How to Change a Trailer Tire

Trail Rider - - CONTENTS - BY REBECCA GIMENEZ, PHD

YYou should know how to change a trailer tire in an emer­gency. It’s em­pow­er­ing to know how to deal with this com­mon horse-haul­ing chal­lenge. Here, I’ll first give you a tire-chang­ing kit. Then I’ll tell you what to do be­fore you change a tire. Next, I’ll ex­plain, step-by-step, how to prop­erly change a trailer tire. Tip: Prac­tice at home, so you’ll have this skill down pat be­fore you need to change a trailer tire on the road.

Tire-Chang­ing Kit

Here’s what you need to in­clude in your tire-chang­ing kit so you’ll have ev­ery­thing you need in your rig in case of emer­gency.

• Two spare tires. Al­ways carry two spare tires. It’s com­mon for mul­ti­ple tires to fail in one out­ing or even in one in­ci­dent. In­vest in good-qual­ity tires and wheels, which can be bal­anced to al­low min­i­mal bounc­ing. Spare tires can be con­fig­ured un­der the goose­neck, on the sides of your trailer, or in­side the tack com­part­ment.

• 8-10 emer­gency flares. Flares help oth­ers see your rig when you’re stopped to change a tire. Use a min­i­mum of three flares. Place one flare be­hind your rig, one at least 100 steps (300 feet) down the road be­hind your trailer, and one half­way back to your trailer.

• 6-8 re­flec­tor tri­an­gles or cones. If you choose to use tri­an­gles or cones in­stead of flares, place at least three very close to your stopped rig. Then place one at least 100 steps (300 feet) down the road be­hind your trailer, and one half­way back to your trailer.

• Flat­head screw­driver. If your wheels have hub­caps, you’ll need a stan­dard, large, flat­head screw­driver or wheel-cover-re­moval tool to re­move them.

• Lug wrench. Your lo­cal auto parts dealer can help you find a lug wrench that fits your tires’ par­tic­u­lar lug nuts. Or, find a four-way uni­ver­sal lug wrench.

• Drive-on jack. A drive-on jack can be made from plas­tic (such as Trailer Aid), wood, or steel. It should be at least five inches high, with a ramp. Use this sim­ple tool if you’re re­plac­ing one tire at a time.

• Jack and jack stand. Use a jack and jack stand if you’re re­plac­ing more than one tire at a time. To choose the cor­rect mod­els, con­sult the man­u­fac­turer’s rec­om­men­da­tions. Us­ing the wrong num­ber or type to sup­port your trailer is dan­ger­ous.

• Chocks. Chocks are heavy pieces of metal, rub­ber, or wood tucked un­der a tire to keep it from rolling. Use chocks on both sides of the tires to pre­vent your trailer from rolling while jacked up off the ground. Carry at least six chocks.

• Lu­bri­cant. Use WD-40 or an­other pen­e­trant, graphite, or sil­i­cone lu­bri­cant to loosen the lug nuts, dis­solve rust, and en­sure the lug nuts don’t cross-thread (cross over each other, and strip the lug nuts and studs). Never use a ham­mer on lug studs — you can de­stroy the threads.

Learn how to change out a dam­aged trailer tire with this 12-step tu­to­rial. STORY AND PHO­TOS BY REBECCA GIMENEZ, PhD

Tire-Change Prep

Here are the steps to take be­fore you change a trailer tire. • Pay at­ten­tion to tire trou­ble. Signs of tire trou­ble in­clude loud bang­ing sounds, bump­ing, jerk­ing, scrap­ing, or grind­ing.

• Pull over safely. Pull to a safe area well off the road as soon as you can safely stop when you re­al­ize there’s a tire is­sue. Driv­ing on a com­pro­mised tire can de­stroy it. How­ever, if you need to for safety’s sake, you may con­tinue to drive slowly to get to a safe place. Tires can be re­placed, your life can­not. Also, it may be more com­fort­able to go a lit­tle far­ther to be in the shade, on flat pave­ment, in a good neigh­bor­hood, or out of the rain pud­dles. • Set up re­flec­tive de­vices. Af­ter you safely pull over, set up flares, tri­an­gles, or cones, as de­scribed on page 18. • As­sess the dam­age. Check the af­fected tire, and de­cide whether you have the tools and skills to fix or re­place it. To check wir­ing de­struc­tion and brake lines, look for oily fluid on the road next to the tire and wires hang­ing from the un­der- side. Other signs are locked-up brakes and if the trailer sen­sor in your truck says the brakes are dis­con­nected. • Call for emer­gency road­side as­sis­tance. If you find com­pli­ca­tions, such as mul­ti­ple blowouts, or de­struc­tion of wir­ing or brake lines — and/or if you don’t have the proper tools or knowl­edge to safely get back on the road — call for emer­gency road­side as­sis­tance, such that of­fered by USRider. (To sign up for the USRider Eques­trian Motor Plan, go to www.usrider.org.) If you can’t com­plete a task, don’t start it.

How to Change a Tire

Step 1. Re­move the hub­cap. Re­move the hub­cap us­ing a screw­driver or a hub­cap-re­moval tool. You’ll then be able to see the hub and lug nuts on the wheel.

Step 2. Start to loosen the lug nuts. You’ll have bet­ter lever­age if you loosen the lug nuts be­fore driv­ing your trailer onto the drive-on jack. Spray lu­bri­cant onto the base of each lug nut, so that it gets down to the lug stud. (Avoid get­ting lu­bri­cant on your fin­gers — it’ll make them slip­pery.) Loosen the lug nuts about four turns un­til you can loosen them with your fin­gers, then stop.

Step 3. Drive onto the jack. Drive your trailer’s good tire on the same side as the dam­aged tire onto the drive-on jack. (If you’re us­ing a jack and jack stand, lift the trailer on the same side as the dam­aged tire.) When the good tire is solidly parked on top of the drive-on jack (or safely bal­anced on the jack and jack stand), ap­ply the emer­gency brake, put your truck in Park, and pull the keys out of the ig­ni­tion.

Step 4. Ap­ply chocks. To pre­vent your trailer from rolling, move to the side of your trailer op­po­site the dam­aged tire, and push chocks un­der the tire fac­ing down--

hill (both front and back). For added se­cu­rity, chock the other tire on that side of your trailer. Then chock the un­dam­aged tire on the drive-on jack (both front and back).

Step 5. Re­move the lug nuts. Fin­ish re­mov­ing the lug nuts you loos­ened in

Step 1. Lubri­cate the lug studs again. Tip: Use the hub­cap to con­tain the lug nuts.

Step 6. Re­move the dam­aged tire. Care­fully slide the tire to­ward you,off the lug studs, with­out putting any body part un­der the trailer or tire. Note that the tire will be very heavy — don’t strain your back.

Step 7. In­spect the wheel well. In­spect the wheel well for any dam­age or main­te­nance is­sues re­gard­ing the elec­tri­cal lines, brake lines, or even the spin­dle due to road haz­ards, es­pe­cially if the tire was de­stroyed. Loose tire pieces will of­ten cause de­struc­tion in this area. In­spect the lug studs for any thread dam­age.

Step 8. Lift the spare tire into place. Check to en­sure that the tire is cor­rectly fac­ing the lug studs, then lift it into place, care­fully set­ting it onto the studs.

Step 9. Re­place the lug nuts. Now, re­place and tighten the lug nuts. At first, don’t tighten them any far­ther than fin­ger tight. Then tighten them lightly with the lug wrench in a star pat­tern or by op­po­sites. This al­lows you to tighten the tire evenly and avoid cross-thread­ing the lug nuts on the studs. It also en­sures the tire goes all the way onto the studs.

Step 10. Roll trailer off the jack. Re­move the chocks. Crank your truck, take off the emer­gency brake, and slowly roll your trailer back­ward to ground level off the drive-up jack. (Or, care­fully re­move the jack and jack stand.)

Step 11. Tighten the lug nuts. Tighten the lug nuts with the wrench again, as tight as is com­fort­able for you.

Step 12. Retighten the lug nuts. Retighten and check the lug nuts within 50 miles, or the day af­ter you change the tire. Use a torque wrench to set the amount of torque ap­plied to the tight­ened nut. TTR

Rebecca Gimenez, PhD (an­i­mal phys­i­ol­ogy), is pres­i­dent of and a pri­mary in­struc­tor for Tech­ni­cal Large An­i­mal Emer­gency Res­cue (www.tlaer.org). A Ma­jor in the United States Army Re­serve, she’s a dec­o­rated Iraq War vet­eran and a past Lo­gis­tics Of­fi­cer for the Amer­i­can Ve­teri­nary Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion’s Ve­teri­nary Med­i­cal As­sis­tance Team, which serves as first re­spon­ders to en­sure high-qual­ity care of an­i­mals dur­ing dis­as­ters and emer­gen­cies. She’s an in­vited lec­turer on an­i­mal-res­cue top­ics around the world and is a noted equine jour­nal­ist.

On­line bonus! For the top equine-travel emer­gency sup­plies rec­om­mended by Rebecca Gimenez, PhD, go to TrailRiderMag.com.

Left: The flat tire on the left has picked up a screw, lost air, and de­flated. If you sus­pect a flat tire, pull to a safe area well off the road as soon as you can safely stop. Driv­ing on a com­pro­mised tire can de­stroy it. Inset: Al­ways carry two spare tires. It’s com­mon for mul­ti­ple tires to fail in one out­ing or even in one in­ci­dent.

REBECCA GIMENEZ, PhD

Use a drive-on jack when chang­ing one tire. This one is made from two 4-inch-by-6-inch treated pieces and beveled to al­low drive-on ease. The good tire will sup­port your trailer while you change the dam­aged one.

Use the lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts be­fore driv­ing your trailer onto the drive-on jack.

Af­ter you re­move the tire, in­spect the lug studs for any thread dam­age.

While the tire is off, look for any dam­age or main­te­nance is­sues in the wheel well, elec­tri­cal, or brake sys­tem, or the spin­dle.

To pre­vent your trailer from rolling, move to the side of your trailer op­po­site the dam­aged tire, and push chocks un­der the tire fac­ing down­hill. For added se­cu­rity, chock the other tire on that side of your trailer. Then chock the un­dam­aged tire on the drive-on jack (shown).

Tip: Use a hub­cap to con­tain the lug nuts so you don’t lose them dur­ing the tire change.

Af­ter you re­place the tire and roll off the jack, tighten the lug nuts with the wrench.

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