One of the many important pieces of equipment in any repair shop, the tire changer can be a simple, welded steel-tube device to raise a tire and wheel to comfortable work height up to a nearly fully automated tire-changing robot. While manual, portable tire changers can still be purchased for $50, the most feature-laden automatic tire changers can cost well into five figures. Increasing levels of convenience, efficiency and comfort come at a price, so take the time to determine what is best for your shop.
Manufacturer websites make it easy to compare products, but the features can be overwhelming unless you have a list of priorities before you start shopping. In choosing an automated tire changer, first consider how many tires your shop changes in a week: a dozen or hundreds? This figure will help determine the level of automation appropriate to save time, labor and wear-and-tear on your technicians. Additional features on more sophisticated machines help protect wheels, tires and the operator. A basic machine can handle conventional tires and wheels, but if your shop sees a lot of low-profile tires on delicate alloy wheels, look for clamps and bead-separators designed to minimize wheel damage. Wheel protection accessories, such as polymer/plastic covers for clamps and demount heads, can eliminate any metal-to-metal contact. Many features of new machines also speed changing of runflat tires or PAX assemblies. A wheel lift helps technicians get heavy tire/wheel assemblies up to tabletop height with less risk of damage. More importantly, a wheel lift reduces operator fatigue and potential for back injury. Well-designed tire changers incorporate ergonomic controls placed to minimize excessive reaching, walking or bending, which improves efficiency and operator safety.
Technician preference for particular features such as tilt-back vs. swing-arm mount/demount mechanism or handle vs. foot pedal-actuated bead loosening may influence the choice of tire changer. Shop space available may limit the maximum footprint allowable. Air compressor capacity and electric service (110 or 220 VAC) may determine the drive system (air, electric or air/electric combination).
Products compete with features such as roller or shovel-type bead separators, integrated tire inflation systems, air-surge pulse for faster inflation speed and improved bead seating, low-speed drive systems with increased torque for servicing tough combinations, and leverless mounting/demounting. Premium features on high-end changers include push-button electronic wheel diameter selection with automatic tool positioning, remote control joystick, upper and lower bead breaker rollers, camera and LCD monitor, and even tire-changing training videos right at the machine.
Depending on the variety and number of specialty tires your shop handles, you may wish to add a tire changer for motorcycle tires, golf cart, go-kart, ATV and lawn mower tires, or machines designed for tubeless commercial truck, off-road and agricultural tires. Other factors to consider: Is the tire changer easily adaptable with accessories like extension clamps to accommodate larger-size wheels? Is the equipment designed to allow technicians to learn to use it quickly and safely? How good is the manufacturer’s customer support after the sale? Is free shipping available?
Tire changers that are easy to use, reduce mistakes and offer added convenience and safety will likely give you the fastest floor-to-floor service time and better profitability, too.