What Can I Use Instead Of A Tire Lever? 7 Alternatives

What Can I Use Instead Of A Tire Lever?

Changing a bike tire or tube is so much easier with a quality tire lever.

But what if you find yourself stuck on the road or trail with a flat tire and no lever handy?

Not to worry, you’ve got options!

With some common household items, you can improvise a tire-changing tool in a pinch.

I’ve levered off many a stubborn tire with screwdrivers, spoons, pliers, and even a trail signpost before.

Desperate times call for desperate levers!

In this article, I’ll share some of my best tips for removing and installing bike tires without a traditional lever.

We’ll go over everything from proper screwdriver technique to the surprisingly effective spoon hack.

I’ve picked up these tricks over years of flats in inconvenient places.

With the right know-how, you can MacGyver just about any object into a makeshift tire tool.

We’ll also cover how to avoid damaging your wheels in the process.

Let’s dive into all the creative ways to change a bike tire without a bike lever!

What Can I Use Instead Of A Bike Lever?

If you find yourself needing to change a bike tire without an actual tire lever, don’t worry – you have options!

Many common household and roadside objects can substitute for a tire lever in a pinch.

Here are some makeshift tools I’ve used over the years to successfully pry bike tires off rims when caught without a proper lever:

  1. Screwdrivers – Both flathead and Phillips work.
    Cover the tip with tape to prevent rim damage.
    Provides rigid prying leverage.
  2. Spoons – Sturdy metal spoons are surpringly effective improvised levers.
    Use larger serving spoons for more leverage. Tape the bowl end.
  3. Pliers – Grippy rubber handles allow you to press down hard when prying the tire bead.
    Cover the teeth to avoid rims scratches.
  4. Rods/Sticks – Any rigid, strong stick or rod can pop the bead. Ideal for trailside fixes.
    Sand edges smooth to prevent tube pinches.
  5. Crowbar – A small pry bar is perfect for big leverage on stubborn tires.
    Protect the curved end to avoid scratches.
  6. Sign posts/fence posts – Sturdy metal trail markers have saved me a few times out on rides.
    Remove from ground first!
  7. Bare hands – In a real pinch, you can press and work the tire bead off with sheer determination. Don’t pinch the tube!

The key is finding an object with a nice rigid edge to hook under the bead for prying.

Pad the end to prevent rim and tube damage.

Get creative, and you can MacGyver an effective tire tool from just about anything!

Can I Use A Screwdriver As A Tire Lever?

As I mentioned above, a flathead or Phillips screwdriver can definitely substitute for a tire lever in many cases.

The solid metal shaft provides good rigidity to pry the bead over the rim.

I find wider and thicker screwdrivers work best to get enough leverage.

Make sure to use tape or an old tube sleeve over the tip to prevent scratching your rim!

Here’s a quick step-by-step on how to use a screwdriver to remove and install a tight tire:

  1. Deflate the tube fully and loosen the axle nuts.
  2. Insert the taped screwdriver tip under the tire bead opposite the valve stem.
  3. Press down on the handle to lift the bead up and over the rim. Move it around the wheel in small increments.
  4. Once one side is unseated, you can usually pull the rest off by hand.
  5. For re-installing, work in the opposite direction pushing the bead back onto the rim with the screwdriver.
  6. Make sure to get equal tension all around before inflating – no pinches!

It takes some finesse, but with practice, a trusty screwdriver can change a tire just as well as a lever.

Get home safe!

How Do You Use Plastic Tire Levers?

Plastic tire levers are affordable, lightweight tools that can make your flats and tire swaps a breeze.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of those plastic pry bars:

  • Insert the curved end under the tire bead opposite the valve stem for optimal leverage.
  • Press down on the handle end to lift the bead over the rim.
    Work your way around in small increments.
  • Use multiple levers if needed for extra pry power on tight tires.
    Space them evenly apart.
  • Make sure the levers are fully hooked under the bead, or they could slip and scratch your rim.
  • Avoid using excessive force and bending the levers – they can snap!
    Work patiently.
  • Rotate the levers as you move around the wheel to maintain good bead contact.
  • Lubricate the bead with soap or water if it’s not popping over easily.
    This helps a ton!
  • When re-installing, push the bead over from the opposite side of the rim the same way.
  • Remove levers carefully one at a time so the bead doesn’t pop loose.

With the right technique, plastic levers let you swap and adjust tires quickly without damaging wheels or breaking the bank.

They’re a cycling staple for a reason – learn to use them well!

How Do You Remove A Bike Tire With A Spoon?

While not always thought of as a tire changing tool, a basic metal spoon can actually work in a pinch!

Here’s how to use one:

  • Make sure it’s a sturdy, inflexible spoon – flimsy ones may bend.
  • Cover the bowl end with duct tape or an old tube to prevent wheel damage.
  • Insert the taped, curved end under the tire bead near the valve stem.
  • Press down on the handle to lift the bead up and over the rim.
  • Once unseated, work the spoon around the wheel in small increments.
  • The spoon’s deeper curve helps maintain bead contact for more even leverage.
  • Larger spoons provide more pry power on tight tires. Table and serving spoons work better than teaspoons.
  • Apply soapy water to the bead periodically for easier sliding.
  • Be slow and careful not to “spoon” your tube – some practice is needed.
  • For re-installing, work opposite the valve stem pushing the bead back on.

While not ideal, a spoon can pop off and on a stubborn tire in a roadside or garage fix.

Just take care not to bend it out of shape or puncture the tube.

With some care, it’ll get you rolling again!

How Do You Change A Bike Tire With A Screwdriver?

As we covered earlier, a basic screwdriver can substitute for a tire lever in a pinch.

Here’s a full step-by-step guide on using one to swap out a bike tire and tube:

Supplies Needed:

  • Flathead or Phillips screwdriver
  • Duct tape or old tube for tip cover
  • Replacement tire and tube
  • Tire lubricant (soap and water works)

Steps:

  1. Deflate the tire fully and loosen the axle nuts.
  2. Wrap the screwdriver tip securely with tape to prevent rim damage.
  3. Insert the taped end under the bead opposite the valve stem.
  4. Bear down on the handle to lift the bead up and over the rim.
  5. Keep working the screwdriver around the wheel in small increments.
  6. Once one side of the bead is unseated, the rest should pop off by hand.
  7. Inspect the tire and rim strips for damage. Replace if needed.
  8. Insert new tube and confirm it’s not pinched before inflating just slightly.
  9. With tire lubricant, push one bead onto the rim with the screwdriver.
  10. Working away from the valve stem, use hands to guide the 2nd bead onto the rim.
  11. Ensure bead is fully seated, then inflate fully. Double check for pinches!
  12. Reinstall axle and nuts, then you’re good to go!

With some care and elbow grease, a trusty screwdriver can tackle a tire change on or off the road.

Ride on!

How Do You Remove A Stubborn Bike Tire?

Some tires just don’t want to come off without a fight!

Here are my best tips for wrestling off those stubborn rubber donuts:

  • Make sure the tube is fully deflated first – soft tires come off easier.
  • Apply tire lubricant like soap and water at the bead for slip.
    Reapply periodically.
  • Try pushing the sidewall from the TOP down into the rim cavity to break the bead’s grip.
  • Insert your lever or tool opposite the valve stem for optimal leverage.
  • Use wide, sturdy levers and press down with plenty of force.
  • Employ multiple levers around the rim if one isn’t enough pry power.
  • Work in small increments around the wheel to gradually roll the bead over.
  • If one section loosens but others stay stuck, rotate your levers frequently.
  • Check for any debris or rust buildup on the rim causing “sticking” points.
  • As a last resort, pressing down HARD on the tread can sometimes pop the bead loose.

Don’t give up!

With some patience, lube, and elbow grease, even the most stubborn tires eventually surrender.

Just take care not to bend your rims or puncture the tube in the wrestling match!

Do Tire Levers Damage Carbon Rims?

This is an excellent question for cyclists running carbon fiber wheels!

The short answer is YES, tire levers can indeed damage composite rims if used improperly.

The key is to be very careful and take preventative steps:

  • Cover lever tips with protective tape, old tube, or a dedicated rim shield.
  • Use plastic levers instead of metal to minimize scratching if slipped.
  • Ensure levers are fully hooked underneath bead before prying.
  • Avoid excessive lever force and bending – carbon can crack!
  • Lubricate the bead and work patiently to reduce need for excessive force.
  • Support the underside of the rim when prying to minimize flexing.
  • Take extra precaution around spoke holes and rim joints which are vulnerable.
  • Inspect rims closely for any cracks or damage after changing tires.

Carbon rims don’t tolerate prying and flexing as well as metal.

But with proper leverage technique and protected levers, you can change tires while keeping your precious composites rolling smooth!

Just take extra precaution.

Final Thought

Well friends, we’ve covered a whole toolbox worth of tire-popping, bead-lifting improvised levers you can try if caught without a real bike lever.

Pretty crafty if I do say so myself!

But let me level with you – having the right tire irons on hand will save you a ton of trouble.

Take it from me and my banged up shins over the years!

Sure, a trusty flathead screwdriver has gotten me out of a trailside jam more than once.

And I’ll never forget finally conquering my neighbor’s stubborn Schwinn with a serving spoon back in college.

But more often than not, those DIY tire changes resulted in scratched rims, bent tools, and the occasional bruised ego.

Do whatever it takes to get rolling again if you’re stuck leverless!

But for routine swaps and pre-ride prep, do yourself a solid and keep some quality plastic or metal levers in your repair kit.

You can snag a quality set for like five bucks – way cheaper than a new rim or wheel rebuild after an improvised mishap.

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Joey B. Ramsey
Passionate cyclist, father, and blogger.
I've been riding bikes since childhood and enjoy sharing my knowledge with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
My diverse bike collection allows me to write reviews and advice based on personal experience with various bikes and accessories.
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