How to Repair an ATV Bead Leak

July 10, 2013
A few weeks ago we wrote a post about Beth's first tire repair experience. We were able to use our Safety Seal tire repair kit to repair a small leak in her rear tire, but we were thrown a curve ball when we sprayed down her front tire and saw this...

Bead Leak

The leak in the front tire turned out to be coming from the bead. At the time, we thought that it would be easier to take the tire to a dealer to have it reseated. But then my beautiful wife found me this...

bead leak

It's the Bead Pro Tire Tool by Motion Pro. The levers are made out of aluminum making them super light weight. They're also shorter than some of the levers I have used in the past. The fork is just over 9.5" and the bead breaker is right at 10". The Bead Pro is recommended for motorcycles but we thought it would be just right for our ATVs. The compact size was a huge plus for my pack smarter wife. (Remember the band-aid rant from her post about our first aid kits?) It's not often that my wife picks out tools and while I trust her opinion, I like to do my research before making a purchase. I gave it some thought and concluded that it costs me about $15 to $20 every time I walk in to a tire shop to get a tire worked on. I also thought about the new set of tires I am planning to purchase for my KFX. If I go to the dealer to have them mounted it will cost between $10 to $15 per tire depending on where I decide to make my purchase. (While a dealer may cut you a deal on mounting, the tires will usually have a higher price tag than if you were to purchase them online.) Long story short, by the time that I repaired Beth's tire and installed all four of my new tires, the Bead Pro will have paid for itself. Any use I get out of it afterwards is money in our pocket. And around here that means more cash for fuel, tools, and accessories, which makes us very happy. I am still in the process of researching tires for my KFX, but once I have them picked out we will really put this tool to the test. Today though, it was suprisingly easy to repair the bead leak on Beth's front tire with the Bead Pro. I have to admit, when the tools came in, I was a little worried. I had read the description about the size but once I got it in my hand it hit me just how small they really are.

bead leak

Of course the smallest tire I deal with In the Army is a HMMWV 37x12.5x16.5 8 ply. So this little 21x6x10 4 ply tire is quite a bit smaller. I'm skeptical, but willing to give it a shot. The instructions are easy to read and located right on the back of the box (Yea, I read them. I know it is a disappointment to all men). It was nice that the instructions included large photos and not the stick figure drawings that can sometimes make things more confusing than they need to be.

bead leak

Because Beth's tire had a leak and it has been a few days since we had rode, it was already flat. If your tire is not flat already, please please please make sure that you remove the air before using this (or any) tool to break the bead. If your tire is full of air, there are two ways you can empty it. You can push in the valve core or remove the valve core completely with a tool or a valve stem cap that has a valve core remover. Once the tire is empty, it is safe to break the bead.

bead leak

I started by taking the fork (the one with two tines, though the box does have them labeled) and wedged it under the lip of the wheel. A small push was all it took to slide right in. At this point I was already impressed by how little effort was required. *Note: the bloody knuckle in the above photo was not from using the Bead Pro. It's from scraping the lug nuts while I was removing the wheel. We've decided that removing and replacing the wheel was far more challenging than breaking the bead. After that it was as easy as putting the bead breaker on top of the fork and squeezing the two together. The tip of the bead breaker slides right into the fork and under the rim of the tire. Squeezing the two levers is all the force you need to push the tire down.

bead leak

I had to do this about nine or ten times, moving a little bit around the rim each time, but finally I got to a point when I could see the bead was below the seat on the wheel. The directions of the box mention that you may need to do this for stubborn tires and honestly, there was very little force so I didn't find that to be a big deal. I did find it easier to use a pry bar to hold the tire below the wheel while I moved the tool around.

bead leak

The whole process took very little effort and once I have moved the tool around the tire once I was able to push the tire off the seat by hand.

bead leak

It took us about ten minutes to get to this point but that was with several pauses to make sure we had some good photos. I would guess that it would normally take about five minutes. Not bad considering this tire has been on the wheel for close to ten years without being broken down. That should be a pretty accurate comparison to most ATV tires and the degree of sticking on the aluminum wheel. For a steel wheel I think the process could be a little more difficult due to any rust, but I still think this tool would work great. Once the tire was off the seat, we made sure to clean the wheel and the bead of the tire. We didn't go crazy and use soap or water or anything, just dusted off some of the gunk. Okay, so maybe it was more of a scraping than a dusting. Another area where the pry bar came in handy. You can see in the photo below where we had started to scrape some of the gunk off.

bead leak

Now the messy part; I know you can get a special bead lube/sealant but when I have used it on a leaking bead, I have never had good luck. I do use it to mount/dismount tires. Instead what I use for leakers is wheel bearing grease.

bead leak

Yes, a petroleum based product will break down rubber after time. But I used this method on a disk (a piece of heavy farm equipment) when I was first learning about tires in 2000 and it is still going strong. So in my experience, I have to say that it takes a long time for this to be an issue plus it works great. I started by greasing  the seat and the inner lip of the wheel. It doesn't take a lot of grease, just enough that when the tire bead pops back on the seat there is a coat on the bottom of the bead and the lip of the wheel. This isn't one of those cases where more is better. If you use too much grease, you will just cause a mess when the bead pops back on the tire.

bead leak

Once I grease all the way around the wheel, I pull up on the tire and try to get it to touch the wheel all the way around.

bead leak

Now it's time for air. If you hear a leak, try to pull up on the tire in that spot. I'd love to show you photos for all of the issues you may encounter but this time worked perfectly and there were no leaks. I am sure I will run into a leak or two when I replace my tires in the next few weeks, and we'll be sure to include all the snaffus when we write that post. Make sure when you're airing the tire you stand back. When that bead pops, it pops!

bead leak

You can see how using too much grease could be messy. I used very little here so we didn't get too much spray but you can see the excess on the outside of the tire.

bead leak

Once the tire was inflated and the bead popped, I went around and pushed on the bead to make sure it slid all the way on.

bead leak

And of course, we used our soapy water trick to spray down the tire and make sure the leak was sealed.

bead leak

In case you're confused, that's not vinegar in the bottle. Just water and a few squirts of dish soap. If you're just tuning in, we use the soapy water to find any air leaks (the air will make the tire blow bubbles). Tada it is done! This whole process took us around 30 minutes including grabbing a pry bar and grease from our shop at the other end of the house. Plus we paused pretty frequently for photos. I think our photo count for this was somewhere around 140 photos! Someone (cough) Beth (cough) likes to do a little overkill with our photography, so that always slows us down a little. Of course, out of 140 photos, I'd say we had about 20 or 30 that were completely unnecessary (although adorable).

bead leak

I think if you had everything out ahead of time and didn't have a camera in your face, this would be about a ten minute job. Plus we really like the small size for storing them in a field kit or small toolbox. Motion Pro does make a longer steel set of tire irons, the Bead Pro FS (forged steel). I don't really think they are needed for just breaking the bead (the smaller set worked great for our purposes this time), but I am thinking that they might be a little better for changing tires. I'm still in the process of researching my next set of tires but when I do find some, I may give the larger Bead Pro a try. Some Fine Print: In case it's not obvious, we were not paid to give our review on the Bead Pro Tire Tool. We discovered it on our own, researched to find the best price, and purchased the tool ourselves. Anyone reading this have a recommendation on my KFX Tires? Or just any thoughts in general? Let us know please. We would love to hear your comments.">

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