When you purchase a used truck, it’s often the case that the spare tire tool doesn’t come with the purchase. These tools are quite small, and easily misplaced.
But if you need to get the spare tire down, and don’t have the tool, it’s simple to solve the problem. Get a long half inch extension and use the female end to grasp the removal nut.
The extension serves as a makeshift tire tool. With the extension you’ll be able to start rotating the nut and you’ll see the spare start to lower. We’ll go over the exact step-by-step instructions for removing the spare with your makeshift tool as well as other ways to lower the tire.
When working in the modern day shop environment, it’s common for a customer to come in asking us to lower the spare tire for them. I’ve done it countless times, and have taught each customer how to do it for the future. It’s really simple, but if you don’t know how to do it, it can be a headache.
Spare Tires in trucks are usually suspended by a cable that sort of straps the tire to the underside of the rear.
This design allows for extra trunk space in the vehicle and keeps the spare hidden, which can be an eye sore at times. When everything is working correctly, you should be able to insert the spare tire tool into the service hole, and start applying torque to the bolt.
When you start undoing the bolt, the cable starts to lower, allowing you to access the spare tire. The bolt you're attaching the tool to is usually a half inch nub that the spare tire tool fits over perfectly.
The long handle for the tool is so you have plenty of length to work with, since the bolt is buried so deeply into the vehicle.
Once you're ready to put the spare tire back, you hook the tire up to the cable, use the tool to apply torque again, and then tighten the bolt. You’ll start to see the spare tire raise and bolster itself back into position.
If you’re missing the spare tire tool, you could go to your vehicle's manufacturer and order a new one. This process can take up to a week in some cases, so you’ll need something to do the job in the meantime.
If you don’t already have it, you’ll need to purchase a half inch extension. You can either by one, long half inch extension, or a set that you can piece together.
Purchasing a set is usually the better option since you can use it for other things later. But one long extension will work just as well. If you have a set, piece together all the extension pieces to make the longest extension possible.
Usually sets have around 6 pieces that can be pieced together to make over two feet of extension. Once you have your extension ready, place it in the service hole, female end first. This is important, because the nut fits perfectly into the female end of a half inch extension. You can think of it like using the extension backwards.
Once the extension has bottomed out, slightly start spinning the extension until you feel it grasp onto the lowering nut. Once the extension is attached you won't be able to spin it with your hands, and you’ll know that you have made a locking connection.
The next part requires figuring out how to apply torque to the extension. There are a couple ways to do it.
My favorite way is to use the strongest pair of vice grips I have and latch them onto the end of the extension. Once latched, I’ll start slowly rotating the vise grips, which causes the extension to spin.
At first, it might be difficult to spin the grips without slipping. But with enough attention and patience, you’ll see the extension start to spin. The lower the tire gets, the easier the nut becomes to turn. It’s just the first torque that’s most difficult.
Keep the spinning momentum with the grips steady as much as possible. A steady momentum will minimize slips and make for a quicker turnaround time. Another way to add torque to the long extension is to use a socket that fits over the male end of the extension.
This might take some trial and error on your part depending on whether you have metric or standard sized sockets. Once you have the socket fitted onto the male end of the extension, you can use a ratchet to rotate the socket.
This way is pretty easy, but you do risk the male end of the extension if the socket starts to strip out the tip. But if the socket fits snugly enough, there shouldn’t be any issue with this method. If you find a correctly fitted socket, you could even apply a power tool to the end, making the tire lower in seconds.
The Hard Way
There are some cases that involve you having to dismantle the whole spare tire mechanism in order for it to lower correctly.
Usually, this involves getting under the truck, removing some coverings, and kind of forcing different components to operate manually. This way is very difficult and time consuming. If you find yourself in a situation where this is necessary, it might be better to take it to the mechanic.
It’s easy to break components or even worse injure yourself by having the tire drop on you while you’re under the vehicle. If you break a component, you’re also looking at a hefty bill, since anything cable operated on a car is very expensive to fix.
It’s best to avoid this method at all costs, since there are easier ways to accomplish the feat without having to do repair work just to remove the spare tire.
Spare tires are a lifesaver in some situations, but you may be surprised to find out you can’t locate the spare tire tool! If this happens, don’t worry. Just follow the steps mentioned above and you’ll be back on the road in no time.
About THE AUTHOR
Christopher Sparks has been servicing vehicles since 2012. After completing the automotive studies program at Camden County College, he was awarded an Associates's Degree in Applied Science. His first job was a lube-tech at Jiffy Lube, and is currently an independent B-Technician servicing vehicles for the United States Postal Service. Christopher is ASE certified and loves rebuilding engines.Read more about Christopher Sparks