I Made a Nice ‘OEM-Plus’ Tire-Changing Tool Kit You Can Easily Copy

After years of swapping wheels and changing tires, I've found that these three tools make my life easier—especially at the track.
Mechanic holding an AC Delco torque adapter.
Andrew P. Collins

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

As a dabbler in different types of amateur racing and a frequent tinkerer, I often remove and re-install car wheels. Most cars come with a simple lug wrench for this task. But I’ve put together a sweet little three-tool kit that adds a lot of comfort and precision to the process for not much money—plus, it’s easy to toss in my car for events. I recommend copying my setup if you too like to swap wheels with any kind of frequency.

These tools are linked and explained below. Andrew P. Collins

Technically we’re talking about changing wheels and tires. And of course this is not the loadout you need for removing and re-installing a tire from a wheel. But the common colloquialism of “changing a tire” applies. Here are the tools in my wheel-changing kit and why I use them:

Ratcheting Breaker Bar

Andrew P. Collins

You’ll want a breaker bar to break the lugs loose while the car’s still on the ground. Ratcheting ones add just a little more convenience because you don’t have to keep pulling the socket on and off the lug to make adjustments. I find an 18-inch bar perfect for this purpose—plenty of leverage, but not annoyingly large to keep in the car.

I copped this one from a company I’d never heard of called Ares. It seems good, not great. The handle is nice and the ratcheting function works fine, but the material quality around the head doesn’t seem particularly exceptional. Totally viable for the price and this purpose—I’m not gonna be beating the thing up on exhaust bolts, so I don’t need a top-tier tool here.

Torque Adapter

There are often deals to be had on used tools. Of course, I should probably check that this is properly calibrated soon. Andrew P. Collins

If you’re just slapping on a spare tire to get home, torquing the wheel down with a few ugga duggas (push it ’til it feels tight) is OK. But if you’re about to go out on track, you want to make sure your lugs are torqued to spec. A little dongle like this can snap right onto your breaker bar and effectively turn it into a torque wrench. I found that exact AC Delco one, used, from some dude on eBay for real cheap, so that’s what I’m running. Harbor Freight also has a knockoff for a few bucks less. I personally am not crazy about getting precision instruments from HF, but it’s probably fine.

Just make sure you grab a drive that matches your breaker bar—one-half inch is the move here.

This device can display current torque force (trace mode) or maximum (peak), I always keep mine in peak. It beeps and lights up as you approach your set value. Andrew P. Collins

As for “why not just use a torque wrench?” Well, the old heads have all told me not to use a torque wrench as a breaker bar because it can screw up the calibration. So you break the lugs loose with this thing safely resting in its case, and then attach it when you go to re-install the wheel. This is also cheaper than a torque wrench and adds some flexibility due to its small size.

Naturally, you’ll also need to look up the correct torque spec for your car’s lug nuts and memorize it or write it down somewhere.

Nylon-Wrapped Lug Socket

Andrew P. Collins

Finally, a socket specifically designed for lugs (thin walls, coated in something soft) is nice because it’ll be compatible with many different wheels and prevent you from making annoying scratches. I’ve had this 19mm socket from Titan for almost a decade now, and you can buy a whole kit of them to accommodate a few different vehicles. If you’ve got spline-drive lug nuts or open-ended ones with a star-style drive (ones that look like huge Torx screws), you can try wrapping a little hockey tape around the outer edges for the same effect. I get mine at Howies Hockey (no affiliation).

What Else?

The factory scissor jack is sufficient for changing wheels—in fact, that’s all it was designed to do. Your car should have a factory wheel chock too—if not, both those things should be findable on eBay or at a junkyard for dirt cheap. The factory ones are optimal for keeping in your car because they’re small and light, but of course, if you’re going to be doing track stuff, a nice aluminum low-profile floor jack comes through in the clutch.

If you’ve got any other ideas for little mini tool-combos that could be good, hit me up and I’ll check them out!

Email the author at andrew.collins@thedrive.com, or leave a comment below.