Inflating a tubeless tire with starter fluid may seem like a simple process but if precautions aren’t taken, explosions are absolutely possible as with any process that involves flammable substances and fire.
Recently, the internet has been flooded with lists of what people have taken to calling “life hacks.” Life hacks are essentially simple, quick fix solutions to otherwise potentially difficult or frustrating situations. Some life hacks are genius, and some are . . . less than stellar. And when something gets labeled as a ‘redneck life hack,’ then a little doubt about its success rate is understandable but don’t write this one off just yet.
See, in general having to inflate a tire requires job-specific instruments that you may not keep in your vehicle for on-the-go or emergency situations which is why this life hack in particular may come in handy as it will allow you to seat or ‘inflate’ a tubeless tire with just a can of starter fluid – no real tools or assembly required. How is that possible, you might ask?
Well, with extreme caution and understanding of the science at hand. Many people have decried this method as a bust but I’m here to tell you that it is, in fact, a tried and true process – when done correctly, that is. There are a few things you should know before giving it a go yourself though.
You will commonly find this method stating that you can inflate your tire with starter fluid. In fact, the title of most articles describing this method would seem to suggest as much. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a misnomer so let’s clarify that a little. Despite how it may seem no, you cannot take a can of starter fluid and directly inject it into the air valve on your tire to inflate it. Hopefully no one’s made that mistake. Well, so then what do we mean when we say inflate?
Oftentimes a tire that has lost air can become dislodged from where it’s positioned on the wheel itself. This can happen due to normal wear and air loss, and is also common among the off-roading community whose members may intentionally deflate their tires by specific amounts to provide their vehicles with improved traction. The issue with tires that have deflated outside the normal range of variance (several psi in either direction – often dependent on the weather), as was mentioned before, is the chance that they will lose their ‘seat’ on the wheel. Having a tire that’s become dislodged and lost its seat is very dangerous and cannot be driven on without compromising the integrity of the wheel and the safety of those in the vehicle.
And thus we find ourselves in need of a little redneck life hacking in order to get the job done. With the use of starter fluid and a heat source, one can cause the outside of the tire to rapidly inflate making it fill its normal position on the wheel and effectively setting it back into place. The process of setting a tire onto the wheel as such is known as setting the bead. Once done, the tire can then be inflated with a small, but heavy electric duty bike pump or compressor like normal.
What will you need to make an explosion:
If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot easily get to your house or a garage to fix a deflated wheel then these are the tools you will need to accomplish the task:
Better to have an aerosol fire extinguisher somewhere somewhere nearby in case of danger.
How to perfom the explosion safety
Doing so will result in a sizeable fire and/or explosion, whereas the other chemicals burn off relatively quickly. Additionally, the heat source should have a farther reach than your typical bic lighter to avoid any backfire or potential finger mangling in the process.
- Once you’ve assembled your materials, make sure you have enough room to perform the procedure.
- Remove the wheel from the vehicle and clear away any debris or other potentially flammable objects from around the tire.
- Take your starter fluid and lightly coat the inside of the tire closest to where it touches the wheel.
- Don’t soak the wheel or you may get a bit more bang than desired. Once the inside has been lightly coated, carefully administer your heat source keeping in mind to maintain a safe distance, at least as much as is possible.
The flame should ignite the fumes of the starter fluid causing the rubber molecules and subsequently the air molecules within the tire, to very quickly expand due to the extreme temperature change caused by the heat.
This expansion will allow the tire to fill in the wheel and once set, the tire should immediately be inflated with a pump or compressor to stop the occurrence of the tire losing its bead again. After being inflated with starter fluid and then filled with air, your tire should be ready to mount on the car again.
As a conclusion:
That being said, Inflating a tubeless tire with starter fluid is an incredibly handy piece of advice for anyone who may have had issues with deflated tires in the past as all the supplies needed are readily available and affordable. You can easily save yourself a trip to the mechanics using this method but remember that the tire will still need to be filled with air from a pump or compressor after it has been inflated using the starter fluid. Keeping a portable air compressor in one’s vehicle is a good, pre-emptive move should a situation like this occur.