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Off-Roading with a Spare & How to Change One

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Shop Wrangler Tires

A good set of off-roading tires will let you muck through harsh trail conditions, and don't forgot to properly arm your spare.

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During most off-road situations your Jeep’s tires take quite a bit of abuse while on the trail. That’s why it’s critical to have a properly sized tire as a spare. This article will explain general tire maintenance, how to safely off-road with a spare tire, the equipment you should have, and how to address certain scenarios you might face.

2017 4-Door JK with a Barricade Spare Tire Carrier

Tire Rotation Maintenance

Ideally you should include the spare in your ordinary tire rotation to ensure it has the same level of wear as the rest. This illustration demonstrates the correct pattern for a 5-tire rotation.

Heavy Duty Tire Mounts for Meatier Tires

If you are running a standard sized tire, then the factory spare tire mount is sufficient to sustain the weight during off-road conditions. However, if you upgrade the size of the tire to a larger/heavier tire than the mount will need to be upgraded also. You can choose either a mount integrated with an aftermarket bumper or reinforce/replace the factory hinged mount. In any case, the factory mount can’t sustain the increased pressure of a heavier tire while on the trail.

Changing a Tire on the Trail

Unfortunately, if you damage a tire while on the trail and will need to replace it with your spare. Ideally you should have the following items with you.

  • Fix-a-flat: Sometimes you just have a small leak that could still hold air with a sealant solution.
  • Hi-Lift and base plate: A Hi-Lift is an aftermarket jack that has a larger range of motion than the factory scissor jack. This is often necessary if you are changing the tire on a Jeep with a lift/larger tires or if the Jeep is positioned on uneven terrain. A Hi-Lift is a versatile tool to have while on the trail and could be used in several other scenarios we will be discussing. A Hi-Lift base plate is a plastic square that is used as a solid platform for the jack if the terrain is soft or uneven. Both items are extremely helpful if you plan on changing a tire while off-road.
  • Air Compressor: a good air compressor is another valuable tool to have in your Jeep. While off-roading you will often need to lower the air pressure for better traction, an air compressor will fill the tires back up before you hit the street. An air compressor will also be used in bead reseating, discussed below. You should also have a good quality air gauge and tire valve bleeders to help assist deflating the tires.

If you are ready to change the tire, first try to find solid level ground. Loose soil/sand could be dangerous while lifting the Jeep, so try to find a solid, firm, level base. If the ground is soft then use the Hi-Lift base plate as a solid platform. Once you find a good location, remove your spare tire and place it on the ground. Next, loosen the lug nuts of the damaged wheel. Using the Hi-Lift, find the best jack-point. This can be at the factory locations along the side rails of the Jeep or the front or rear bumper if you have aftermarket bumpers that can accommodate a Hi-lift. You could also use the factory scissor jack under the differentials or lower control arms. Ideally you should use multiple jacks or stands to help support the weight of the Jeep while it’s lifted. Next, remove the loosened lug nuts and damaged wheel; take a moment to inspect your brakes for any additional damage. Once the wheel has been removed, replace it with the spare and follow the same steps in reverse order.

Replace a Damaged Tire Valve

A common problem some tires face while on the trail is a damaged tire valve. Depending on the style of the wheel, tire valves might shear off by rocks or tree stumps. The result is immediate air loss, although this isn’t an actual puncture the tire will not be able to hold any air if the valve has been significantly damaged. You should carry several spare tire valves; they are inexpensive and good insurance if you plan on off-roading in rocky, wilderness terrain. In order to replace a tire valve, you will need to first remove the tire and lay it flat on the ground. You will now need to break the bead of the tire and separate it from the wheel. An easy way to do that is with the Hi-Lift. Placing the tire under the Jeep’s frame rail, position the Hi-Lift so the base is sitting on the sidewall of the tire and close to the position of the air valve. Next, using the Jeep’s frame rail, start engaging the jack, slowly applying downward pressure to the tire’s sidewall until eventually the bead is broken.

Reseating the Tire Bead

If you have unseated the tire bead due to the replacement of a tire valve or if the tire bead just comes off the tire because of extreme flexing while running a lower tire pressure, you could use a heavy-duty ratchet strap and compressed air to reseat the bead. With the tire flat on the ground ensure that nothing is leaning on the tire (when a bead is reseated it generates a tremendous amount of force, if something is loosely leaning on the tire at that time, it could cause significant damage). Next, wrap the ratchet strap along the middle of the tire’s tread. Begin engaging the tire strap until its snug, not overly tightened to the point that it contorts the tire’s structure but just enough to lightly compress it. Next fill the tire with the air compressor, the higher air rate the better, as you are trying to fill the tire with more air than it will be losing and create the pressure needed to reseat the bead.

Prep & Being Safe

Similar to other gear, tire preparation is a necessity before hitting the trail. Like any other trail repair, being aware of your surroundings and properly using equipment will ensure that you are back on the trail quickly and safely.

Fitment includes: JL, JK, TJ, YJ, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Laredo, Sport, Islander, S, Sahara, Renegade, SE, X, Rubicon, Unlimited, Sport-S