How to Change a Trailer Tire
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.
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
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.