Gaither® Tool Company makes professional grade tools and equipment for the tire service industry. 4WD Mechanix chose Gaither® when setting up a self-sufficient tire service area within our shop studio.
It doesn’t take COVID-19 and a lock down to value having your own tire shop. 4WD Mechanix Magazine tests and services tires on a regular basis. For mounting and balancing, our partnering with Discount Tire has been of great value. Among modern tire retailers, the tire store chain provides excellent service and quality workmanship.
However, 40 miles each way to the local store adds up. Filming of tire mounting, dismounting and balancing on location takes additional time. There’s at least one meal away from home. Tire service at our shop became appealing.
The tooling and equipment at our shop/studio can accomplish any kind of mechanical repair. The only work requiring sublets has been tire service, brake drum/rotor turning and precision engine machining. For our Ram and XJ Cherokee, quality new rotors and drums are inexpensive and readily available, making “turning” unnecessary. Engine machine tools are expensive and space consuming, rebuilding an engine is not a frequent task. Tire service, however, can be performed in-house at our shop.
Why Mount Your Own Tires?
During high school and my truck fleet mechanic years, breaking down and mounting tires were part of the job. Hand tire irons were standard fare for servicing split rims, tube and tubeless light truck tires, passenger car rubber and commercial tires.
When I graduated from the University of Oregon, the Eugene/Springfield economy was on its heels. During the 1980-81 lumber industry free-fall, local unemployment rose to 23%. To feed a family, my experience with tires landed a job as the “working foreman” at Schmunk’s Tires in Springfield. The customer base was primarily logging trucks. We also serviced passenger cars and light trucks.
Dismounting and mounting tires by hand might seem archaic, even brutish to some. I happen to like physical work. Maybe you do, too. When COVID-19 closed our local gym and a wet spring squelched dirt motorcycling, thoughts turned to busting tires at our shop.
Surely tire work is not for everyone, and most tire purchases include free mounting and balancing. Many tire stores include lifetime tire rotations and air checks. That works well unless your tire store is an hour and a half round trip from home. With the right hand and air service tools and equipment, I can change four tires and the spare in less time than a round trip to the Discount Tire store.
An additional perk with manual tire dismounting and mounting is portability. Like our 4WD Mechanix Magazine viewers and readers, we drive a 4×4 into remote back country. Hardcore four wheeling on the Rubicon Trail and at Moab has underscored the vulnerability of tires.
At Nevada, a ghost town square nail or small rock break can be an issue. A mid-‘sixties trip through Smoky Valley is just one example. The desolate dirt road was 100 miles long at the time. A paved road to Round Mountain came a decade later.
North of Manhattan, Nevada, the right rear tire went flat. A square nail had lodged in the tread section. We mounted the only spare tire and drove cautiously for the next sixty miles. On pavement at Austin, we found the service station closed on Sunday. The 189 mile drive home to Gardnerville was four hours without a working spare.
Tires on that four-cylinder Jeep CJ-5 were tubeless Goodyear Suburbanites. The flat tire was still seated on the rim. A simple tubeless tire plug kit and an air pump would have served well. Today, serious off-roaders have onboard air compressors and routinely carry tire plug kits in their tool box.
An emergency tire repair kit and onboard air compressor can get you home. These plug tools can also damage a tire and render it unsafe. Forcing a plug tool or tapered file through the steel belts can reduce a tire’s structural integrity. There are proscribed methods for assessing and safely fixing a modern tubeless radial tire.
Traditional hand tire service works best for automotive shops, commercial truck fleet operators and serious off-roaders performing race pit, remote trail or campsite repairs and tire swapping. Fixing a trailer tire at the side of the road or a rest area is another scenario. Otherwise, if time is not an issue, AAA or roadside assistance insurance can get you rolling.
Tire Balancing and Repairs
Competition in the tire market keeps mounting and balancing costs to a minimum or free if you purchase the tires from the installing dealer. Tire rotations may be included plus lifetime wheel balancing. However, if you decide to buy bare tires on Craigslist or new from a wholesale source, be prepared to pay $15-$30 per tire for one-time mounting and balancing.
Unless you change tires often, performing your own tire balancing may be impractical. For our shop, self-reliance pays off. A stay-at-home order led to searching the internet for an affordable, reliable tire balancer.
My earliest experience was bubble balancing on bias ply tires. Schmunk’s, work at a GMC truck dealership and instructing adult education automotive technology raised the bar to modern static and dynamic spin balancing.
For contemporary radial tires, a static bubble balancer is not very useful. When tires reach the 37/12.50R17 size on our Ram truck, lifting a 102 pound wheel and tire assembly onto a bubble balancer would be senseless. Lifting these wheels onto a tire store spin balancer is challenge enough. Good that the Discount Tire crew is young.
Routine tire rotations recently encouraged our purchase of a Gaither® Winntec Tire Dolly. We also tested the unique Gaither® Moore-Safe Jack. (Click to see the detailed review video at the magazine.) This turned our attention to the Gaither® GT12-1US Mobile Balancer. The unique computer balancer combines the best features of electronic computation with a manually rotated wheel/tire spindle. Priced with entry level power balancers, the GT12-1US offers far more accuracy and commercial grade results.
A key feature is the machine’s ability to raise and lower the spindle to align with the wheel center—rather than lifting a hefty wheel and tire assembly. Popular with commercial tire shops and fleet truck or bus operators, the Gaither® GT12-1US weighs 440 pounds and can be rolled around the shop. Shops often roll the balancer to the side of a tractor/trailer and move the wheel and tire straight onto the spindle and flange before securing the wheel hub and cranking up the spindle. The tire/wheel balance takes place at the vehicle.
The lower amperage 110V cord powers up the computer head, and there is no motor. Powering up the GT12-1US computer is the only electricity use—there is no 220V single phase motor or other draws. This is a manual, accurate and cost-effective balancer.
After weighing our limited shop space and this machine’s accuracy, we took the plunge. The magazine’s shop/studio can now handle any kind of tire repair plus dismounting, mounting and precision balancing.
Safety is the bottom line with tire repairs. We tow a conventional RV trailer and an open deck car hauler for the Jeep XJ Cherokee. A single rear wheel (SRW) Ram 3500 means no compromising on tire condition. If we make a roadside emergency repair with a plug kit, the tire will be disassembled for inspection afterward. There is nothing more unsettling than toting a load on hot summer asphalt and wondering whether a tire has been fixed properly.
Caution: Do not repair a radial tire with a break or puncture in the flexing sidewall or at the outside edge of the tread. Use patches and cord plugs designed for radial tires. Avoid damaging tire belts or the inside carcass membrane. In this series, there will be HD video coverage of proper tire dismounting, mounting, balancing and safe repairs.
Gaither® Tool and Equipment Choices
Gaither® has a wide range of tire equipment and niche tools for servicing tires. Independent garages, truck shops and field service truck operators trust Gaither’s reputation for quality service equipment. For that reason, we turned to Gaither® Tool Company when outfitting our shop.
While Gaither® offers state-of-the-art power tire changing equipment like the ECUBE computerized changer and balancer, our aim is a full-service manual tire shop. Manual tire mounting, dismounting and balancing require a much smaller footprint on our shop floor. The equipment is portable and easily stored.
Gaither® has many shop customers who want high-end results from manual equipment. Focused largely on commercial truck and bus fleets plus agriculture and off-highway equipment users, Gaither® advanced engineering makes light work of big chores. (See the video at this page/post for details on the equipment that works best for our 4×4, SUV and light truck shop.) We wrestle with 37″ diameter tires, wheel/tire assemblies that weigh 102 pound apiece. The rugged GT12-1US balancer can handle tires to 47″ diameter and 330 pounds!
Being self-reliant and independent of tire stores is our goal, bringing all of our tire service needs into the shop studio. Dismounting, mounting, balancing and professional level repairs are now possible year round.
Overlanding and Fixing Tires
Gaither® tire changing hand tools and equipment can also be stowed in a surplus military trailer for remote four-wheeling. Overlanding is synonymous with rugged survival and does not include AAA tire service. Onboard tools and parts for repairs, a norm for remote area travel, can include tire changing and tire fixes.
It’s considered smart to carry an emergency tire plug repair kit for tubeless tire punctures. Installed according to instructions, these kits require filing away at vital steel cords to assure a proper plug fit. The result can be structural damage to the tire belts. Often, these temporary or emergency repairs lead to tire replacement.
What if you could take a “portable tire shop” to the field? Other than wheel balancing equipment, this is a real possibility with Gaither’s versatile tools. Breaking tires down completely to make professional grade repairs—or to change the tire if a spare is carried in the off-road trailer—is feasible with the Gaither® tools. A capable onboard air supply system and hand irons would round out the tools. With the right tools and equipment, a flat work area and tarp, repairs are possible at a campsite, trailside, remote pit or at a roadside rest stop.
In this tire service HD video series, we will cover manual tire changing, balancing and repairs. With the exception of balancing, this work can be performed anywhere. For balancing, our Gaither® GT12-1US Manual (Computer) Balancer is an ideal choice for the shop that wants precise results from a maneuverable, easy to operate machine.
Review the video tour of Gaither® Tool Company equipment. We’ll be putting these tools to work in the following how-to instructional videos. Decide whether performing your own tire service is practical and cost-effective. In our case, equipping the shop has eliminated sublets and assures quality work. We now change tires quickly and perform permanent tire repairs. Gaither® equipment makes us self-sufficient, saves time and pays for itself!