More vehicles, particularly electric vehicles and hybrids, are being equipped with low-rolling-resistance tires in an effort to increase fuel efficiency. These tires have stiffer sidewalls and are made of a harder rubber compound, making them more difficult to change.
“Having a tire changer with power-operated assist tools will play a pivotal role in making sure these (low rolling resistance) tires are most effectively serviced,” says Kritzer. “These same tires will need the use of multiple assist arms in order to prevent scratching the rim and tearing the bead.
“If you’re running a modern tire service department today, having at least one tire changer with assist tools or helper arms is almost essential,” he adds. “Today’s assist-ready machines feature a multitude of devices that improve operator efficiency, safety and minimize damage to expensive wheels.”
One of BendPak’s most popular assist tools is a traveling drop-center tool “that holds stubborn sidewalls in the drop-center area of the wheel when mounting,” notes Kritzer. “Lower bead lifting discs are also helpful tools that can be used to unseat stubborn lower beads or to elevate tires for proper tool placement.”
These accessories essentially reduce the manpower and effort necessary when changing a tire. For example, a bead assist roller near the mount head reduces the need for such techniques as adjusting the bead with a tire bar between the rim and mounting head. This technique can sometimes fail and result in damage to a tire.
Generally, fleets are less picky about the care taken with their rims than regular consumers are. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is becoming increasingly necessary just to have these accessories to simply get the job done.
There are a few other considerations before purchasing a tire changer.
One is that some technicians are having an increasing amount of trouble breaking beads on tires with the tire changer’s shovel. This problem should only increase as sidewalls become stiffer.
While some technicians blame their machine, it is possible that they are simply not breaking the bead on enough different points of the tire or that the shop’s air compressor is underpowered.
“Typical tire changers require that you have an air compressor capable of at least 150 psi,” says Kritzer. “When selecting an air compressor a best practice is to have an air compressor at least two times larger than the CFM required for the largest air tool or machine in your shop.”
The advent of “touchless” tire changers has also complicated things. A touchless tire changer does make it easier to change a low profile, run flat tire on a 22” rim, but the machines require training to use. These machines offer marked efficiency improvements, as they lift and set up heavy rims on their own and do not require the operator to frequently bend down. They will also be the most adaptable to future changes in tire service.
However, all of this comes with a price, as touchless tire changers tend to be the top-of-the-line offered by several tire machine companies to date.
Nonetheless, there are still large fleets of USPS trucks, minivans and taxis out there that still use simple steel rims. Shops that work on these vehicles typically will require a tire changer with much less frills.
Beginning in 2007, every vehicle with a GVWR less than10,000 lbs has a TPMS sensor of some sort. This means that even when servicing vehicles with steel rims there are risks involved with an “old school” tire changer.
“For fleet operations that are accustomed to steel wheel services only, center post tire changers would be an option,” Kritzer notes. He warns that without any upgrades or accessories “there’s a high probability (such a machine) would damage aluminum wheel or TPMS equipped wheels.”
Ultimately, the right tire changer for your fleet will have to be able to work on today’s tires while offering years of use. Be sure to purchase a machine from a company that will warranty parts and labor on the machine, as well as offer responsive technical service in between.
Before committing to a large purchase, try calling the company’s phone number. Speak with tech help in order to get a firm idea that the company is responsive and prepared to handle inquiries.
With an ever-changing landscape of new vehicle technology, there’s always a new twist coming your way when it comes to tools and equipment. So, if you have anything on your mind in that regard...