How To Change a Big Rig Tire Without Power Equipment

==================================================================
Tam CoverCLICK HERE
==================================================================

The Storage Building Conversion

Most truckers get their tires changed by the use of air wrenches and other power equipment these days, but it never hurts to know the low tech procedure for getting something done. A lot of big rig jockeys, not to mention most of the folks working in the oilpatch and similar industries, already know all about it. So do ranchers and other people who work with their hands.

That being the case, why bother to write about it? Two reasons:

1. Recent trucking school graduates may not know what we know.

2. We have a forty foot semi trailer sitting on our land. It’s an old beast, a 1970 Trailmobile, with worn out tires–two of them flat already–and half the floor wood starting to rot. We use it not for cargo transport but as a storage building for some of our houshold goods which are not about to fit into our little RawHide camp trailer. Cochise County, where we now live, is cool with that…but only if the trailer sits there “with no wheels”. Ridiculous, sure, but our friendly bureaucrats are so sincere about enforcing this that they put it right on the building permit for the earthbag home I’m about to start constructing. Since I had to do the work, why not do an article?

Okay, so I needed to remove the wheels, preferably before a building inspector happened to notice that most of the tires were still on the unit…since I’d already “gone with the flow” and told them the wheels were already removed.

The Tools Of The Trade

The first thing is usually to get the tire off the ground. This can be done by use of a jack (obviously) or by simply driving the vehicle up on a block, especially if the tire to be removed is an outside dual and a rock or chunk of wood is handy to lift the inside dual. Sorry. Can’t show you any of that. Our semi has been up on concrete blocks for months. Not enough to satisfy the County, but enough to level the trailer and lift all eight tires free from Mother Earth. So we begin with that much already accomplished.

The lug nuts had to be removed. Most of them had been pretty well rusted in place for years. Without an air wrench, you want plenty of leverage for a job like that. Never mind the WD-40, which is never a bad thing, but just get on with raw power. One of our ancient mathematicians–Euclid?–reportedly said, “Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I will move the world.”

For this task, we don’t have to move the world. From Home Depot came a cheater bar, actually a four foot piece of 1 inch galvanized pipe. That was slipped–very nearly press fitted, actually; the fit was that close–over a 3/4 inch drive breaker bar (from Sears) and connected to a six inch extension (Sears) and a 1 1/4 inch socket (Sears). Total cost was a touch nasty, just over $106, but a service call to our remote location would have been more than that, and I get to keep the tools.

I may only need 'em for one job, but aren't the new tools bee-yoo-tee-full?

I may only need ’em for one job, but aren’t the new tools bee-yoo-tee-full?

Ah, The Magic Of Leverage…!

Putting my full weight out at the end of the long cheater bar worked just like it was supposed to work. The first two wheels yielded up their lug nuts without a struggle. Wheel number three, on the other hand, had a surprise to offer. Every project comes up with a surprise or two. Or three. Or four. In addition to which, very few of the surprises turn out to be of the pleasant sort. This one certainly wasn’t, though solving the puzzle it presented turned out to be a simple enough thing.

One of the lug bolts had, somewhere in the past, been replaced with a much longer bolt than the stock version that came from the factory. Long enough that, while a deepwell socket would have sailed right on past without a hitch, the regular length socket had a problem. With the wrench extension properly inserted into the socket, the socket couldn’t reach the nut at all. This was solved–cautiously–by putting the socket only halfway onto the nut and inserting the wrench extension only halfway into the socket. A delicate operation for such big, burly tools: One slip could cause me injury, strip the sharp edges of the nut, etc. Because of the need for all that caution, it did take a few tries to Get ‘R’ Done. But it did work, and without injury to any of the equipment, to my body, or even to my pride. Yay rah.

The long arm of the lever.

The long arm of the lever.

Lever added to the long arm of the worker.

Lever added to the long arm of the worker.

The long bolt at upper right; note how much less thread shows on the other two bolts showing (above and below).

The long bolt at upper right; note how much less thread shows on the other two bolts showing (above and below).

The delicate balance, grabbing half the nut with one end of the socket and half the extension with the other end.

The delicate balance, grabbing half the nut with one end of the socket and half the extension with the other end.

One other surprise was no surprise at all. At the right rear, one tire had been flat when I bought the semi and was removed even before the trailer was towed from Tucson to our property near the Mexican border. The inside dual was left in place; with such a short run and an empty trailer, it should have been fine. It was not. By the time of arrival, the inside tire was flat, too. The whole arrangement wanted to just spin freely when torque was applied. If that spin continued, I could still be trying to figure out how to change (or remove) that particular big rig tire when the cows came home.

To prevent that from becoming a problem, I simply grabbed my digging bar and angled it between the hub and one of the lug bolts. Instant lockup, no spin, and no problem breaking the nuts free of their beloved rust.

In the end, it all added up to a fairly lengthy project taking some hours to complete. Still, I’d known it might be a bit of a hassle and had allowed all of Saturday to make it happen. Shadows were lengthening, true enough, but there was still plenty of light to show the “bare axles” in a photograph after stacking the tires under the semi and cleaning up the tools.

One point: Because these are ancient split rim Daytons, the inner portions–much the bulkier portions, actually–of the wheels are still very much attached. Only the rims are gone, since the tires are mounted on those.

However, we doubt very much any local building inspector knows the difference between old style (and very dangerous) split rim Daytons and today’s ubiquitous Budd style of big rig wheel/tire arrangements. We’re definitely “good to go”.

Anti-spin digging bar in place.

Anti-spin digging bar in place.

Another view.

Another view.

Done for the day. The steel barrel-looking thing in the center is a stack of all four spacers. (These go between the inside and outside duals when mounted.)

Done for the day. The steel barrel-looking thing in the center is a stack of all four spacers. (These go between the inside and outside duals when mounted.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.