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Safety & Tyre Repair : that is the real debate!

    While discussing tyres & split rims with a customer recently he pointed out several websites & forums on the subject of split rims and the never ending argument/debate between those who dislike them and those who don’t. I was curious so I had look myself, the level of actual knowledge was pretty poor. I haven’t laughed so much for months.

    The debate is about two issues, the first is tyre repair, the second is safety and in fact the two are the same thing in many cases. Tubeless fans feel safer and don’t need (or can’t be bothered) to take the tyre off the rim for repair and the split rim fans know they have to be careful and repair any flat tyres by doing a bit of work. That sums it up doesn’t it?

    Travelling our outback or desert country is no big deal if you are well prepared and have bothered to learn a few skills. Most problems that folk have are just tyre related, most of these problems can be repaired but unfortunately modern thinking & preparation doesn’t seem to include anything but "quick fix plugs" which are pretty useless if the tyre has a hole in it bigger than a matchstick. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to want to be very remote and then not have the gear or skill to tackle a very common problem, a sidewall staked or a tread damaged tyre. I was pleased to see a few blokes on these forums actually mentioned carrying extra gear to handle these situations. Good to see.

Mick repairing a tyre

    Most of the following information I have learnt and picked up over the last 15 years. The vast bulk of the intricate knowledge has been gained in only the last six years as a result of having to keep tyres in the best useable condition at all costs. We have done our utmost to know as much as possible about tyres, rims, tyre repair and the rules as we feel it is the most important subject in the bush. It is a shame recreational 4WDers and the 4WD industry don’t seem to share our point of view.

    Connie & I run a tag-a-long tour business guiding tours and expeditions, because of this we have spent time and energy learning and practising as much as possible about tyre repair. I am not skiting it is just that we do have a "duty of care" towards our customers and ourselves so we decided to learn how to do it properly. As an example, on our trips if someone wants to plug a tubeless puncture anywhere on a tyre we don’t mind as long as it only needs one or two plugs, but without fail in the afternoon that wheel is pulled off the vehicle and a better, stronger tyre repair is carried out. That way folks don’t have to worry for the rest of the trip that they have a dodgy tyre and they get a chance to learn firsthand what needs to be done. They also have some understanding of what to do with the gear they have and why. Mick doing a tyre repair demoEvery commercial tour we run I do a full blown tyre repair demonstration within the first few days. I go right through the repair processes, rules, tools and tricks and I demonstrate both a tubeless and split rim tyre dismount and mount, the whole demo’ takes 2-3 hours. Without fail every group will comment how quick and simple the split rim was to deal with compared to the tubeless gear, bear in mind that was with me doing them and I have had plenty of practice with both.

    In general we find travellers are very apprehensive & paranoid about flat tyres and relieved when they can get them repaired to the highest level possible in the bush. That means a large reinforced patch bonded correctly and the innerliner sealed if the tyre is a tubeless type.

    I’ll cover a few key subjects straight up, but there is more if you wish to continue reading. I am not trying change anyone’s mind. All I am trying to do is raise the level of knowledge a little about the various aspects of the debate. I’m also not trying to start an argument but by all means drop me a line if you disagree.

    Also, I am not telling folk how to do repairs. It is not a tyre repair article but I do mention how Beadell Tours have gone about doing things over the last six years in regard to methods. If you wish to improve your knowledge and become better with tyres that is solely up to you, but please seek professional advice and get first hand instruction.

Keep it in context; remote areas well away from tyre repair shops.



Beware of Tyre Shops

Why Tyres Go Flat

The Safety Argument

Responsibility/Common Sense a.k.a. Duty of Care & Best Practise

4WD Rim Types

Bead Breaking

Why Plugs are only for Emergency Tread Repairs

Tyre Repair Kits – what exactly are you buying?

Tyre Repairs – a few immediate thoughts

Tyre Repair Legalities

How Does Beadell Tours handle all of this?

Tubeless Rims & Tyres

Split Rims

Tyre Repair

My Thoughts in Short


Beware of Tyre Shops

    Be very careful dealing with tyre shops in suburban areas, particularly the big franchises. The fellows working there will almost without exception have no idea about dealing with tyres, tubes and rims in very remote country where tyre damage is a fact of life. Generally speaking these blokes won't have much of an idea about many of the issues I mention in articles on this website. Remember all they do is sell and fit new tubeless tyres which they handle with a tyre changing machine. Your best bet is to find a tyre place that handles truck gear. At the very least they should know how to handle tubes and levers.


Why Tyres Go Flat

    One of the reasons for a flat tyre that everyone fails to identify is simply LUCK. Why does the bloke in front of you not pick up that nail on the bitumen and you do? If you’re doing everything right with tyre type, pressure, speed, weight etc and you still get a flat tyre, what or who do you blame then? Some flat tyres are just going to happen, get over it.

    Some tyres are damaged by large or sharp stones, pretty obvious as "off-road" means gravel and gibbers. Some tyres are staked in the bush from something sharp, normally as folks get off the road to camp for the night. For those with tubes fitted, apart from the above, it will be a fitting problem that causes a hole in the tube. You can also damage a rim either tubeless or tubed and get a flat tyre that way, not common but it does happen.

    The worst flat tyre is a "run-flat", that’s the one where you are clipping along at speed and a tyre slowly deflates for whatever reason and it is so slow you don’t notice the problem. By the time you do the tyre has overheated and killed itself. This happens to every tyre and rim combination. For this problem those tyre monitoring gadgets are a real good idea.

    You can do a great deal to minimise the risk of a flat tyre. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this as the forums and articles are chock-a-block with this sort of stuff. I’ll just list the main issues and the reality is pretty simple;

    For our commercial off-road tours we will not give a blanket tyre pressure figure at all for travellers. For radial tyres we ask that they put a little bit of belly in the sidewall of the tyre to start and adjust from there, by the end of the first or second day most folks have got it worked out for the tracks they are on at that time, if the corrugations are shocking we simply let a bit more air out. In the end it is a personal preference and you just have to experiment yourself.

The slower you travel the less flat tyres you will get, if you learn nothing else at least learn that.


The Safety Argument

    The overwhelming thought against split rims is simply that they will blow apart one day and cause havoc. I haven’t had this problem at all since starting to run split rims on Land Rovers about 5 years or 150,000kms ago. In fact the incidents that are always mentioned about this subject are normally from large truck tyres and earthmoving or mining gear. Yes there have been fatalities, and you do need to be very careful, no arguments, but the reasons for these incidents can be traced back to the bloke doing something wrong, not the gear.

    If SAFETY is behind all of this debate then why do most tubeless tyre users not think twice about bunging a plug or multiple plugs in the sidewall of a Radial tyre and heading off down the road for weeks and months at a time? Call me stupid but that seems to be a case of "the pot calling the kettle black" or double standards when it comes to safety. Have a look at the instructions for those plugs, where does it say or show you that they are for sidewalls & shoulders in Radial tyres? The short answer is that they don’t.

    I have found that learning the correct methods and doing things the right way is the safest way to do things. After 750,000kms on narrow tubed tyres and now split rims, and having been involved with hundreds of tubeless tyres as well, I can honestly say I haven’t had too much trouble at all. Everything silly that has occurred could be traced back to something done poorly or not done at all to start with. I have not seen a split rim in my care fail at any time. Obviously the responsibility for these issues and more belongs to the driver/owner of the vehicle. Remember the old saying "only a bad tradesman blames his tools", it is true.

    Connie has been in the desert with split rims since 1975 and has had no problems and Beadell Tours run five commercial trips every winter in the western deserts on split rims with thick heavy tyres. Connie & I have both survived, ring us up, we’ll answer the phone so it must be true. The upshot is after six months in the western deserts we drive home on the same tyres we left home with and we arrive home on time, plus we save money year after year.

    Handled correctly all rims and tyres are very safe and reliable.


Responsibility/Common Sense a.k.a. Duty of Care & Best Practise

    Everyone expects levels of "Duty of Care" & "Best Practise" but in the recreational 4WD world very little of either seems to get extended toward tyre repairs. "Duty of Care" is on the owner/driver of a 4WD to maintain the vehicle to an acceptable level. So why don’t tyre repairs seem to be included in this? Wouldn’t it be common sense to do the best you can when it comes to fixing a tyre way out in the scrub, regardless of how much effort was required? Surely your responsibility or "Duty of Care" extends that far toward your family or other passengers in your 4WD.

plug repair patch repair

Two temporary bush repairs looking on the inside of the tyres, which one is safer?

    Reading 4WD websites and forums tells me that the majority of recreational 4WDers show little or no duty of care toward themselves or their passengers when it comes to fixing a flat tyre, (in fact the fridge seems to be a higher priority). I’m assuming these same people at least wear a seatbelt.


4WD Rim Types

    First thing to remember is that there are three different rim types in use on 4WDs today, tubeless, split rim & tube type. Tube type rims should have "Tube Type" stamped on the rim.


Bead Breaking

    Now for those who don’t know a tyre and rim are quite a tight fit when assembled, bead breaking is the first step when taking a tyre off a rim. Now right here I’ll mention that all 4WD tyre/rim combinations will need the bead breaking on both sides of the tyre. There is no real advantage with any of the rim types. Be warned if the tyre has been on the rim for years all of them can be very difficult to break with hand tools when you’re in the bush.

    We ask all of our customers to have their tyres taken off the rims and then put back on before the trip. If I then have to help them repair a tyre or do the repair for them while in the bush the bead will break quite easily because it has been off recently.


Why Plugs are only for Emergency Tubeless Tread Repairs

    Everyone should know this, but I’ll go over it again.

    Now the reason plugs are not a permanent repair by the rules is also simple. The damage to the tyre has not been sealed properly. Water & grit can still get into the Hi-tensile steel belts and carcass cords and cause corrosion and damage. Corrosion or rust will over time cause tread separation or belt failure and obviously then tyre failure. This is why plug repairs are a short term fix.


Tyre Repair Kits – what exactly are you buying?

    Everyone should be aware that "plug only repair kits" won’t be much good for larger damages to tyres. But you should also be concerned about the fact that the other tyre repair kits available over the counter that we have seen lately with the patches and little tools etc are hardly any better.

Commercial tyre repair kit

These are the patches, glues and tools of a good quality outback tyre repair kit. Have a close look.

    Why don’t over the counter tyre repair kits have appropriately sized patches for our 4WD tyres? The general "rule of thumb" for patches is simply that the patch should be at least three or four times longer than the damage.

    What I’m saying is that every tyre repair kit I have seen in a 4WD shop is just not capable of emergency repairing anything more than about a 15mm cut in a tyre and in the areas we travel in 15mm is not very big for a damaged tyre.

tear in a tyre

How is the above kit going to deal with this damage?

    I am very familiar with Rema Tip-Top repair patches and what sizes are specified for the various sized damage in 4WD sized tyres. Some of these patches are huge and are the same construction as the tyre with cords and several plies within the rubber of the patch. If you look at the specifications the currently available kits only have tyre patches for car size tyres. In fact the cheaper kits seem to only have a couple of rubber only patches, hopeless.

    Here is another thought, how many folk have tried to use that little rasp in the kit to buff up the sidewall of a tyre? Good luck with that project.

    I’m not saying the kits are no good, I’m pointing out that the kits are not adequate for remote area travel and could do with a better selection of repair patches & tools.

missing repair gear from kits

This is a selection of patches & gear we carry for Radial tyres in the western deserts

    This is what I consider missing from "modern" tyre repair kits;


Tyre Repairs: A Few Immediate Thoughts

    Now, another complaint about split rims and tubed tyres is the fact that any puncture or flat tyre must be taken off the rim and the tyre and tube repaired. For me this is a good idea as there is no way to inspect a tyre properly if it is still on the rim. The best repairs can only be done knowing everything you can know about the problem. A tyre still on the rim will give you no indication of hidden damage. That is why the Australian Standard says that any tyre must be removed off the rim for inspection before a repair can be carried out. So with tubed gear I have to do this anyway, no problem.

    Tubeless is where the problems can start. If you plug the tyre how do you know the carcass is not damaged more than just that little hole? If the damage cannot be plugged up with that whiz-bang kit then to repair the tyre it has to come off the rim anyway, assuming you (or someone in your group) have the gear, knowledge and skills to carry out a temporary patch repair.

    So if you want to do things as safely as possible, where is the advantage with tubeless tyres and rims in the bush?

stake in Goodyear Wrangler MTR

    Another thing to remember is that in the bush with Radial tyres 99% of punctures will be in the sidewall and shoulder of the tyre where plugs are not designed to be used.


Tyre Repair Legalities

    Now it is all well and good to quote the rules etc, but what do they mean for the 4WD traveller two weeks from civilisation with a couple of punctured tyres? The simple reality is this, they don’t mean much at all. Working with damaged tyres beyond civilisation puts you into a large "grey area" in regard to tyre repair rules. The only guidelines we have in the bush are from the manufacturers of the repair gear you should be carrying. Only when you reach a town with a tyre repair shop do these other rules take effect.

    What seems to have happened in Australia with bush tyre repairs is that the tyre industry has wiped their collective hands of the issue. So in most places these days (as you already know) when you finally get to town they will just want to sell you a new tyre. Nobody wants to be held accountable for what might happen to a repaired tyre. Obviously for remote area travellers we do not have that luxury as our tyres must be kept in service, there is no other alternative. Our overriding safety concern is to finish the trip and to do that we need our tyres on the vehicle and serviceable or ready to be used as spares.

    In regard to vehicle insurance it seems fairly straight forward. If you haven’t followed the instructions in the repair kit and the "repaired" tyre was the cause of the accident then it is very possible your insurance company will not honour your policy. Fair enough.


How Does Beadell Tours Handle All of This?

    As we and our customers have a great many punctures during our expeditions and the normal amount throughout the tours I decided a few years ago to spend the time and money to become a Major Tyre Repairer. To cut a long story short I can fix many of the tyres that the other blokes throw away. Having learnt and applied the rules I then changed how we did our temporary repairs in the bush, to a far stronger, safer method. Granted it does mean a bit of elbow grease but tyres on our trips leave the bush with a repair as good as or better than you will get in any tyre shop apart from a full blown Major Repair. (Which admittedly very few fellows bother to do these days).

    As a commercial tag-a-long business we do have "duty of care" issues. The decision was made to be able to do the best and strongest repairs possible in the bush. It just wasn’t sensible to do anything else.

    We often wonder how many other commercial tours mobs have bothered to go this far for their customers.


Tubeless Rims & Tyres

Tubeless Rims

    To the casual observer there is not a great difference between a tubeless rim and an old fashioned tube type rim such as found on the Land Rovers still. Both are "drop centre rims" that simply means that there is a sunken section in the middle of the rim, known as a "well". The well is needed in the rim so the tyre can be taken off and put back on. Remember that the tyre is actually smaller in diameter than the rim. The well is there so the bead of the tyre doesn’t have to stretch too far to be taken off or put on. It is hard to explain with words, you need to see it done. If you over-stretch a tyre bead in the bush you may not be able to reinflate the tyre or worse still a badly damaged tyre bead can become dangerous. The bead of any tyre is the most important section, no repairs are allowed at all.

    I have found the stronger and thicker the tubeless tyre the more difficult it will be to take off and put back on the rim. Manually dismounting and remounting tyres on tubeless rims requires technique, the correct tools and a level of physical ability to do the work and also do no damage to the rim or tyre. For folk not used to doing the job it can be very difficult and in some cases impossible. If you wish to learn how to do this job then see your local tyre shop and they may be able to supervise you while you learn. Be warned though most modern places will have only changed tyres on machines, they mightn’t be too flash with old fashioned levers.

    Tubeless rims and tyres are not designed to be done by hand in the bush. They are designed to be handled by a tyre changing machine.

Website Complaints against Split Rims

    Now, one of the websites I looked at recently was by a well known fellow from Alice Springs who runs commercial tours from time to time. He stated firmly why he was not in favour of split rims and listed six reasons to justify his stance. I found all of the reasons a little poorly explained or just simply incorrect but three caught my eye in particular. All three showed a lack of understanding about tyres & rims.

"Safety Rims"

    The first I’ll explain was his complaint that split rims and tube type rims (Land Rover) were not "safety rims". For those that don't know tubeless rims are safety rims. In reality there is really only one difference between the two rims, tubeless & tube type. A tubeless rim will have a raised bump a short distance inside both flanges of the rim. The tyre bead sits between these bumps and the flange. The reason these "safety humps" exist is to stop the bead of the tyre moving away from the rim flange and letting the air out (some of you may have had this happen though, that is why 4WD bead locks came about). The reason these humps had to be designed into the rim was because there was no tube fitted to do the job.

Tubeless rim shape

Above - Tubeless rim shape; flanges, safety humps & well

Tube rim shape

Above - Tube rim shape; flanges & well

    So there you have it, in the "old days" a tube kept the tyre out against the rim, these days without a tube you need these little humps to do the same thing. So the reality is this, split rims and tube type rims are not "safety rims" because they have tubes!

    "Safety Rim" I believe was just a marketing tool from the manufacturers.

    I mentioned bead locks above, I suspect Land Rover have stuck with tube type rims on some vehicles because a tube does actually act something like a bead lock. If you manage to push the tyre off the rim flange a little when 4WDing they won’t deflate, pretty simple really. The other reason I suspect is due to tyre availability world wide, it is a safer bet to jam any tyre onto a tube rim with a tube than any tyre onto a tubeless rim. Remember not all tyres are tubeless particularly in developing countries.

Weight of Rims & Tyres

    The next complaint was about the combined weight of tyres & rims. Now this bloke quoted the OH&S rule about only being allowed to lift 15kgs when on your own. The point he was trying to make was that split rims and tyres are extremely heavy, as much as 42kgs he stated and most blokes will struggle to put that onto their spare tyre rack or onto the roof-rack. Straightaway this made me wonder how much lighter a tubeless tyre and rim must be. By his argument they must be about 15kgs!

    Having a variety of tyres and rims around our place normally I thought I would weigh a few things and see.

    Where is the advantage with tubeless tyres on alloy rims? The above are all very similar and nothing like the OH&S limit of 15kgs.

"Un-sprung" Weight

    Now he also stated that because split rims & tyres are heavy they contribute to extra "un-sprung weight" which cause shock absorber fade and rough ride. Once again read the weights above, what could be the possible difference in reality?

    Think about this, the same bloke also had a whinge about narrow tyres not handling well, but one of his complaints was about this excessive "un-sprung weight". Won’t a narrow tyre make a lighter package? Think about it; there is less rubber, less steel belt & less rim. Compare the two tubeless weights above........It seems you can't have your cake and eat it too!

How Tubeless Tyres Work

    In a nutshell a tubeless tyre does have a tube. Now that probably sounds a bit funny but it is true. The rubber that tyres are made from is actually porous, so in fact tubeless tyres won’t hold air permanently unless they have what is called an "innerliner", which is an airtight membrane (something like 1mm-3mm thick) bonded onto the inside of the tyre. So to do away with separate tubes all the manufacturers have done is glue one inside your tyre, how is that for simple. (Tube type tyres have an innerliner as well but I don’t think it is airtight.)

    Now, for remote area work we have found a few problems with innerliners in tubeless tyres. Here are the three main issues;

    So when blokes plug a tyre by the side of the road they are not sealing the rubber of the tyre at all, in fact they are only sealing the thin innerliner on the inside.

What Happens to a Punctured Tubeless Tyre if you ONLY have Plugs?

    If you’re a "modern" traveller you will have tubeless tyres and a puncture repair kit containing plugs and the tools to apply them, the "Safety Seal" kit from ARB is a classic example. You get a puncture, pull up, whip out your kit and jam one or more of those plugs into the spot where the air is gushing out. Checking it’s going to hold pressure and very pleased you head off down the road, no effort, no fuss, didn’t even get dirty. It’s not quite that simple but you get the idea.

    So what you have done if you have plugged the shoulder or sidewall of the tubeless tyre is go against the instructions given to you by the manufacturer of the repair material.

    Now this next problem is worse if you really are in a remote area, which in Australia is quite easy to do. If that puncture was more than an inch long your plugs are not going to do the job. What do you do then? You have a tyre you can’t fix with the repair gear you have with you. If you had two spare tyres OK, but if you had only one spare now you have none. It seems your preparation may not have been as good as you thought.

plug repair kitGood sized stake

Can anyone tell me how you'll repair a damaged tyre like on the right with a repair kit similar to what is on the left?

    So for that big trip to the Kimberley or up the Canning all that wonderful & expensive preparation is for naught if you puncture a couple of tyres and the holes are bigger than the length of a match and you only have plugs. Sobering thought isn’t it.

Alloy Tubeless Rim problems

    Be aware that alloy tubeless rims can be damaged by beadbreakers & tyre levers when changing tyres in the bush. The steel tools can & do mark the alloy rims and if you're not careful the damage can be enough so that the tubeless tyre won’t seal properly. They’ll normally inflate but the damaged spots can create a slow leak, which at speed can turn into a run-flat which are very dangerous. Spray or drip some soapy water all around both beads when the tyre has been refitted and inflated, check it is not leaking.

rim damage

Damage from hand tools on the flange of a tubeless alloy rim

    The other problem can be the valve hole if you need to fit a tube.

    For more information on tubes and fitting please click the following link - Tubes for Tyres.

Danger & Responsibility – Tubeless Rims & Tyres

    The exponents of tubeless gear will carry on about how much safer they are than a split rim if you have to work on them yourself. Tubeless rims & tyres are safer, no argument. But I have watched many blokes tackle the job of getting a tubeless tyre off a tubeless rim, I can tell you it is not pretty, particularly if the bloke is newly retired and not used to handling tools of any kind. A tyre lever will give you a very nasty crack on the scone if you don’t know how to use them correctly, that is apart from losing your balance and falling off the tyre when you’re trying to put feet in the right place to handle levers or push the bead down into the well of the rim. OK none of this should cause a fatality but injuries are easily possible. Any injury in remote country can become a major problem. So things are not always what they seem.

   [Now some of you reading this will say, "Well don't bother doing that, just plug the tyre or put the spare on". Connie & I have lost count of the number of travellers we have heard of that have cut their trip short simply due to tyre problems. It is a lot of time and expense to start a big trip, maybe just a little more preparation might have seen them be able to complete it.]

    Over the years there have been fatalities from using tubeless gear for various reasons, please don’t think they are infallible, remember the human element will always be present. Apart from the above mentioned problems there are normally four major issues with tubeless rims;

    Get it into your heads folks any pressure vessel handled badly is very dangerous.

    Has anyone ever seen an overinflated or damaged tubeless tyre explode? I have, they turn into a bomb and the shrapnel goes in all directions. You can get a bit of an idea behind a truck when one of their tubeless tyres goes off, nasty stuff.

Fitting a Tube into a Tubeless Tyre & Rim

    This sounds like such an easy thing to do, but if you’re not used to handling tubes there are many things that can go wrong and any of these things can cause you another flat tyre.

    The only time I will fit a tube into a tubeless tyre is when I believe that the tyre repair needs more support. Now for those of you who think that tubes cannot be fitted into tubeless tyres think again. If the tyre or rim has "DO NOT FIT TUBE" then do not fit a tube, in most other cases go right ahead.

    Now there are a few problems that are specific to tubeless rims & tubes and I always pay close attention to them when I have to fit one.

    Again, more information about this is available on the  Tubes for Tyres  page.


Split Rims

    I won’t bother going into the history of split or two piece rims a great deal but they have been around for 4WDs a long time. Land Rovers in the very early 1950s could be fitted with factory two piece rims and I would guess the Austin Gypsy had the same option. I would assume this would have been a leftover from the war. (For those interested the Gypsy was one of the first commercial 4WDs with independent suspension that was in the 1950s.)

    As no bugger seems to "give a stuff" about history I’ll move on to the present day. We all know Toyota and Nissan working 4WDs still come with split rims but you may not know the new model OKA also has a very good two piece rim available in 19.5”. Here’s the catch; it is a tubeless rim, and they work very well. Having helped fix a few flat tyres with this set-up on our 2008 expedition I can say they are a very good bit of gear. There you go, a wide tubeless split rim on a 4WD, the best of both worlds.......

Poor Design or Poor workmanship?

    Split rims can be very dangerous if handled poorly, no arguments. You are playing with a pressure vessel much the same as a gas bottle. The key phrase there was "handled poorly", so the problem is obvious, the human element. Like knives, power tools, kitchen appliances, ladders, vehicles or whatever, folk have a responsibility to themselves and others to learn to use dangerous tools sensibly and correctly. You all went out of your way to learn to drive a vehicle safely and vehicles are one of the most deadly tools man has yet made so shouldn’t you also learn to use all of your potentially dangerous tools properly? Or is that too much common sense?

    Here are the issues with handling split rims. It is much the same as you will find on the OH&S type websites.

Split rims can blow apart during inflation because of the following:

    If you have a good think about this you will notice that every problem listed above is related directly to the bloke doing the job, or more correctly not doing his job.

How to help prevent the above problems

    If you want to use split rims well and good, but get your act into gear, go and find someone who knows how to handle them well and is qualified, learn how to use them under supervision then practise doing it under supervision. Manual skills need to be practised.

Are Split Rims Easy to Work On in the Bush?

    If you need to take a tyre off a rim then yes, a split rim is far easier to manage in regard to technique & effort than a tubeless or one-piece rim, particularly if you haven’t had a lot of practise or you are physically not 100%. Because the rim can be taken apart the tyre doesn’t have to be flexed and stretched over the rim to get it off or put back on. With a split rim you can run a heavy duty light truck tyre or a thin passenger rated tyre (appropriate for your vehicle & rim size) and the effort required to change a tyre remains the same, this cannot be said for any one-piece rim, tubeless included.

split rim with lock ring

Above - Split rim with lock ring fitted

split rim without lock ring

Above - Split rim with lock ring removed. The tyre can slip straight off.

    Split rims are designed to be easy and simple to use in the bush. In fact you cannot use a tyre changing machine on a split rim. They must be done by hand.

    The technique and tools required to handle split rims is also less; the only time levers are needed is to remove the Lock Ring. The two levers I use for split rim work are only 12” (30cm) long. Once the Lock Ring is off the rest of the operation of taking the tyre off and putting it back together requires no levers or tools at all. However I generally give the Lock Ring a gentle tap with a mallet to make sure it seats properly when I start to inflate the tyre, but essentially that’s about it.

    Anyone not used to handling tools will have trouble much the same as I described for the tubeless gear earlier in this article. Practice manual skills when the pressure is not on, it will be much easier than busting your gut trying to develop a technique at the same time as the family is waiting for you to get the job done in the middle of the desert.

    Every commercial tour we run I do a full blown tyre repair demonstration within the first few days. I go right through the repair processes, rules, tools and tricks and I demonstrate both a tubeless and split rim tyre dismount and mount. The whole demo’ takes 2-3 hours. Without fail every group will comment how quick and simple the split rim was to deal with.

    Connie & I run split rims all season in the western deserts, some of our off-track expeditions can be deadly on tyres (even Bias tyres will puncture). In a group of 6 vehicles we may have 20-30 punctures in 3 or 4 weeks. (If tubeless gear was used the puncture tally for the same trip would easily get into triple figures, think about that.) If the scrub has been nasty I might end up repairing 3 or 4 staked tyres in an afternoon with big thick reinforced repair patches or mushroom plugs. I’m always very grateful that for these trips split rims are compulsory. They save me a lot of work. Obviously we run split rims for a specific reason, yet the bulk of our travelling is still on & off-road, managed sensibly they handle everything with no fuss.

    I'm not trying to turn people onto split rims, I am pointing out that they have a place on 4WDs and they are applicable to recreational 4WDers if they are doing trips where tyres get regularly damaged.

What Happens to a Punctured Tyre – Split Rim & Tubed Tyres?

    You have a flat tyre for whatever reason. Because it has a tube fitted you have to take the tyre off the rim to repair it, there is simply no other way. You have to change the flat tyre, or repair it on the spot; whatever you do it requires a bit of work. Vehicles with split rims and tubed tyres have to carry patches & glues for both tyres & tubes, tubeless plugs are no good, they just don’t work through a tube.

     In these modern enlightened times if the damage is large you won’t have a patch for it in your kit and when you finally get back to town you will be told the tyre can’t be repaired, it will be tossed, and you’ll purchase a new tyre, bugger.

Why Split Rims have those annoying Flat Tyres

    The main gripe about split rims from the tubeless fans apart from safety is that they suffer more flat tyres over a long period of time than tubeless tyres. Again no argument, but most of these fellows don’t realise that it was more than likely operator error or poor fitting technique that was the cause.

    Split rims need maintenance & care there are generally three issues;

Problem No. 1 – Tubes

    Yes, more information about this is available on the  Tubes for Tyres  page.

Problem No. 2

Solution (very simple) :

silicone in the lock ring gapsilicone in the valve slot

Silicone filling lock ring gap              Silicone filling valve slot

Problem No. 3

    The removable locking ring is not waterproof so water can get into the rim and tyre and can cause problems from rust over a period of time.

Solution :

    All of the above problems can be traced back to poor fitting or lack of knowledge. Annoying slow leaks & flat tyres 80% of the time with a split rim or tubed tyre will be caused by operator error. Be aware that tube issues also apply to tubeless tyres as sometimes tubes might have to be fitted to tubeless either to inflate them or for safety reasons after temporary repairs.

    None of that is rocket science is it?


Tyre Repair

    This is a huge and complex issue but we feel that tyre repair is the subject just about everyone misuses as an argument when debating rim & tyre gear.

Tyre Repair Rules

    I can safely say from what I have seen and heard the 4WD community has very little or no idea on this subject. Please feel free to contradict me. I don’t mind a bit of an argument!

    There are three sets of rules or guidelines for tyre repair;

Types of Tyre Repair

    Now it doesn’t matter whether the tyre is a tubeless or a tube type the repair process is almost identical for both. Tubeless does have two extra requirements though and I’ll mention them later on.

major repair in tyre

This tyre had a 65mm sidewall stake from the Connie Sue Highway. It was Major Repaired and has been in service on a Nissan Patrol for more than 2 years

    Right now you should be starting to wonder if that tyre they told you couldn’t be repaired actually could have been fixed...... half the time the answer would have been yes, "come in spinner".

Putting a Repair Patch in a Tubeless Tyre

    As I mentioned elsewhere repairing tyres, no matter what the construction, is pretty much the same process. However a tubeless tyre has a couple of issues over and above any tubed tyre simply because of that airtight innerliner. To bond a patch onto any tyre I always have to buff the damaged area to get the surface so the glue will stick properly and also to rid the area of all of the preservatives and gunk that innerliners are coated with. Glue does not like any of that stuff.

What All of These Rules Mean in a Perfect World

    All of your bush repairs are just a stop-gap to get you out of the bush safely and to the nearest tyre repair joint. In a perfect world you get to town and front up at the local tyre shop with your damaged tyre. The bloke rips the tyre off the rim, has a look inside, measures the rough size of the damage then consults the appropriate repair chart to check the damage against the repair limits for that size & type of tyre.

    One of four things would then happen;

  1. Yes the tyre is repairable with a minor repair. He does the job you pay him about $30 and you drive off happily with a permanently repaired tyre and it’s all good.
  2. Yes the tyre is repairable with a major repair and they can do it right away. You collect the repaired tyre the next day, pay him about $70 and drive off happily with a permanently repaired tyre and it’s all good.
  3. Yes the tyre is repairable but it needs a major repair and they don’t have the gear to do it. The bloke glues a large reinforced patch into the tyre and refits it to the rim, he may even decide to fit a tube (if it is a tubeless tyre) to reinforce the patch. He then tells you the tyre is useable but take it easy and be sensible. He will also tell you to find a major repairer when you get home and get the major repair done before using the tyre again for any more travel. Fair enough.
  4. No the damage is outside the allowable limits and cannot be repaired. Sorry but you’ll need to buy a replacement tyre to carry on with, bugger.

    Whacko wouldn’t it be nice to live in a country where that happened. That is how tyre repairs should be handled Australia wide by all tyre repair facilities according to the Australian Standards and the Repair Material Manufacturers Specifications.

    I’m not going to bother with the reasons why it doesn’t happen like that but as you may have found out that sort of treatment for a damaged tyre these days is very rare.

The Real World – what actually happens these days?

    In most cases the rules are not followed so the whole tyre repair issue is nothing more than a "dog’s breakfast". Of course that is how the tyre manufacturers would like it to stay. If people don’t know what can be done with a damaged tyre then they will buy a new one. How many tyres have you given up because it "couldn’t be repaired"? How much has it cost you?

    In the real world you get to town and front up at the local tyre shop with your damaged tyre.

    Again one of four things will happen;

  1. If the place is a bit dodgy a small tread puncture may be inspected and an external plug put in. Now that’s the same as what you would do with your own tubeless plug kit. Don’t laugh, it happens.
  2. A small tread puncture will normally have a mushroom plug fitted, that’s a minor repair and permanent, most places can handle doing that job. In fact it’s about the only repair that gets done these days.
  3. If it is a small sidewall tear or shoulder stake the fitter might buff the tyre and bond on a patch. There will be no mention of a major repair.
  4. Just about every sidewall and shoulder damaged tyre will be condemned pretty much straightaway. The reason given will be that the tyre cannot be repaired. (In fact what they should say is they don’t have the gear or the skill to repair it.) They will offer to sell & fit a new tyre for you, very nice of them.

    It is hard to get good help these days isn’t it........


My Thoughts in Short

    Tubeless fans are basing a great deal of their argument on incorrect and poor temporary tyre repairs. The only way to be sure of tyre damage is to take the tyre off the rim and inspect it. Obviously the strongest repair can only be done with the tyre off the rim. Very few people ever get into a position where they fully appreciate how much their welfare depends on their tyres. When those tubeless tyres look like shag-pile carpet from plugs, you run out of plugs or the damage can't be plugged you will start to think it might have been a good idea to find out a bit more about tyres & repair. If you find yourself in this position then you are at a disadvantage with tubeless gear.

    With split rims it is far easier to get that tyre off and put it back on. Split rims are not for everybody but for the folk that deal with the toughest terrain for long periods of time split rims are simply a godsend. With some knowledge and a bit of practice split rims are a safe and easy alternative.

    Always keep in mind that the 4WD & tyre industries make a great deal of money from people's lack of knowledge. The only way to beat that is learn.

    Ultimately use what you think will do the job best, but please get off the couch and go and learn as much as you can about it, both schools of thought need levels of skill and technique to make the gear work at 100% efficiency and safety. Tyres and rims are one of the most important aspects of your 4WD, it is a pity most folk don't seem to realise this.

    By the way, if you pride yourself on being environmentally aware then why would you throw away a tyre that could be fixed? All you are doing is adding to landfill in most cases and promoting the use of more oil based by-products making you another tyre. More food for thought......


Mick Hutton
Copyright : November 2009




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