How to Use A Car Tire Changer – Steps and Safety Tips

I am a DIYer, but there is one DIY skill whose importance I learned the hard way. It was in the fall of 2016. I was driving on the A4 stretch from Abasha to Martvili in Georgia to visit my ailing uncle. About 10 miles from Abasha, my back-left tire got a puncture.

Luckily, My friends from helped me to know how to change the tire and I had the tools needed. So, I changed the tire without a problem and drove on.

I went and saw my uncle and had a great time with his family. My uncle tried to convince me to remove the punctured tire from the rim and replace it with one of the good tires in his garage.

As a mechanic, he had lots of tires and even tire changers, both manual and electronic, at his shop. I said I didn’t know how to use the tools. Then again, I was feeling a little lazy, so I never really listened when he explained how to change the tire.

Well, after a week, I said goodbye to my uncle and his family and got in my car. On the way back, as though by unexplained misfortune, the back right tire burst. Darn! I did not have a spare wheel since I had refused to change the bad tire as my uncle had suggested.

I had to spend the night in my car, waiting for towing services as there was no garage nearby.

That is how I came to understand how important it is to know how to use a tire changer.

Don’t wait to learn it the hard way. If you’re a true DIYer, it is about time you learned how to use it. Below is a simplified guide you might find useful.

Steps for Changing Tire with Portable Manual Tire Changer

In this guide, we will use the Harbor Freight Portable Tire Changer. It’s features a simple design and most importantly, it works. That’s why I chose it for this guide.

Method 1: Removing the Tire 

Step 1: prep the tire changer

  • For Harbor Freight, you receive the unit dismantled, and so you need to assemble the pieces. The main post comes with the bead breaker already attached to it, so the process is really easy.
  • You only need to attach the four posts in the package to the main piece using the four bolts provided.
  • Once you’re done with the assembly, I recommend you attach the unit to the garage floor. To do that, you might want to get and use drop-in anchors. Just drill holes into your garage floor and screw in the anchors.
  • That’s a really good set up because you can either choose to leave the unit bolted in there or remove the anchors every time you’re done and store away the unit.

Step 2: prep the tire

  • If the tire still contains air, it’s time to empty it. Locate the valve stem and rotate it. You will hear the sound as the air moves out, until the tire is empty.
  • After that, place the tire on the lower bars of the tire changer. Lay it down on the longer bar directly in front of the bead breaker.

Step 3: breaking the bead

The next step is to break the bead and loosen the tire on the rim.

The Harbor Freight bead breaker has two pieces. There is a pry element and another female coupling element that connects to the long bar.

  • Get the pry element in between the tire and the rim.
  • Spread out the other element toward the top. Hook the long bar to it.
  • The long bar provides you leverage so you’re able to break the bead from a stable point.
  • Keep rotating the tire, breaking the bead from different points.
  • When you’re satisfied that the bead is broken on that side, flip the wheel over and do the same on the other side.

Tip: as you break the bead, step on the tire, applying pressure to loosen it as much as possible.

Note: using this tire changer, you might scratch the paint on the rim. Be careful not to do too much damage.

Step 4: prying out the tire

At the top of the Harbor Freight tool is another useful element. There is a stable platform where the wheel is meant to rest to allow you to remove the tire from a stable position.

  • So, rest the wheel on the platform. Make sure the pin at the platform goes through one of the lug nut holes. That is what is going to keep the wheel from turning as you pry off the tire.
  • Next, put on the star-like piece that prevents the wheel from tilting. Also screw in the upper bar to strengthen the stability further. You can use the pry bar to tighten the bar you just screwed in on top to make the connection more secure.
  • The next step will be to use the pry bar to remove the tire by shifting the lip from the inner side of the rim to the outer side.
  • But before that, you want to lube the parts to make sliding the pry bar around the lip easy.
  • If you don’t have lube, you can always use soapy water.
  • To pry off the lip, just stick the pry tool between the lip and rim and pull the bar from one side to the other side to force the lip to shift from the inner to the outer side.
  • Keep sliding the pry tool around the tire to get the entire lip out. The upper bar you screwed in place gives you a platform against which to rest the pry bar as you rotate.

Once you’re done with that side, you will note that the lip on the opposite side of the tire will have moved up.

  • All you need to do is pull it up as well and pry it out just as you did with the top side.
  • When that is done, all that’s left to do is use your hands to lift out the tire.

Method 2: Putting on Another Tire 

So, once you’ve removed the old tire, it’s time to put another tire. Luckily, the same Harbor Freight unit has the elements for doing the job. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: prep the tire and rim 

Preparation involves making sure that both items are dry. Use a towel to wipe any moisture off of the rim and the tire. You particularly don’t want to have water trapped between the rim and the tire.

  • Lube the lips of the tire all around to make it easy to pry them in.
  • If you don’t have lube, once again, you can use soapy water.

Note: take care not to get the water on the inner side of the lips.

Step 2: prying the tire on

You’re going to use the upper part of the tire changer just as you’d arranged it during removal.

  • With the rim still attached to the unit, place the tire on top of it.
  • This time around, you’ll be using the opposite side of the pry bar to get the tire on.
  • The opposite side is designed such that it looks like the letter ‘T’. One side of the T is curved to allow it to sort of grab the tire lip during installation.
  • So, slide the curved end in between a spot on the lower lip and the rim.
  • Pull the bar to the other side to force the lip to enter the rim. With your hands, and with the assistance of your legs for stabilization, push the lower lip into the rim. Be sure to twist the pry bar around the lip to get the lip in.
  • Once again, the upper bar that you screwed in earlier should give you a platform against which to operate your pry bar.
  • When the lower lip is in, it’s time now to pry in the upper lip.
  • Force the curve end of the T inside as you did before, and with your hands, force the lip around the T inside beneath the edge of the rim.
  • When you’ve gotten in as much of the lip as possible, rotate the pry bar around to force the rest of the lip in.
  • You will need some elbow grease but you can rest assured the tool will help you get the job done.

Step 3: put in some air 

  • The importance of putting air immediately is that you’ll know if air is escaping. If it is, you’ll hear the hiss, and in that case, all you need to do is wiggle things around to get the tire well balanced and that the bead is evenly lined up in the rim.

And – you’ll all done.

Now, as promised, I’ll tell you about some of the safety tips you need to keep in mind to ensure both you and your tires are all right. But these are not just safety tips. They’re also tips to make your work easier during the entire process of changing a tire.  

Safety Tips When Using a Tire Changer 

  • Make the lug nuts of the while you want to change loose before you lift the car off the ground.
  • Pull back the hand brake and place a block against the tires on the opposite side (unelevated side) to prevent rolling.
  • Don’t strain your back! Work from a squatting position whenever possible.
  • Avoid putting your hands underneath the wheel when the car is lifted. You don’t want to imagine the pain in case that wheel comes crashing on you.
  • Clean the rim of dirt, moisture, and rust before putting a new tire on it. That will reduce the rate of wear of the wheel.
  • Don’t put a new tire on a damaged rim or one that is too corroded. It’s better to use a fresh rim.
  • Consult your tire changer’s and vehicle’s manual before embarking on the task. You want to make sure you’re doing everything right according to the standards of your vehicle.
  • Lock the wheel hold-down tool securely. Any sudden movement can cause you to break a bone or tear a muscle especially when applying pressure with your body (hands, legs, etc.)
  • Steer clear of pinch points, such as the space between the wheel bead and the rim.Use the correct tools. This ensures three things – safety for you, safety for your tire and rim, and efficiency in completing the task.
  • Use a proper lubricant. Yes, you can use soapy water, but it would be better to use a specialized lube product as that will work better to help the pry tool slide and prevent friction, thereby preventing tear.


What is a tire changer?

A tire changer is a device that people use to dismount and reinstall tires from rims. When you remove the wheel from the vehicle, a tire changer contains all the components needed to remove and replace the tire from the rim.

How do I remove a wheel off the rim manually at home?

First, remove the wheel from the vehicle and lay it on the ground.

Next, deflate it.

Then, break the bead inserting a tire lever or a crowbar in the space between the tire lip and the rim.

Pry the tire upward and work your way around and upwards until the tire is off.

Alternatively, you can use a manual tire changer such as the one from Harbor Freight. It makes the task easier and faster.

What do I do if I can’t break the bead?

If you’re having a hard time breaking the bead and you’re not intending to use the tire anymore, you could just cut it off the rim. All you need is a sharp knife or saw. Just take care not to cut into the rim.

How much will I pay to have my tire replaced on the rim?

The cost mostly ranges from 13 to 45 dollars per tire. That being said, the cost you will end up paying will depend on the tire’s size and the type of car you’re using.

What is a tire bead and how does it work?

A tire bead refers to the lip or rather the end of the tire, which sits on the rim. When the tire is inflated correctly, the pressure causes the bead to stay within the grove in the rim.

Final Word

It’s not a must to know how to change a tire from a rim. But as you’ll probably agree, it’s a pretty useful DIY skill. You may not save a lot of money by learning the skill, but if you are a true DIYer, you know there are other awesome perks – keeping yourself busy over the weekend, exercising your body and staying healthy, and more.

So, go on and learn how to change your tire. All you need is the right tools and some elbow grease.

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