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Old 03-30-2020, 07:13 PM   #1
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Scenic Tire Change

My van and I were down in Baja California again last month. Last year my Baja trip ended a bit early when a managed to rip the sidewall of one of my tires, and then couldn't locate a suitably sized spare for sale in Baja. Well, this year I wasn't such a tire wimp!

Actually, I didn't have much of a choice this time. I gashed two of my tires...

I was heading out to a beach called Ensenada el Mangle [GPS:26.2775,-111.3951]. The scenic access road winds around as it hugs the edge of the rocky shore.



I was happily bouncing along when Ė a huge boulder jumped out of the bushes and impaled its rocky tooth into *both* of my left-side tires! (Yeah... Turns out I'm not always so good at being "careful" when I'm driving.)




What to do now? I knew I wasn't going to roll out of there on three tires. I've repaired many tire tread punctures with those sticky rope worm things, but I've always assumed a sidewall rip meant the tire was a goner.

But wait -- I've watched YouTube videos on field-repair! I've seen how people sew up their tire sidewall holes!

Me, I've never even removed a tire from its rim. (Bicycles don't count.) But why not try? I *did* have all day...

OK. First, I had to get the tire off the rim. I wasn't having much luck with big screwdrivers. Then I remembered my Ford's big lug wrench handle has a pointy end. Aha! That must be what it's for! With ample hammering, I managed to use my lug wrench handle to get the tire off the rim.




Then I built a workstation out of rocks to raise one sidewall of the tire above the rim, so I could get access to the inside.




I used an awl, some wire, and a hand mirror to stitch the gashes closed.




With an angle grinder, some tire cement, and a piece of bicycle inner tube, I patched the inside of the tire. (Next time bring real patches!)




Wrestling the tire back onto the rim was just as much fun as the removal!




When it came time to set the bead again, I remembered a YouTube video where a spray can of flammable gas and a match can be used to explosively pressurize the tire. I did have some camping butane stove fuel... Sounds fun!

Actually, no, I decided not to have *that* much fun when I was out there alone in the middle of nowhere. I used a couple of ratchet straps tightened around the tread, and that worked great. With my onboard air compressor, I easily set the bead Ė without even needing to remove the valve core.

For good measure, I also added a bag of TireJect tire sealing liquid.




The whole process took me over five hours, but in the end - yes, I rolled on out of there!

Here's a 1-minute time-lapse video of my repair from my dash cam. My dash cam only captures motion Ė so it doesn't properly represent all the time I'm standing around pondering what to do next.

I drove the rest of the way to the beach at Ensenada El Mangle to sleep for the night. . .
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Old 03-30-2020, 07:14 PM   #2
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The next morning I decided to repair my second damaged tire as well – to double my chances of getting back to civilization. The beach was far more comfortable a workshop than the trail had been yesterday. And a group of fishermen showed up, providing some friendly advice and company.

First I had to break the bead. The tire I repaired yesterday had broken its bead during the accident, but the other one was still attached. I ended up making a ramp to drive up onto the tire, and used the weight of the van on a piece of wood to break the bead.




Tire repair #2. Another masterpiece!




Well, it worked! I made it out of there. A few miles outside of Mulege, I started losing air – so I switched to my other repaired tire, and that got me to the tire shop. Wire, it turns out, isn't the best stitching material. I should have used Kevlar thread. Wire flexes with every tire rotation, and then the metal fatigues. My stitches all eventually snapped.

The tire guy at Llantera Mulege shook his head at my work, but was able to provide me a "real" sidewall repair for $200 pesos that got me all the way back to the US, where I could buy two fresh tires.



-- Geoff
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Old 03-30-2020, 07:18 PM   #3
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Awesome report and awesome ingenuity Geoff.




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Old 03-30-2020, 07:37 PM   #4
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Damn, that's impressive. Nice work.
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Old 03-30-2020, 08:21 PM   #5
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Did you get a shot of the "real" sidewall repair? I love your drive and ingenuity. These sorts of events have only happened to me on long off road motorcycle trips. It's amazing how the inner MacGyver runs deep in us! The rest of society could really benefit from an incident like this and the learning that takes place. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 03-30-2020, 08:22 PM   #6
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Awesome job!
It pays to be prepared with tools and random other things to make due with!
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Old 03-30-2020, 08:25 PM   #7
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Impressive and inspiring!! One of my worst fears. Especially now. They are closing our forests so we are forced to wander in the deserts right now and thatís where we see rocks that evil lurking.

I have a stack of tire patches Iíve been meaning to put in the tire repair kit. This is a great reason to take care of it right now, ty!

Real quick, the pic of you breaking the bead on the second flat... it looks like your wheel isnít centered in n the wheel well. Might just be the pic, but wanted to point it out.
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Old 03-30-2020, 08:27 PM   #8
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200 pesos is 8.37 US! What a deal!!
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Old 03-30-2020, 08:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vandiesel View Post
Did you get a shot of the "real" sidewall repair? I love your drive and ingenuity. These sorts of events have only happened to me on long off road motorcycle trips. It's amazing how the inner MacGyver runs deep in us! The rest of society could really benefit from an incident like this and the learning that takes place. Thanks for sharing!

No, unfortunately I didn't get a chance to see the tire shop's handiwork from the inside. They took my tire overnight, and it was done in the morning. The outside, surprisingly, still looked the same. But their repair got me 500 miles back to the USA. There are YouTube videos out there showing tire shops doing this (outside the USA, of course).


Yeah, before all this I wouldn't think this was in me. But necessity (or, rather, pride - not having to hike out and ask someone for help) was a good incentive. And plenty of time - I was never in any danger with my comfy (if immobile) van. Now I feel much more confident knowing I have more tire repair options.


-- Geoff
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Old 03-30-2020, 08:33 PM   #10
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200 pesos is 8.37 US! What a deal!!

I know, really! I was a bit embarrassed paying so little.

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