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The hardest thing about being a DIYer is that you have to accept the limitations of your capabilities and learn when to take something to a professional. That sounds pretty easy, but pride combined with a track record of achieving most things you put your mind to can impair your critical thinking skills.
I know from experience that changing a car tire is one of those things you'll eventually want to take on at home. Especially after you’ve taken on bigger jobs, found how affordable the tools can be, and watched a few videos that show how straightforward it can be. What's the worst that could happen? You've got us to help you find out.
Let's get after it.
Is It Possible to Swap a Tire at Home?
Changing a car tire is absolutely possible to do at home. However, it's not as simple as it appears. There's a little more going on than just stretching a piece of rubber around a wheel.
On top of being reinforced by cords and belts beneath the tread, the sidewall of the tire is built to resist flex in order to support the vehicle and help keep the bead of the tire seated. Not only do you need to strong-arm the rigid structure, but you also need to use a bead breaker or tire hammer to break the bead, as well as set the bead during installation.
As you’ll research, you’ll find that wrestling a tire onto and off of a wheel is made relatively easy with soapy water and tire spoons. Still, it does take some muscle and finesse to get the job done, with finesse being a keyword as you need to be careful not to damage the tire or the wheel while you work.
Lastly, the new tire and wheel combination must be balanced. This isn't something you typically do with smaller tire applications, but is absolutely crucial for automotive tires. Specialty tools make all of this possible, even effortless in some cases. However, as you review the list of steps and equipment involved in the process, the question changes from whether it’s possible to if it’s worth it.
What Tools Do You Need to Swap a Tire at Home?
To be clear, you can buy pro-level tire mounting and balancing machines to use at home. These give you the means to work as a professional would, only in a personal shop. If you have the money and can justify the expense, go for it.
Realistically, most of us will seek to do this in the cheapest way possible. I say we because I have purchased the cheap stuff to take this type of work on myself. At the very least, you'll need tire spoons, a bead-breaker or tire hammer, a valve stem tool, and some soapy water to mount and dismount the tire.
As for balancing the assembly, you can do that at home, too. A simple bubble balancer will do the job well enough for some people’s standards. However, these simple devices, while the standard years ago, are dated and they take some patience to work with. There’s also the argument that static balancing methods have been replaced with modern machines that achieve dynamic balancing for a reason, but that’s a discussion of its own.
Should I Swap My Tires at Home?
Altogether, you can set yourself up with the equipment to change tires yourself for a few hundred dollars. All that's standing between you and the final product is some hard work and willingness to learn.
But we have to come back to the question of whether it’s worth it. It’s really not for the average person.
That’s not to say learning a new skill isn’t good. However, it’s only going to cost around $100 to have a professional install the tires for you. Considering how little most people, even dedicated wrenchers actually change tires, it’s generally better just to pay a professional to do it.
Even if you take the affordable route, it's going to take a long time for those tools to pay for themselves when you factor in the amount of time it takes to learn and the amount of work that goes into changing tires.
Of course, there are exceptions. Some folks really do need to take this on themselves and others are just better off. Even a pro-level tire-changing machine will pay for itself in a short while if you routinely swap tires throughout the year for a personal collection or due to special circumstances. Meaning that, while the average person is better off leaving tire changes to the professionals, it’s unfair to make a blanket statement that the same is true for everyone.
It all comes down to the individual. Again, it’s never a bad thing to learn a new skill, but you’ll have to make a judgment call of whether or not it’s practical for your situation.
Always make an informed decision. Even if the right answer seems very obvious, knowing why is always important. That's why I've attached a full tutorial on how to change a tire at home. It does a great job of illustrating what to expect when doing this with basic hand tools, allowing you to determine if it really is or isn't something you should tackle yourself.