How To Replace Trailer Wheels and Tires

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Trailer Wheel and Tire Replacement

Out with the old, in with the new. Photo by Adam Wright 2011

When you put miles on your trailer like I do you tend to burn up trailer tires. One trick I have found over the years is that it costs about as much to buy a replacement tire as it does to buy a wheel and tire assembly already mounted and balanced. Replacing the wheel and tire as a single unit is a lot easier than mounting a new tire, and there are other advantages, too. I normally replace the wheels in pairs since they tend to wear at the same rate.

Another advantage to replacing the complete wheel with a new tire is you can take the best wheel/tire of the pair you are taking off, and you have an instant spare. Since most trailers don't come with spare tires, now's your chance to add a spare! It is also a good time to inspect your brakes and studs while you have the wheel off. Taking a few minutes to crawl around your equipment is always time well spent.

You would be surprised the accidents you can avert, and it is always a lot easier to fix something in your driveway than it is on the side of the road. I am going to show you step by step how to replace a trailer wheel.

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Breaking the Lugs

Trailer tire replacement
Breaking the lugs. Photo by Adam Wright 2011

The first thing you want to do is break the lugs with your lug wrench. Apply even pressure enough to loosen the lug nut. You have to do this before you jack up your trailer.

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Jacking Up the Trailer

Put the jack under the trailer to replace the tire.
Jacking up the trailer. Photo by Adam Wright 2011

To be safe, I have found it helps to spread out your jacking surface. This can easily be done with a block of wood. It spreads out the surface area you are jacking from and makes it a more stable platform. You want to jack the trailer up until the wheel is off the ground. If the tire is flat, you will want to go higher than the bottom of the tire because the new tire will be bigger fully inflated.

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Inspecting the Wheel Hub

Wheel hub inspection on trailer.
Inspecting the wheel hub. Photo by Adam Wright 2011

As I mentioned before, with the wheel is off this is a good time to inspect the wheel hub on your trailer. You can make sure all the studs are still good, check your bearings, and if you are feeling real ambitious you can check your brakes. There is no better time to do all this than when the trailer is already in the air and the wheel is already off. No time like the present.

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Getting the Lug Nuts Right

Trailer maintenance in action
Checking your lug nuts. Photo by Adam Wright 2011.

Many trailers have special lug nuts, called acorn nuts, that are coned on one end, so they grip tighter and orient the wheel when seated. It is important that you put these on the right way, so they work properly. One end will taper itself ever so slightly. Pay close attention when you remove the lug nuts. This is also a good time to inspect your lug nuts to make sure the threads are good, and they are in decent shape.

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Replacing the Trailer Wheel

New trailer tire installed.
Replacing the trailer wheel. Photo by Adam Wright 2011

Once you get the wheel back on the studs, you should hand tighten the lug nuts until they are tight. Lower the trailer onto the new wheel and if you have a torque wrench tighten them to proper spec. If you are tightening with only the lug wrench, put that little bit of oomph on them without overtightening. The trailer is now much safer, should ride better and you now know how to replace the wheel in an emergency.