There's one thing that, no question, will wear out on your motorcycle, no matter how you ride it: your tires. Tires can wear out faster or slower depending on the manufacturer, compound, and your style of riding, but eventually, they're going to have to be replaced. Most people take their bike to a bike shop, who will remove the wheels, change the tires, reinstall the wheels, and present you with a big bill. Some people will remove the wheels themselves, and take the wheels to a bike shop to have new tires installed.
But none of this is necessary! With a few simple tools, you can change your own tires. The savings from not having to pay someone else to change your tires can even pay for the tools the very first time!
The tools you will need:
- A bead breaker, like this
- the second, larger one can also be used on car tires
- tire irons
: at least two, but you may need three the first few times you do it
- A valve stem puller - I found one for $8 at my local NAPA auto parts store
- Wheel rim protectors, like this
- A way to balance your wheels. this kit
will balance both front and rear wheels - more on this later.
- STP "Son of a Gun" or "Armor All" protectant in a spray bottle - you may want to use soapy water, but the STP or Armor All products work better, and can prevent rim corrosion caused by sodium hydroxide contained in soap.
You will also need the new tire(s) that you will be installing, and a new valve stem for each tire (also available at any auto parts store). Always replace valve stems when replacing tires!
To begin with, you will need to remove your wheels. For instructions on doing this, see:How to remove and reinstall your front wheelHow to remove and reinstall your rear wheel
These instructions show the front wheel of the motorcycle being done, but the rear wheel is essentially the same. Ensure that when you do the rear wheel, you remove the final drive components, and grease the splines before reassembling them, as described in the How-To above.
1. First, the air needs to be let out of the tire. To do this, we will loosen the valve core. A valve stem removal tool (such as the one built onto the end of this valve stem cap) is used.
2. Insert the tool into the valve stem, and rotate it several turns counter-clockwise to loosen the valve core. The air will start coming out of the tire. Wait until the air stops coming out of the tire.
3. Unscrew the valve core all of the way, and remove it from the valve stem.
4. Motorcycle tires are normally directional. To help you make sure you mount the new tire correctly, mark on the rim of the wheel the direction it normally turns. You'll match the arrow on the tire with this arrow when installing the tire.
5. With the brake rotors removed from the wheel (to prevent damage to them), place the wheel on the bead breaker.
6. Position the bead breaker so that it is pressing entirely on the edge of the tire, and not on the wheel rim. Push the bead breaker down until the tire bead breaks away from the rim (it will make a loud POP when this happens). Repeat this process all around the tire, then turn it over and do it to the other side as well. You will notice that you can now push the edge (the bead) of the tire inwards by hand. Feel the inside of the rim of the wheel - you will find a depression, about 1 inch wide and about 1/2 inch deep.
7. For the next steps, position a piece of wood on the ground to protect the wheel from dirt and damage.
8. Place the wheel on the wood. If the wheel you are working on has a piece sticking out on one side, then have that side facing up, so that the wheel sits flat on the wood.
9. The rim protectors are hard plastic, that slip over the edge of the rim to protect it from damage from the tire irons. They also have string attached to them to keep you from losing them inside the tire when you put the new tire on.
10. Place the rim protectors on the rim, a few inches apart.
11. Some tire irons have a spooned end, as shown in this picture. I find it easier to use the spooned end for mounting the new tire, rather than taking the old one off. They can also be used to grab the far side of the tire during removal - which you'll see later on.
12. Spray some STP Son of a Gun or Armor All in along the edge between the rim and the tire, to lubricate it. Slip the tire irons in between the rim and the tire bead.
13. Push both tire irons in until the ends of them have reached the inside of the rim.
14. Pull the tire irons back grabbing the edge of the bead and pulling it up and over the rim. The tire will stretch - but not enough to get it over the rim.
14a. The reason it can be pulled over the edge of the rim is because of the groove in the wheel rim that you felt in step 6. While pulling the bead up and over the edge of the rim, the bead at the opposite end of the tire slips into this groove. This gives the tire bead at the working end enough free play that you can maneuver it up and over the rim. If you can't seem to get it over the edge of the wheel rim, check to make sure the tire bead at the opposite end of the wheel is inside the rim groove. If it isn't, push on the side of the tire to move it into the groove, and try again.
15. While leaving one of the tire irons in place, move the wheel rim protector down another few inches, and repeat the process. You may find it easier to use three rim protectors and three tire irons, although with practice, it is relatively easy to do with two.
16. Once you have pried about half of the tire bead off the rim, the rest of it can be pulled free by hand. One side of the tire is now free of the rim, and the tire itself is held onto the rim only by the remaining bead on the far side of the tire.
17. Without turning the wheel over, maneuver the tire irons through to the far outer side of the tire. Remember to keep lubricating the tire and rim with the STP Son of a Gun or Armor All.
18. Using the tire irons (showing the spoon side here), pull the far side of the bead up and over the rim. Remember to ensure that the opposite end of the tire is inside the groove of the rim (visible in this picture). Continue to pry the bead free of the rim, the same way you did the first side of the tire.
19. Once you have made it halfway around the tire, you should be able to pull it free of the rim by hand. You're halfway there!
20. Using pliers, carefully remove the old lead wheel weights from the wheel.
21. Screw the valve stem puller onto the old valve stem.
22. Using a wood block for leverage, pull the old valve stem through and out of the wheel.
23. Use some soapy water and a towel to thoroughly clean and dry the wheel and the inside of the rim. Make sure there is no grease, oil or other sticky substance left inside the wheel.
24. Spray some STP Son of a Gun or Armor All on the new valve stem to lubricate it.
25. Position the valve stem in the hole in the rim.
26. Screw the valve stem puller onto the new valve stem, and very gently
pull it into place. Don't pull too hard, you don't want to pull it all the way through, which will destroy the stem. You cannot push it into place from below, you must pull it from above. Remove the stem puller.
27. Prepare the new tire. Remove any labels or stickers, and ensure it is the correct size for the wheel!
28. Ensure the tire (if directional - which virtually all motorcycle tires are) is going to be mounted on the wheel in the correct direction - match the arrow on the tire to the arrow you put on the wheel.
29. Spray a towel with STP Son of a Gun or Armor All. From this point forward, you want to try as hard as possible to not get any moisture inside the tire or on the inside of the tire rim.
30. Using the damp towel, lubricate the outside beads of the tire. You will likely need to repeat this as you mount the new tire.
31. Push the new tire onto the rim, working with the far side bead. Push it into the center groove in the rim, then work it up as far as you can with your hands.
32. Install your rim protectors, and use the tire irons to lever the bead up and over the rim edge.
33. The tire will now be halfway mounted, with the far side of the tire mounted on the rim, and the close side still outside the rim.
34. Use the irons to start the tire bead up over the rim.
35. Make sure the opposite end of the tire moves into the groove in the center of the wheel.
35. Use the tire irons to lever the final edge of the tire up and over the edge of the rim.
37. The tire will now be completely on the wheel, but the beads will not yet be seated against the wheel rims.
38. The next step can be difficult, and requires an air compressor with a fair amount of volume. Remove the valve core from the valve stem, and apply a blast of air to the tire. The sudden blast of air will push the sides of the tire outwards, pushing the beads of the tire up against the tire rims, and sealing the tire to the wheel - this is called "seating the bead." Some people find it easier to wrap a ratchet strap around the circumference of the tire, compressing the tire up against the wheel rim before performing this stem. Don't feel bad if you can't get it to seat - it takes some practice and luck. If, after several tries, you can't get it to seat, you can always take the wheel to a local tire place and ask them to "seat the bead" on your tire. I've ended up having to do this before, and they are usually happy to do it at no charge for me.
Once the bead is seated, install the valve core, and pump the tire up to its normal pressure. Spray soapy water along the bead edges and around the valve stem, to check for leaks - leaks will cause the soapy water to bubble up.
The next step is to balance your tire. Using a tire balancer and weights is outside the scope of this article, but I would recommend a better alternative anyway: balance your tire using Dyna-Beads. This can be done at home with no tools, and will balance your tire better and more accurately than old-fashioned weights. It will also smooth your ride and extend the tire life. For information on balancing your tire this way, see this article:How to install Dyna Beads in your tires