Replacing Valve Stems
As wheels age, the valve stems can begin to falter from elemental breakdown, causing them to crack and dry rot. You may not even notice this, as cracks can be very faint. If your tires seem to lose air more and more frequently, check the valve stems for damage. Cracked valve stems will leak air out of your tires. When ignored or unnoticed, this could lead to a flat tire in a very inconvenient situation like riding on the highway. Keeping an eye on your valve stems will prevent these potentially dangerous situations from occurring.
Replacing your valve stems seems like it will be a major pain and time-consuming task. This is a situation that you can work smarter, not harder. Assuming your tires are tubeless—though if they aren’t, this method won’t work, and the tire will need to be removed—you can focus on breaking the bead instead. Here’s how you can get your valve replaced in little to no time.
C-Clamp: The Timesaving Tool: You could break the bead by working a screwdriver into the tire. However, we absolutely don’t recommend this tactic! People have damaged their tires and marred their wheels by doing this. Denting the rim could even interfere with how the bead reseals, which will create entirely new problems. Avoid this altogether by using a squeezable C-Clamp tool. These are cheap and easy to use. If you don’t have one, you can find them at your favorite hardware store.
Place the clamp onto the tire and begin to squeeze. The pressure from the clamp will break the bead and keep the tire compressed so you can get to the valve stem. You’ll simply work around it for this task. Again, for tubeless tires, there is no need to remove the tire from the rim.
Out with the Old: Now, it’s time to remove the old valve stem. A pair of pliers will help you work it out of the hole. It should come out relatively easily. Once you’ve pried it out, clean up the empty hole. You want the area to be totally clean and clear of corrosion for the new valve. If there is a heavy presence of rust that’s beginning to break down the rim’s metal, you may need to replace the rim as well. Be sure to discard the old valve.
Installation of the New Valve Stem: The type of valve stem you choose is totally up to you. There are camps for both rubber and metal valves, so just go with your preference. If you’ve struggled with rubber valves, give metal ones a shot, and vice versa. The vertical stems can make it tough to check the tire pressure, so replacing it with a 90-degree valve stem may better suit you. You can also find options to match the style of your bike if you wish. Place the new valve into the hole and tighten it into place. It shouldn’t be as tight as humanly possible, but very firmly screwed in.
Finishing Up: Now you only need to reseal the bead. Release the C-Clamp and see how the tire expands. Sometimes, it’ll fall just right. If not, just make sure it reseals entirely. If you’re having trouble getting it to seal, you can remove the valve core. This will allow more air to enter the tire when using your compressor. This should help seal that bead. You’ll then refill it again with the valve core back in place.
To check if your valve stem is working right, you can douse your tire in water and wait 24 hours to re-check the tire pressure for a drop. If the pressure is stable, then your valve is good to go.
What About Tube Tires?
For these, the process is just a bit more involved. The valve stem is actually a part of the tube, poking out through the hole in the rim. Because of this, the entire tire must be removed from the motorcycle and rim to get to the tube. If your valve stem is cracked or dry rotted, you’ll need to replace the entire tube since they’re connected. Replacing a tube is easy, but the process to do it can take a while if you aren’t used to doing it. If you’re becoming an avid rider, you’ll encounter this situation or one similar and be able to make the changes more quickly.
In the future, make it a point to check on all of your valve stems periodically throughout the year. It’s a smart practice to develop into a habit and will help prevent air leaks and flat tires.