agriculture, construction, and mining. Standard heavy-duty changers can handle wheels with a size of up to 56 inches in diameter, tires up to 90.5 inches in diameter, and 43 inches wide.

Recent newer versions can mount and dismount tires up to 95 inches using hydraulically operated self-centering four jaw chuck with clamping jaws.

Motorcycle Tire Changers

Motorcycle and ATV tire changers are less sophisticated than other changers because they are designed to deal with a smaller and lighter load.  Most of them can accommodate a wheel diameter of 10" and 1-1/2" wide. They are still built out of high-quality materials, but they tend to be smaller and easier to transport.

You can see out full range and also the Ranger brand tire changers here.

Operating a Power A Tire Changer Machine. Step By Step

All tire changers come with a very detailed and easy-to-understand instruction manual.

The first thing you should do is read through and make sure you understand the operator's manual completely before using a tire changer. If anything is unclear, it's strongly recommended to have a person/trainer who is familiar with the style of tire changer that you have.

Alternatively, you can reach out to the seller or brand of the machine you purchase for a detailed over-the-phone walk-through on how to operate the machine safely. In some cases, the equipment distributor can offer one on one training.

Again, whether you'll have training or have some sort of experience with a different model or brand, ALWAYS read and understand the complete manual.

Safety First

Before doing anything, you should always put on safety glasses and avoid wearing anything that could dangle and get caught up around the machine.

Gloves are also great but depending on the type of machine you are using and whether you'll be manipulating the tire a lot, they are not an absolute necessity.

Familiarize With The Equipment.

Learn about what parts do what functions and be comfortable and confident with your actions.

For instance, check on the type of foot pedals that your tire machine. Does it have two-foot pedals or three?

Before loading the wheel, step on each of the pedals and observe what the respective action is. It's always best to get familiar with a new machine irrespective of whether you've used a similar model before.

Deflating the Tire

Before placing the wheel on the machine, remove the valve stem cap and use a valve core removal tool to remove the valve core. Ensure the tire is completely deflated.

NOTE: Never attempt to break down the beads of an inflated or partially inflated tire.

Load Up The Wheel.

(based on a Swing Arm Tire Changer)

  • Load up the tire with the right side facing up.
  • Move the adjustable bead-breaking arm blade so that it's right over the outside edge of the rim. Make sure it's only touching the tire and not the rim.
  • Press the bead-breaking pedal to activate its arm and blade.

Depending on the type of tire machine you are operating, you might have to hold the bead blade for a few seconds to ensure the blade won't come into contact with the rim. release it immediately it comes in contact with the tire

Also (depending on the type), you might have to flip the tire and repeat the process on the other side. In the touchless tire type machine, the second bead blade from below does the job without you having to turn the wheel to the other side.

Clamp the Wheel on the Turntable

There are two methods to perform a tire clamp.

> Inside Clamping

Inside clamping is done on the rim. Position the clamps closely together and place the wheel over the clamps, then activate the clamp. The clamp jaws expand outward to lock the wheel in a centered position securely.

> Outside Clamping

Outside clamping is usually done to prevent rim scratches, mainly on specialty aluminum rims.

For this procedure, the locking jaws clamp from the outside flange (outside of the rim). Open the locking jaws all the way and place the wheel on the turntable. Activate the clamp to lock around the outside of the rim to lock the wheel in a centered position securely.

Use the assist arm to push down the wheel into position while activating the clamps.

Be careful not to pinch the sidewall of the tire

Remove the Tire from the Wheel

Lower the duckhead on the outside of the flange. Make sure the bead breaker is well set into the tire's bead before activating the turntable clockwise. The tire tool bar/bead breaker lock automatically retracts away vertically and sometimes horizontally (slightly to about 1/16th" or 2 mm) from the rim to prevent scratching the wheel while demounting/mounting.

The tire iron pulls the top bead over the outside of the rim first, followed by the bottom bead.

Now, the tire is off and ready to be replaced!

Modern tire changers have plastic inserts on the steel duck head to protect the rim should the head come in contact with the wheel during the mounting/demounting process.

Tips:

  • If a tire is in a bind, reverse the turntable until the jam is cleared
  • When demounting the tire, keep away from the movable parts to avoid possible injury

Inspecting the Tire and Wheel

If not replacing the tire.

Make sure you inspect the inside for damage, cuts, penetrating objects, loose cords, etc. Inspect the condition of the bead lining and if there are any sharp bends in the bead, DO NOT re-mount worn tires. Replace.

If installing a new tire.

Inspect the condition of your rims on the inside but most importantly on the outside flange. Check for sharp edges, dents, rust, cracks, and any other significant damage. Minor dents and edges can easily be straightened. However, larger dents must be checked for radial and lateral runout with a dial indicator. Use a brush to remove rust and smoothen the surface of the bead seat to prevent slow leaks.

Valve Stem Replacement

Use a valve step puller to remove the old worn-out valve stem. If you don't have the puller, you can cut it off with a knife.

Remember to install a new valve stem before mounting the tire.

Thread the new valve stem into the installation tool, lubricate it with rubber tire lube and pull it into the hole. Be sure it is properly seated.

Before attempting to inflate the tire, remove the valve core.

Re-mounting/Mounting A New Tire

Correctly place the tire on the rim when you're ready to mount it.

Make sure the correct side of the tire is facing out. Especially be extra keen with directional tires, which are designed to only run in one direction.
Add a generous amount of tire lubricant to the circumference of both the top and bottom bead.


Slightly twist the tire to place the bottom bead at an angle to the rim before activating the turntable pedal. Repeat this process for the top bead as well.

Inflate The Tire

Inflating the tire comes with a twist. It's the easiest part of demounting/mounting a tire, but it can be the most dangerous.

  • Unclamp the wheel when inflating. ONLY unclamp if the beads have been seated.
  • If the rim is clamped on the outside, release the clamp and move it to the center of the tabletop for the bead seal operation.

Check your equipment operations guidelines for complete and proper inflation gauge operation.

To set the bead and inflate the tire, insert the air hose to the valve stem and depress the air inflation pedal. Most tire-changing equipments have a dial indicator to show the amount of air being pumped into the tire.

Inflate to the proper PSI –as recommended for the tire.

Safety Precautions To Follow

A tire changer is a powerful machine that requires some precautions to be taken when using it to prevent injury and damage. They are especially dangerous if not used when following recommended safety, so here's a quick run down of what you should know before operating one:

  1. There are multiple pinch point dangers on the unit. Do not rest your hands on any part of the Tire Changer while using it.
  2. Never introduce a flammable substance when trying to seat the beads. –  propane, ether, lighter fluid, gasoline could cause fatal accidents.
  3. Don't use petroleum, silicon, or solvent-based tire lubricants. They may cause the tire to slip or create an explosive mixture of air gases, resulting in accidents and serious injuries.
  4. Always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety glasses, work gloves, hearing protection, and steel toe boots.

Using a tire changer machine is easy, and it's important to follow all safety precautions before you begin using it.

Bottom Line:

Tire changing is an important task for any modern car owner. Or mechanic, but it's also potentially dangerous.  For every tire change to go as smoothly as possible each time without injuries, always take the time to read all of the instructions and get familiar with how to use a tire changer correctly before attempting anything else. 

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