An easy way to ruin your wheels

Reader Contribution by Richard Backus
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King of cheap that I am, I routinely find myself installing tires for one reason or another. When it comes to getting that rubber to slip over the rim, I typically use whatever slippery liquid I have at hand, including soap, oil and grease, without much thought to how it might interact with the rim. According to the following tech tip posted on Randakk’s Cycle Shakk at, the type of rim plays a role in what you use to grease that tire into position. – Richard Backus

The following Tech Tip is courtesy of Honda GL parts and restoration specialist Randall Washington at Randakk’s Cycle Shakk, and was supplied to Randakk’s by noted GL1100 guru Howard Halasz. Howard is a frequent contributor of technical columns and other information to GWRRA’s Wing World Magazine ( This Tech Tip applies to any motorcycle with aluminum rims:

If you decide to change your own tires, you can safely use soapy water as a lubricant to dismount the old tire and mount the new tire.

However, if your rim is made of anything other than chrome plated or stainless steel, I do not advise you to use soapy water.

A local Honda dealer here in Houston installed new tires, front and rear, on my customer’s 1999 GL1500SE Last week the customer brought his Gold Wing to my shop to install new fork seals and steering head bearings. He told me that his front tire had a slow leak.

It turned out that the tire itself was not leaking. I checked the tire, valve stem, and valve for leaks using water from my garden hose. I found no leaks. Then I checked for leaks around the rim between the rim and tire bead. By this time, bubbles were flowing like an Alka-Seltzer tablet in a glass of water!

I dismounted the tire from the rim, and found some grayish white powdery corrosion. This corrosion usually forms after a tire is lubricated with soapy water. Apparently, the soap in the soapy water had enough sodium hydroxide (the stuff that makes soap slippery) to corrode the alloy rims that are used on later model Gold Wings. Parts of the rim were also pitted right where the bead contacts the inside of the rim.

If you ever get a chance, look at the ingredients on a can of Drano or Sani-Flush. You’ll find that products such as Drano contain sodium hydroxide, also known as lye. Sprinkle some Drano into an empty aluminum foil pie pan. Then sprinkle some water into the pan and watch the bottom of the aluminum pan literally evaporate, leaving a grayish white powder behind.

A similar, but less severe chemical reaction takes place when soapy water is used as a lubricant for tire mounting and dismounting.

One optional lubricant is Lemon Pledge furniture polish. Now the dismount and remount job is so easy that even a caveman can do it!

But now the problem with Lemon Pledge furniture polish is that the first time our caveman friend slams on the brakes, the rim will stop, but the motorcycle will act like the Energizer Bunny and keep rolling! Now the tire beads are so slippery that there isn’t enough friction between the rim and tire bead to keep the tire from slipping around the rim!

During my 43 years as a motorcycle technician, I’ve tried everything from Vaseline, axle grease, rear end gear oil, motor oil, soapy water, Crisco, Mazola oil, olive oil, 3-in-1 oil, WD-40, Lionel electric train oil, cod liver oil, castor oil, and candle wax to Vicks Vapo-Rub. All of these products had major drawbacks when it came to tire mounting lubricant and sealant!

I finally found a product that will ease the mounting and dismounting of a motorcycle tire. This product also acts as a sealant. The product is known as a protectant. Two brand names of such protectants are STP Son-Of-A Gun and Armor-All Protectant. These products are used exclusively in my shop, and they can be purchased at most auto parts stores and discount store automotive departments.

If you choose to have your local Honda dealer or certified Honda technician change your tires, I highly recommend that you insist telling your service people, ‘PLEASE DO NOT USE SOAPY WATER TO MOUNT MY NEW TIRES. USE A LUBRICANT THAT IS SAFE AND FREE OF ALKALIS, SUCH AS A PROTECTANT.’ “

Howard Halasz, Wing World Technical Contributor – Houston, TX

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