In any type of motorsport, used tires will eventually need to be replaced with new ones. This is also true for go-kart racing and I always recommend bringing a few sets of spare tires along on track days.
The process of changing go-kart tires revolves around removing the tire from the wheel, by breaking the tire bead. There are many different methods and tools available for this and some have a clear edge over the other.
Here are the 3 best methods and tools to break the bead on go-kart tires:
All of these methods require a different set of tools. All of these tools are fairly easy to acquire and can also be transported conveniently. Here’s how they look like:
Tire Bead Breaker
In this guide, I’ll explain how to use each of these methods in order to break the beads of your go-kart tires. Some tools may be more effective than others, but all of them get the job done. Let’s get to it!
1. Breaking Go-Kart Tire Beads with a Bead Breaker Tool
Using a go-kart tire bead breaker tool is personally my favorite method because it’s the fastest and most practical way to remove tires from the wheels. I’m using the RLV Go-Kart Tire Bead Breaker and only have good things to say about it. Using a bead breaker is very easy and you can simply follow these steps below.
Step 1 – Set up your bead breaker
It’s best to find a solid surface to place your bead breaker on. Make sure that it’s firm and stable like a tabletop, workbench or place on the floor.
Step 2 – Place your tires onto the base
Now, position your go-kart tire onto the base of the bead breaker and make sure it’s correctly centered. Some bead breaker tools have an alignment tray mounted at the base.
Step 3 – Push the lever onto the bead
Grab the handle and push the bead breaker down so that it makes contact with the tire bead. Ensure that the breaker doesn’t come into contact with the rim, as you want to push the bead down.
You may need to rotate the tire around and push the bead downwards a couple of times on different parts of the tire so that the entire bead is “broken”.
Step 4 – Remove the tire from the rim
Now that you’ve managed to remove the tire bead from the bead seat of the wheel, you can easily remove it with your hands. Rinse and repeat this process for all four tires if needed.
More Information: Video Tutorial
2. Breaking Go-Kart Tire Beads with Tire Tongs
Tire tongs are also a great tool for removing go-kart tires from wheels. The difference between tongs is that you aren’t pushing anything into the bead from the top, rather using tongs to pop the bead out of its seat. Here’s how this process works:
Step 1 – Face the Inside of the wheel upwards
Firstly, grab your wheels and make sure that the inside of the wheel is facing upwards and the outside is against a hard and firm surface. Similar to using a bead breaker, I would recommend doing this on a workbench or on the floor. You’ll also need a little more space for this.
Step 2 – Place the cap onto the inside of the wheel
You’ll see that the tire tongs come with a cap. This cap slots onto the wheel and acts as a firm base for the tongs to rest on. Simply place the cap on the wheel and proceed to the next step.
Step 3 – Insert the tip of the tong into the bead
Use the tip of your tongs and insert them in between the tire bead and the wheel. You may need to apply a bit of pressure in order to separate them. Then, push the handle of the tongs down, so that the center is aligned with the middle of the cap (the flat side of the tongs should face down).
Now, take the pin and insert this into the center hole of the tongs. This will secure it in place so that it’s firmly attached to the cap and wheel.
Step 5 – Spread the tire tong
Next, grab both ends of the lever handles, one with each hand, and spread the tire tongs outwards. Similar to the opposite of cutting something with a pair of scissors. Rotate these levers out as far as they go; most of the tire tongs go about half way, forming a straight line once fully spread (at a 180 degree angle).
Step 6 – Remove cap, tongs and pry the tire off the wheel
Lastly, remove the pin, cap and tongs from your wheel and use your hands to remove the tires. You’ll need to do this by turning around your wheels. If you’re not able to remove the tire by hand, simply pry it off using the tire tongs by inserting the tip in between the tire bead and the wheel again. This time, no cap is needed.
More Information: Video Tutorial
3. Breaking Go-Kart Tire Beads with Tire Irons
You can also break tire beads with some tire irons, also known as tire spoons. However, I personally don’t use this method, as it takes a lot more effort than a bead breaker and it can also leave scratch marks on your wheels if you aren’t careful. Here’s how to use them on your go-kart tires:
Step 1 – Place wheels on flat surface
Similar to the other approaches, find a flat surface to place your wheels on. You can either do this on the floor or on a sturdy table.
Step 2 – Insert the first two tire irons facing up
Now insert the first tire iron in between the bead of the tire and the wheel, with the curved tip pointing downward. You may need to use a bit or force to insert the tire spoons.
Then, insert another tire spoon in between the bead and the wheel about 1 – 2 inches apart from the first one. The curved ends should both be facing the same direction.
Step 3 – Insert the last tire iron in between facing down
The third tire spoon goes in between the first two and the curved tip should point in the opposite direction – upward. Make sure that they aren’t too far apart and that all three tire irons have good leverage.
Step 4 – Push and pull tire irons accordingly
With one hand, push the two outer tire irons down, while your other hand pulls the middle tire iron up. It’s best to use your dominant hand on the tire iron in the middle. Slowly, you’ll see the bead separating from the bead seat of the wheel.
Step 5 – Repeat if required
Repeat this technique around the tire, until you are able to push the rest of the tire bead out of the seat with your hands. You’ll see the entire bead breaking accordingly and you can proceed to remove the go-kart tire from the wheel.
While I always recommend using a bead breaker tool, there are other ways of breaking go-kart tire beads. If you don’t have the required tools, you can use any type of sharp or curved rods to pry off the tires.
The reason why I do not recommend this is not necessarily because it will be more time consuming, but because you can easily damage your go-kart wheels. In dire situations, I’ve also seen some people use knives to cut around the tire when removing it; this only works if you don’t plan on using them again.
But even if you use a knife, you should be extremely careful. Again, I would recommend sticking to proper tools that only cost about $10 to $40 and last a lifetime!