If you own your own vehicle, then changing tires is practically unavoidable. It goes without saying that driving on a flat tire isn’t good for your rims, but how exactly do you replace a flat without driving your car to the nearest auto shopSure, the AAA offers roadside assistance, but if you’re not in America or like to do things on your own, then the best way to deal with a flat is by taking a portable tire changer with you at all times. These handy tools are compact enough to store in your car’s trunk and can be set up in a jiffy. In today’s article, we’re going to go over the top three portable tire changers that have made a ton of difference in numerous motorists’ lives, and we’ll even throw in a quick buying guide for good measure.
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Top 3 Portable Tire Changers
JDM Manual Tire Changer
The first product is from JDM Auto Lights. This is the perfect choice for those with limited trunk space as it is extremely compact, and with only two moving parts (apart from the lever), the JDM is super-easy to assemble and take apart. Made of durable steel, this tough tool can be used to change tires as small as 8 inches to 16 inches.
This device also accommodates changing motorcycle wheels with center holes of at least 1-5/8 inches or a removable center hub. The sturdiness comes from its solid 15 x 18-inch base, but the downside is that it’s not exactly a “portable” device. Despite having a large base to rest on, it’ll require being bolted onto the ground to remain stable when working with larger tires of beyond 12 inches.
PowerLift Tire Changer with Bead Breaker
The PowerLift Tire Changer is an excellent choice for you DIYers out there who are tired of lack of care from professional auto shops. This product shares a lot of the same qualities as the JDM Auto Lights manual tire changer – it’s compact, easy to put together and take apart, can handle wheels of between 8 and 16 inches (motorcycle wheels, too), and is made of durable steel that won’t collapse under strain.
The same portability issue exists in this product, namely it needs to be bolted down when working with wheels larger than a foot in diameter. Also, we warn our readers to keep their tire changers thoroughly lubed to prevent accelerated wearing-out of the bead breaker.
Mophorn Portable Tire Spreader and Changer
The final spot on our list of the top 3 best manual tire changer belongs to none other than Mophorn’s Tire Spreader and Changer. What makes this an awesome manual tire changer is its 360° swivel platform which also tilts up to 90°. Changing tires has never been more convenient, and when working in cramped spaces areas, you’ll be glad to have this accommodating tool at your disposal.
A convenient tool tray is located on the column so all of your tools and equipment needed to change tires are within reach. Re-mounting your tires onto the rim is a lot easier with this tool compared to the rest thanks to its handy spreader (9-inch maximum before spread). However, this is by no means a lightweight tool, despite its compact design and portability, and it’s also limited to only 13-inch wheels at most. This is the perfect tool to use at home for scooters and lawnmowers, but for car owners, unless you drive a sedan or hatchback, you might want to stick with the JDP or PowerLift.
Portable Tire Changer Buying Guide
Even though you can choose one of the three top portable tire changers we’ve listed above, you might feel the need to do a bit of research before investing in an emergency tool. Worry not, honorable reader, for we’ve got your back. Here is a list of the most important considerations to make when shopping for the best portable tire changer.
One of the ways we determine whether a portable tire changer will be of any use is the construction of the side shovel. This is a critical component and does most of the heavy work, so it goes without saying that the side shovel needs to be up to the task. Take a look at the part and check for the heft and size. These should indicate whether the shovel will serve loyally for many years or die within the first couple of die changes.
Size and Weight
Obviously, the size and weight of the device will determine just how portable a portable tire changer actually is. Most portable tire changers follow the same size guidelines, namely they don’t take too much floor space and are tall enough to use comfortably without hunching your back too much. As for the weight of the tool, only you can decide whether something is lightweight to load and unload from your vehicle, but for the most part (the exception being the Morphon), portable tire changes weigh slightly north of 30 pounds.
Mounted or Not
The term “portable” mainly refers to the size of the tool rather than its actual portability. What we mean is that some models – like the JDP and PowerLift for instance – need to be fastened securely onto the ground prior to pumping the lever for larger tires.
The problem with going to a professional mechanic to change your tires for you is their lack of heart. There’s a very real risk of scratching your rims or at least chipping the paint, but if you have full control over the process, you can be as careful (or as careless) as you’d like. Many brands of portable tire changers, including the three on our list, take wheel protection seriously, and all of their products use curved shovels.
Obviously, the portable tool changer should accommodate your car’s wheels. Good thing all three portable tire changers on our list are able to remove and re-attach tires of any size for standard cars, motorcycles, and trucks (between 8 and 16 inches). It’s entirely possible to change the tires on lawn mowers, scooters, and tractors as well. As long as the shovel can reach the connection point between the tire and rim, you’re good to go.
Most portable tire changers are coated in anti-corrosion paint to withstand extreme weather. However, the individual components of the tire changer are thin and quite easy to bend if using excessive force. The most heavy-duty material is steel which won’t warp in shape unless you bash it against the side of your car (warning: do not do this).
1. Can you mount 18-inch tires with these portable tire changers?
Well, you can try, but we wouldn’t advise it. Some customers have had positive experiences removing and mounting of larger diameters than the manufacturer’s suggested size but only with the help of external tools. And even so, they would need to apply more pressure than you normally would to spread and remove the tire. So to sum up, you can, but you really shouldn’t. Find a portable tire changer that fits the exact size of your tires.
2. What is a spreader?
A spreader, such as the one found on the Morphon, extends the distance between the tire beads (the inner lining of the wheel that makes contact with the rim). A spreader makes re-mounting tires a lot easier since it keeps the bead out of the way as the rim slips smoothly in. With an onboard spreader, you’ll either need to purchase one separately or spread the beads manually which can be a pain in the neck.
3. Can I use a portable tire changer without mounting it beforehand?
That would make it a true portable tire changer, and yes, you can for all of these models. The downside of not bolting the JDP or PowerLift down is the tool could topple over if you’re working with larger, stiffer tires. However, for smaller wheels, you won’t need a ton of leverage form the shovel to break the beads and thus, won’t need to mount the tool. That being said, we’d advise mounting them with lag bolts. You might want to keep a few 2 x 4s in your trunk to add stability to the tool when bolted down.
Changing a flat or replacing a tire is one of the more common jobs that auto shops need to perform, but if you have your own portable tire changer on hand, you won’t need to rely on professionals who overcharge you for this simple task. In this article, we’ve provided you with our picks of the top 3 portable tire changers, as well as a quick buying guide on how to find the right one. Drive safe, folks, and always keep emergency tools in your trunk when hitting the open road!