Replacing a Tire Valve Stem Without Special Tools!

Your car’s tire is losing air from the valve stem — what do you do? Well you could take it to the mechanic and pay upwards of $30 to replace it… or you could try this MacGyver style approach!

Not wanting to take his car to the shop, [David] tried several ways of knocking the tire off its bead. Hitting it with a sledge hammer… Jumping on it… throwing it against the ground… In the end, he realized leverage would be his friend! He’s constructed a tool out of a few pieces of wood — simply place it on the tire near the valve stem, and then drive up the wood with your car. The weight of the car easily compresses the tire leaving you just enough room to pull the tire valve stem out, and put a new one in.

It’s pretty much the same method shops use, they just have a machine to do it for them — because of this, so we don’t think this would hurt your tire. As always though, we’d love to hear what you guys think in the comments! Stick around for the video to see [David’s] process.

76 thoughts on “Replacing a Tire Valve Stem Without Special Tools!

      1. But if the stem has come off your tire, what are you going to drive onto the lumber to crush the tire down?
        Either you put a spare on your car, or you use another car, either of which could drive you to the tire shop.
        Not to mention, a tire stem isn’t something I’ve ever seen someone keep on hand as a spare.

        1. I’m amazed at the amount of interest in this since it seems obvious to me. I have to agree that it doesn’t apply to ~90% of people but it is common knowledge in rural/farm areas. It seems a lot more practical when it is a wheel that is off a tractor (6’+ and weighs hundreds of pounds) and it needs fixed to continue work. Another common one is using something explosive to set the bead as shown in other comments though I prefer to just use an inner tube. Next we will have submissions of all the things that can be done with bailing wire…

    1. You can find key chain valve stem removers for around $5 from most auto part stores. I never understand why people don’t keep a spare stem in the glove box with a patch kit. Oh wait most people don’t even keep a patch kit in their glove box.

      1. That’s not a valve stem remover, that’s a valve stem CORE remover. Whether you only need a core or the whole valve stem replaced depends on whether it’s leaking through the core or leaking where the stem seats against the rim. Often, a detergent solution can be used to determine leak location by producing bubbles.

        Why they don’t keep a spare stem, or patch kit, or innertube is it would make no sense compared to just having a spare tire, plus in most locations there’s cellular service and anyone who owns a vehicle ought to own a phone as well.

        Otherwise, for service vehicles where they plan to have to do field repairs on tires, the rims are built differently with two halves that bolt together, but there are also run-flat tires that allow driving without any air pressure in the tire for certain distances at reduced speed.

    1. Perhaps, but I’m going to say that if you have a tire, you most likely have a car, and thus it isn’t a “special tool” in this case…

      1. but you may not have TWO cars. It’s kind of hard to drive the car when one of the wheels is off. If you have a spare wheel with a tire on it then you can simply drive to the tire store instead.

    2. That and the 4-way valve stem tool. that he didn’t show.

      I’ve done this before with a lever made by 2x4s too. You could use a car’s weight as the fulcrum or use a $1 hardware store hinge and bolt the 2×4 to the wall as a fulcrum.

      But HaD missed the real tire hack, using starting fluid to mount tires in an emergency:

      Make sure you remove the internal part of the valve stem first before doing that.

      Also, HaD missed the other great tire hack, Using Airsoft beads to balance tires instead of wheel weights or expensive proprietary balance beads (at the expense of slightly more road noise for the latter)

      http://aircooledtech.com/tools-on-the-cheap/balancing_beads/

      http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f15/beads-balance-tires-297708/

      (at this point I know the post is going in the spam queue, so one more link)

      I’ve had good luck with some soapy water and two of these tire irons for mounting/unmounting tires after the bead has been broken

      http://www.harborfreight.com/24-inch-general-purpose-tire-iron-93230.html

      1. I used to be a tire tech. Using ether is standard practice when the cheetah fails:

        You can also try put a ratchet strap around the entire road surface of the tire and ratchet it down tight. This can compress the tire enough to seal the bead and let you air it up.

      2. I didn’t use a 4-way valve stem tool (and hadn’t heard of them until now) but that would have been very handy. The air probably would have come out a lot faster if I could have just extracted the core :)

    1. You shouldn’t need a second car. Anyone with a car should have a spare tire or at least a donut. It isn’t a question of if you get a flat, it’s when!

          1. You could likely just stick a board under the frame rail of the car and lower the scissor jack to lower the weight of the car onto the board. Think like an engineer!

      1. One should ALWAYS remove the Schrader valve before doing this, either with a car OR a jack. This allows any air in the tire an escape route, and if the jack does slip off the tire, it will not be launched into the air (or vehicle/person)

    2. That’s exactly what we used to do – put the tire under the car and use a jack to break the bead – no special tools required.

  1. I surelly don’t understand american mechanics.
    You can eat half the world for 3$, you can fill a truck worth of groceries for 50$, but oh boy, a new SCREW????
    Are you crazy that will be 500$ sir, plus the work time..
    I paid 10€ to mount two new tires in a pair of rims and that included new tire valves, doing that to your tire is really good for the inner layers……

    1. Here in South Africa it’s sometimes free to do valve replacements or similar. Just tip the guy who actually helped you with a soda from the vending machine and you are good to go!

      1. You think mechanics bother to separate the two when they are replacing the stem? They just rip the old one out wholesale and drop a new one into the resulting hole.

    2. Services that you’re stuck going to someone with a ‘special tool’ are heavily weighted towards profit. If you pull up to a tire shop having already bought tires, you already have the existing wheels and tires off of the car and everything, you’ll be charged someone in the $100 range to unmount the old tires, mount the new tires, fill them, and re-balance them. Personally, if I get into this situation, I just roll up to a big-box store’s tire garage and offer the kid working a $20 to do it. Works every time as he’s tripling his hourly pay for the time it takes him.

    1. I once had a tire that was waaay to thin for my wide trans am wheels, pretty much my only option was this. It was quite exciting, including watching all of the nay-sayers telling me “oh that will never work” and I’m like “dude, chemistry! do you know how fast ether explodes?”

  2. Changing a valve stem this way is really, REALLY bad for the belts. Professional tire machines have a spoon shaped bead breaker that applies pressure close to the rim.

    If you bend the tread in such a tight radius you are doing damage on 2 fronts.

    First you are deforming the steel belts that run along the inside of the tread.

    And you are opening lots of cracks in the rubber by over stressing it. The cracks in the rubber could allow oxygen and water to get to the belts, if that happens you are on your way to a blowout.

    tl;dr save money by doing it the right way.

    1. If your tires are in the “throw them away” condition as shown I think the belts are the least of the concerns here. It’s more of a mad-max wasteland survival trick if you have a handfull of stems lying around.

  3. We used to do this when out of town on a 4×4 trek. Except we dispensed with the wood and just drove a spare 4×4’s wheel directly onto the tyre with the problem. A quick fix if you’ve blown an inner tube is to pop in a standard valve stem and go back to street pressure

  4. You really really really want to put as much pressure against the bead as you can, this guys method, while working in a pinch, seems destined for a sidewall blow-out some day.

    He also already had the tools to do the job, instead of the plank thing:

    You can set the car back down on a 2×4 tangent to the rim.

    Wedge the foot of your scissor jack up against the bead and under the car, extend the scissor jack.

  5. I actually did it once by mistake, when using a tire to give me some height when i was off roading and my 4×4 was getting stuck because low ventral angle.

    But the truth is that this way this is not a good idea.. This can damage the tire it is true, and even if the tire does not loose air after this action, the rubber that is in contact with the pavement is completly stressed so a ropture would be iminent..

    Of course it is a macgiver solution when you are in antartida, in middle of nowhere, and the nearest house is 500 ou 600km aways. Besides that.. as said, the specific machines apply the force near the rim, where the tire is stronger, and a very important thing, on a wider base, i would say 40 ou 50cm.. with a circunference shape. So my advice is that to get a system where the peace of wood or metal that touches the tyre would be thiner and longer, preferencialy, with a cincunference shape, and this way, yes you can say tha tire is not highly damaged..

    The trick in the video posted on a comment with a “auto monkey” will some times puncture the tire because of sharp edges.. and as said it can sway out.. either way i bet a human live or a tire is more expensive than take it to a shop..

  6. This guy should be heading to a tire shop to get new tires. Not bothering to install just a new valve! The thread is worn down all the way to the wear depth indicators!

  7. I had a stem replaced this week, 100% free at Belle Tire and I have never bought tires from them before. I will now as they are cool enough to replace the stem for free and check the other 3.

    1. The video didn’t show if the _entire_ old stem was removed. If it left even a small part of the old stem is loose inside the tire/tyre, that piece will tumble around inside, gathering rubber from the inside surfaces and wear out the tire from the inside. As well as throw off tire/tyre balance and cause increased wear on the outside.

      1. The 2 grams of rubber on the inside of the tyre won’t cause any noticeable imbalance. Balance tolerance of tyres is usually around +/- 5 grams. Also it doesn’t collect rubber like a snowball. The worst it does is create a little powder after 50,000km or so which comes out when the tyre is replaced.

        Source: I have an often-used balancing machine and have replaced many of my own valve stems, occasionally dropping the ‘mushroom’ off the end into the tyre.

      2. Long story short, I had 2 valve stems bouncing around in my truck tire for about 30k miles. NeIt was only going to be temporary but it didn’t make any noise or vibration and forgot about it. I didn’t see any piece of it fall off, but I highly doubt it would make any difference at all.

        The balance thing would probably be the equivalent of missing a valve stem cap on a tire and saying of off balance.

  8. Most newer cars are going to have TPMS valve stems. This method will either break the sensor and/or severely damage it.

    Just pay somebody to fix it – of course, excluding the possibility that you might be stuck in the middle of the wilderness.

  9. I don’t want to be “that guy”, but this trick is as old as the hills. They even have an illustration for it in most Haynes or Chilton’s guides.

    1. I guess it’s a case of: “I invented it, but I’m not be the first one to invent it.”

      I don’t think I’ve seen this in any Haynes or Chiltons, but I usually just turn to the section I need that day and don’t read the rest of the book. Can you point me towards the right book/section?

  10. I work for a tire shop as service salesman, and im always appauld by the lack of respect for technicians. They always come off as crooks (some are though!), and educated and care more about your safety than you do. I often don’t charge for a valve stem replacement if the wheel is off the car and others do the same too. This guy is just a cheap ass. He could gave just tipped a tech 3 or 4 bucks and been a better person.

  11. $30 – where? Maybe in Aspen or Hollywood, but most of the world it’s just a few bucks/euros/bars of gold pressed latinum or even free if you have any type of history with your tire place. Time is money, so saving a few bucks wasting your time to DIY is NOT a good deal.

  12. My take away from this video had nothing to do with replacing tire valves. This is a good reminder about our awesome friend LEVERAGE. If you’ve got a stout beam and some heavy weight, a human can achieve amazing things.

  13. Serious question from the ocassional home mechanic. Why wouldn’t you just take the tire off, replace the stem, the put the tire back on?

    Also, I may be over cautious, but no way am I sticking my hand in a wooden-car-ramp-press thing. Last thing I need is a car laying on my arm or a wheel stuck on my hand.

      1. Yeah, that looks about right. My Dad and Grandpa used to own/operate their own dump trucks, and that’s the way we usually changed the tires.

  14. off road enthusiasts have been using their jacks and pry bars to do this for some time. is easy too. Also as some have said, no need to risk maiming or death to seat the bead later with fire. You can simply seat the bead by use of a ratchet strap around the outer circumference of the tire and seat by servicing it with air.

    non issue really.

    add a nice tool kit, some spare parts and a ready welder and combine with some know how and you can get a lot of stuff home.

  15. I had a neighbor who borrowed my propane torch to pop the bead back on. He ran some propane into the tire, lit the torch, held it close to the rim and POP its on.
    All the hot air this hack has prompted, should be no chore to fill the tire.

  16. ive used a scuba tank to give a quick blast of a lot of air then a whack with a hammer on the tread and the tire is set. safe and no fire

    1. Yes – I looked into various means of making a tire changing machine and couldn’t really do a good job of it for less than $100. $40 at harbor freight for a bead breaker and a couple of pry bars is all I really needed. That investment has paid for itself many times over.

  17. 30$ loooooooooooooooo(…)oooool…

    Last time i had to replace it I wasted less than 2$ in tire shop.
    And it took like a minute.

    For 30$ i could get used and ready to drive wheel in good condition in nearest workshop…

    Also we were using that metod you are showing, during communism when there were no tire shops yet.

  18. the trick to getting the tire of the bead is using a force for a long time giving the tire the time to work inward old school manual tirechangers use a long lever from a spindle in the middle of the rim out , you just need to hang over the lever for a bit

    as for mounting tires if you squirted some soap on the rim it wouldve prolly seated eazier
    i had a trick for tires that dont touch the beads . i had a ratchet strap i pulled around the middle of the tread and tighten it
    it pulls the tread of the tire intoo a concave shape and with that pushes the sidewalls out , once the tire is airtight you can set it in the beads and after that let the air out to loosen the strap the tire just need to be reinflated after that , worked real whell with small luggage cart tires that where stacked for such a long time the sidewhalls where touching eacother
    i bet the wider the tire the better it will work

  19. Thanks for the great post.

    To all the naysayers about this post.
    My take on this entire site. “Hack A Day” is thinking outside the box and doing something yourself.
    Yea, I could go to “Buy-N-Large” and buy some firestarters, a CFL lantern, a Night Vision Rat Killer, but what fun would that be? What skills did i learn?….. then again maybe the people watching is the FUN htttp://www.peopleofwalmart.com/

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