A tire iron is a specialized metal tool used in working with tires. Tire irons have not been in common use for automobile tires since the shift to the use of tubeless tires in the late s. The term is occasionally mistakenly used to refer to a lug wrench, which is included along with a spare tire and jack on most new cars. Bicycle tire irons are still in use for those tires which have a separate inner tube, and can have a hooked C-shape cut into one end of the iron so that it may be hooked on a bicycle spoke to hold it in place.
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A tire iron also tire lever or tire spoon is a specialized metal tool used in working with tires. Tire irons have not been in common use for automobile tires since the shift to the use of tubeless tires in the late s. Bicycle tire irons are still in use for those tires which have a separate inner tube, and can have a hooked C-shape cut into one end of the iron so that it may be hooked on a bicycle spoke to hold it in place. Tire irons, which usually come in pairs or threes, are used to pry the edge of a tire away from the rim of the wheel it has been mounted on. After one iron has pried a portion of the tire from its wheel, it is held in position while a second iron is applied further along the tire to pry more of the tire away from the wheel. This allows enough of the tire to be separated so that the first iron can be removed, and used again on the far side of the other iron. Alternating in this way, a person can work all the way around the tire to fully remove it from the wheel, in order to reach the tube that sits inside. In the first half of the 20th Century, they became a colloquial term of strength, as in "I couldn't get rid of him with a pair of tire irons," and frequently appeared in cartoons in similar situations. The usage is obviously now considered passe.
Tire irons are the last thing you want to have to use when operating your vehicle. But when you need them they better work, and work well, and you better be able to find them. Your vehicle has lug nuts of a certain size. Make sure your tire iron fits them. Your owner's manual should tell you the size you need. Tire irons or lug wrenches come in a number of styles, from the traditional L-shaped or four-way lug wrench to versions that telescope or can be disassembled into a small tube. The most common are the cross-shaped universal lug wrench that features four different socket sizes, one on each end or sometimes three with a wedge used to pop off wheel covers and hubcaps. L-shaped irons have a socket on one end and wedge on the other, but are not as popular due to lack of versatility. One problem with standard 4-way lug wrenches is that they're awkward to stow; which then can lead to misplacing them not fun when you need them most!