Motorcycling - Knowledge

How to Change Motorcycle Tire: 18 Step DIY Guide

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The inevitable facet of riding a motorcycle is the knowledge of how to change motorcycle tire. It is perhaps not the most exciting thing about motorcycling, but it definitely is a life saver. Imagine that you are all set for your dream road trip, one that you planned for months ago. And just as you embark your much-awaited trip, you see a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. This dampener will not have a catastrophic effect if you know how to change a tire. Let us all have a look at the steps of tire replacement so that we are never really helpless.

Most people would agree that a need for motorcycle tire change occurs when you least expect it. It is, therefore, a wise thing to know how to change motorcycle tire and always be prepared. If you are one of the lucky few who happens to reside near a shop that is well stocked and equipped, then getting your bike tire changed will not be much of a hassle. However, if you are living far away from such facilities, then it is a great skill to know how to change motorcycle tires because this will save you a couple of days and a few bucks too. Let’s get started.

Table of Content

  • Tools You Will Need
  • How to Change Motorcycle Tire: Easy Step By Step Guide
  • Balancing the Wheels
  • Remounting the Wheels
  • The Final Words: Practice Makes Perfect

Tools You Will Need

Before you learn how to change motorcycle tire, you should know what tools you would require. You just need few specific tools when changing a tire, such as:

Tire Iron / Tire spoons

A good set of tire irons is necessary to remove the tire from the rim. It is a very common practice to use other flat objects like screwdrivers for the same purpose but it is not recommended. Anybody who knows how to change motorcycle tire correctly will advise you against this practice. This is because any other object will most likely damage the rim, the tube or the tire. Even if the damage is not evident in the first attempt, it tends to show up later on. 

The ideal size of the tire iron is about eight inches, and you will always need two of them together, one in each hand. Hence, if you own a motorcycle, we suggest that you keep this tire removal tool handy.

tire iron
Remove the tire with tire iron

Valve-core Remover

You will need this tool to remove the valve-core of the tire. There are two varieties of this tool available in the most shops - the screwdriver type and T handle type. We recommend using a screwdriver type valve-core remover. Some tire caps have this tool built-in them. Please check if your tire cap is equipped with this tool already, as you won’t have to buy an additional one in that case.

valve core remover
Tool to remove valve core (source)

Tire Stand

This is an optional tool but is very useful. Unless you get a flat tire when you are on the road and have no means to find a tire stand, you can very well change the tire without a tire stand. But if you have planned in advance when to change tires of your motorcycle, then you should always use a tire stand. You don’t need a special stand and can use and big, cylindrical drum that has a sturdy grip.

You can put a soft fabric over the drum so that the tire doesn’t slide around when you work. You can also use commercial grease mixtures to make the task easy.

tire staand
Tire stand to place your tire

Rim Guards

As the name suggests, this tool protects the rim from damage during tire changing. They are basically thin sleeves of plastic that will cover the edge of the tire rim and prevent damage. It is possible to make them at home from plastic waste like old bottles or even a hosepipe. If you don’t want to make them at home, you can find a rim guard at the shops. 

rim guards
Rim guards to protect tire damage (source)

Bead Breaker and Bead Buddy

These are optional tools but will be of great help if used for changing tires. They work pretty much according to their names, i.e. to remove beads and to help the new bead stay in place, respectively. 

Miscellaneous Tools

Finally, you will need a spray bottle with a soapy liquid, a duct tape, an air pressure gauge and an air tank. These tools will come in handy during the various steps and their usage is described in the following sections.

How to Change Motorcycle Tire: Easy Step By Step Guide

With all these tools in hand, you are all set to move to the next step of changing the tire. There is really no reference guide on how to change motorcycle tire, but the following sections will give you a fair bit of idea about the process.

The Rear Wheel

Let us see how to change the tire of your motorcycle step by step, starting with the rear wheel.

1. The first step is to make your bike stand with both the wheels off the ground. Bikes that are equipped with a centre stand don’t require any special tool for this step. But for those bikes that are not equipped with this stand, it is necessary to buy a stand for the front wheel and for the rear wheel. It is advisable that you check the compatibility of the stand with your bike mode, just to make sure that the two will work together.

2. Once the bike stands properly, it is time to observe the arrangement of the parts like bushings, washers, nuts and collars etc. First timers/Beginners are encouraged to write these things down because they tend to become very confusing later. 

3. Now is the time to remove the retaining pin and the nut from the axle by gently tapping the threaded side. The axle will come out eventually, often along with the rear brake calliper. Once the axle is out, your rear wheel is ready to be removed. A very helpful tip is to keep all the small parts at one place so that you don’t have to look for them in case they slip around during the tire-changing session.

replacing rear wheel tire
Change the rear axle

4. Almost all motorcycles these days are equipped with a rubberised cush drive and the rear wheel can be removed with a firm tug. Carefully examine the orientation of the bushings in the hub, because you will need the same orientation while remounting the tire. Keep these together with the sprocket.

5. Remove the air from the tire by repositioning the valve cap. Once most of the air is let out, unscrew the valve stem using the valve tool. While you are doing this, you will notice the rest of the air venting out from the tire. Removal of air from the tire before working with it is very crucial because this loosens the tension in the tire. Without this tension, the tire is easy to work upon.

6. Once you have released out all the air from the tire, make a mental (or written) note of the direction in which the tire is rotated. This can be easily done by noticing the arrow on the tire sidewall. In case you don’t find an arrow on the tire, you can make one yourself. Use a pencil to mark the direction of rotation of the wheel.

7. Prepare the tire stand by making sure that the bottom of the stand is securely attached to the ground. If you are using a commercial tire stand, make sure that it is bolted to the floor. 

8. In technical terms, the inner edge if the tire that goes inside the rim is known as the bead. ‘Breaking the bead’ refers to loosening the bead from the grip of the rim. As mentioned before, a bead breaker will be a very helpful tool for this purpose. Alternatively, you may use any lever for the same.

9. The bead breaking step varies with different bike models. Some require just a slight torque and a little soapy water for breaking the bead, while others might take some more effort and require the use of a dedicated bead breaker. If you feel that you are having trouble breaking the bead, chances are high that there is still a fair amount of the air inside the tire. Try to remove that air. 

breaking bead of the tire
Breaking bead of the tire (source)

10. Once the bead is broken from the rim, keep rotating the tire until the entire bead comes free. You might have to spray some soapy solution to make this step easier. Now turn the tire to the other side and perform the same steps on this side. If you are having problems, you should first see a tutorial on how to change a bicycle tire. The basic process is the same but a bicycle tire will require much less force and it is a good way to know how to change motorcycle tire.

11. Now the tire is ready to be removed from the rim. This is a critical step and must be done very carefully. Keep in mind that if you have done the previous steps correctly, you will not have to put much force on this step. You have to be careful that the tire bead doesn’t touch the rim. 

remove tire from rim
Crucial step of tire replacement (source)

12. Before inserting the tire iron, it is a good idea to insert the rim protector. Whether you are using a home-made rim protector or a commercial one, this step is advised for minimising damage. Now you have to insert one tire iron in the area between the tire and the rim, and leverage to bead the tire outside the rim.

13. Repeat the process with the second tire iron at a distance of few inches from the first one. Repeat the process till the whole tire comes out of the rim. 

14. Once you have the full rim exposed, make sure that you clean it up real nice. Examine the rime thoroughly for any signs of damage before re-mounting the tire.

15. Now it is time to put on the new tire on the cleaned-up rim. In principle, this process is just the reverse of the all the steps done so far. It begins with placing the new tire in the proper orientation.

16. Next, you will have to align the lower bead using very little amount of soapy water. Once you have done this, you will have to balance the lightest part of the tire with the heaviest part of the rim. Most tire brands have a marking on the tire indicating the lightest section. This section has to be lined up with the valve containing part of the rim because that is usually the heaviest. The upper bead is the next part to be working on. 

17. Once the tire is completely seated on its rim, fasten the beads to their original positions and make sure that the valve stem is in its proper place. 

18. Now it is time to inflate the tire slowly. It is not uncommon to hear a pop as the air pressure forces the beads into place. Fill up the air to the recommended pressure and check the bead indicator to ensure proper fit. 

These steps basically cover all the details on changing a bike tire. However, differences exist in the process for the rear wheel and the front wheel. Our guidelines on how to change motorcycle tire wouldn’t be complete until we discuss the process for the front wheel too.

The Front Wheel

While the basic steps remain the same for the front wheel, the differences are due to different design features. 

  • The front wheels of most bikes have a pair of pinch bolts that attach the axles in the fork legs. These bolts must be loosened before removing the axle. 
  • Some models necessitate the removal of both front brake calipers for getting enough access to remove the rim eventually.
  • Because of the different thickness of the front wheel compared to the rear wheel, people have the opinion that working with the front wheel is slightly more cumbersome than the rear wheel.
front wheel tire replacement
Replace the front wheel

Balancing the Wheels

Once you have removed the faulty tires, replaced them with new ones, and inflated them properly, it is time for you to balance them. Balancing will ensure a longer life for the tires and make a huge positive difference in your ride quality. Let us know more about this very important aspect of how to change motorcycle tire.

You would require a stand that will allow working with a metal dowel and a pair of pliers. Spin the wheels manually and let them stop spinning on their own. Observe the area of the wheel that is at the bottom when the tire stops rotating. Repeat for a couple of more times. If you notice that the same area of the tire is at the bottom every time, you will have to balance the wheels. Balancing involves adding wheel weights to the opposite side of the rim until the wheel does not settle in any particular area of the tire consistently.

tire balancer
Balance your wheels (source)

Remounting the Wheels

Now that you know how to remove a tire, how to replace a tire and how to balance a tire, it is time to remount the wheel back on your mean machine. In the beginning of the step by step guide, we asked you to carefully note the pattern of the different parts that were removed. If you followed this instruction, then you will have absolutely no problem in re-mounting the wheels. 

You should align the wheels with indicator marks on the area close to the axle. Refer to the manual for getting the technical specifications about the drive chain tension. Tighten all the bolts to their recommended torque settings.

We hope that this step by step guide was useful in clearing your doubts on how to change motorcycle tire. A point worth remembering is that we have only talked about tube type tires. We highly recommend that tubeless tires be handed over to a trained mechanic for removal, repair and re-mounting because of two reasons: Firstly, tubeless tires require a lot of effort to be changed. Secondly, most punctures ion tubeless tires can be mended while the tire is still mounted on the rim and they work fine until you take them to the garage.

The Final Words: Practice Makes Perfect

Knowing how to change motorcycle tire is a skill that will come in very handy, especially when you don’t have a lot of time to send it to the garage. Also, if you know how to change motorcycle tire, you will save a lot of money and also ensure that this task is done as per your standard. You might have the feeling that this is a gargantuan task, but with our easy, step by step guide, you will not have any trouble changing the tires of your bike. All it takes is some patience and a lot of practice. If you consistently keep trying, you will master how to change motorcycle tire, and be able to guide others too. All the best.

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Motorcycling - Enthusiast
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