How To Change The Inner Rear Tire on a Dually Truck

One of the first questions we had when we began considering buying a new pickup truck to tow our fifth wheel trailer was: How do you change the inside rear tire on a dually truck? Well, a few days ago we found out!

How to change an inside rear tire on a dually truck

We got a flat on our dually’s inside rear tire (passenger side) while towing our trailer — Oof!!

Our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually has been a fabulous truck for us since we bought it six months ago, and we’ve now got 9,100 miles on it now, 4,633 miles towing and 4,467 miles driving around without our fifth wheel trailer attached.

A few days ago, we stopped at the Libby Dam on the Kootenay River in Montana to get a photo. As I walked around the back of the truck, I heard a weird hissing noise. I stuck my head into the wheel well, and my heart sank when I saw a huge bolt head on the rear inside tire. I put my finger on it, and the hissing stopped. I lifted my finger and the hissing started again. Oh, no!

I almost didn’t have the heart to tell Mark, but after we’d gotten our photos of the dam, I told him the bad news.

We were in a pretty remote spot, completely out of cell phone and internet range. We hit the nifty “Assist” button on the rear view mirror of the truck to give Dodge a call and ask some questions about changing rear tires, but the call wasn’t able to go through.

Assist button rear view mirror Dodge Ram 3500 truck

Ram trucks have a cool “Assist” button that connects you straight to Dodge…if you’re not in the boonies!

The closest town was Libby, Montana. It boasts a population of 2,700 people, but it was 17 miles down the road.

So much for getting any kind of roadside assistance!

The timing for this little inconvenience wasn’t great. We’d been on the road, towing, for 100 miles, and Mark had just been telling me he was ready to call it quits and take a nap. Oh well. No napping just yet!

Luckily, unlike the last time we’d been stranded on the side of the road — when one of our trailer tires blew out four months ago, shortly after our trailer suspension repair — rather than being on the traffic side of an interstate with cars whizzing by at 75 mph, we were working curbside in a nice big pullout next to an extremely quiet country road where a car would leisurely pass by us every five minutes or so.

We unhitched the truck from the trailer to make it a little easier to get at the rear wheels. Mark got our bottle jack out from its storage spot under the driver’s side rear seat of the truck, and he began setting it up. I grabbed a stool from our fifth wheel basement and laid out some mats on the ground to create a work space for him.

From a lifetime of mechanical work, he learned long ago to protect his hands, so he pulled on a pair of leather work gloves that he keeps in the truck.

The first step for changing the tire was to remove the hubcap.

Remove hub cap on Ram 3500 truck rear wheel

Start by removing the hubcap to reveal the lug nuts.

Then, using a breaker bar, he loosened all of the lug nuts. Doing this with the wheel still on the ground is easier than after it’s lifted, because the wheel can’t spin.

Breaker bar to remove rear wheel on dually truck

Use a breaker bar to loosen the lug nuts while the wheels are still on the ground.

We used to carry a 4-way lug wrench for swapping out flat tires, but one time one of the arms twisted like a strand of licorice as Mark tried to unscrew a stubborn lug nut that wouldn’t budge. It was probably a cheap 4-way lug wrench. Most likely, a better quality 4-way lug wrench wouldn’t have done that, but Mark swore off of those things right then and there, and we’ve been carrying a breaker bar ever since.

The lug nuts on our 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 required a 15/16″ socket. The ones on our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 require a 7/8″ socket.

Our bottle jack is rated for 12 tons, enough to hold up the axles of either our trailer or truck easily. More important, it’s also tall enough for the axles on our trailer which we raised a few inches higher from the factory standard during our trailer suspension overhaul to help keep our rear end from dragging on steep ramps at gas stations and on uneven dirt roads.

He unscrewed the top of the bottle jack to raise it up.

Bottle jack for fixing a flat tire

Unscrew the top of the bottle jack by hand to raise it.

He placed it under a flat metal piece that was welded onto the axle.

Bottle jack under the rear axle of a dually truck

Place the bottle jack under a solid flat spot on the axle.

The bottle jack comes with a two-part handle. After removing the two plastic end caps, one tube can be fitted into the other to make a long handle and give you some leverage while pumping up the jack.

Bottle jack handle for fixing a flat tire

Remove the plastic endcaps and fit the tubes together to form a long handle.

He pumped the handle up and down to raise the top of the bottle jack and lift the axle slightly so the wheels no longer touched the ground.

Raise the jack under Ram 3500 dually truck rear axle-2

Raise the rear axle of the truck by pumping the bottle jack handle.

With the lug nuts slightly loosened, he now used a Rigid cordless impact driver to remove them completely.

Impact driver to remove lug nuts fix rear flat tire Ram 3500 dually truck

A Rigid 18 volt cordless impact driver makes it a breeze to remove the lug nuts.

We got the impact driver, a cordless drill and a portable radio as part of a terrific kit that included two lithium-ion battery packs. We use the drill every time we raise and lower our fifth wheel’s stabilizer jacks, and we listen to the portable radio all the time!

He collected the lug nuts in the hub cap.

Fixing rear flat on Ram 3500 dually pickup

Collect the lug nuts in the hubcap so they don’t roll away.

Then he pulled off the outer wheel.

How to change a flat tire on a dually pickup truck

Pull the wheel off.

How to change a flat tire on a dually pickup truck

The outer wheel is off, now for the inner wheel…

The wheel studs on a dually are extra long to hold both wheels onto the truck. So, once the outer wheel was removed, he could pull off the inner wheel.

Remove the inner rear tire of a dually truck

Slide the inner wheel off.

And there was the culprit — a big fat self-tapping bolt!

Flat tire on a dually pickup

And there it is — a nasty self-tapping bolt. Arghh!!

Our 2016 Ram 3500 came with a toolkit for raising and lowering the spare tire. It is located behind a plastic trim piece under the passenger’s seat.

Spare tire toolkit in Ram 3500 truck stored under passenger seat

The toolkit for lowering the spare tire is under the passenger’s seat.

He pulled off the plastic trim piece to get the toolkit out.

Spare tire toolkit Ram 3500 pickup truck

Here is the toolkit for lowering and raising the spare tire from its spot under the truck chassis.

Then he pulled the toolkit out from under the passenger’s seat. It is held in place with two knobs, one of which is tightened with a wingnut. When he put the toolkit back in place later, he had to align it before sliding it in, and then tighten the wingnut.

Mounting brackets spare tire toolkit Ram 3500 truck

The toolkit is held in place by these knobs (the left one is a wing nut).

The toolkit has several handle extensions and other goodies in it.

Spare tire toolkit Ram 3500 truck

The toolkit has all kinds of goodies in it, including a lug wrench that Mark opted not to use since it is probably even more flimsy than a 4-way.

One of the goodies is an L-shaped handle, and there are several extensions that interconnect to lengthen the handle as well.

Spare tire toolkip Ram 3500 pickup truck

Two of these tubes fit together to form a long handle that attach to the L-shaped handle.

He assembled two handle extensions to make a long rod and attached the L-shaped handle to the end. Then he inserted this handle into a hole above the license plate bracket. There is a square fitting inside the hole. The end of the handle slipped over the square fitting.

Lowering the spare tire on a Ram 3500 dually truck

The L-shaped handle and extension tubes fit onto the square fitting in the hole next to the license plate bracket.

Then, he rotated the handle slowly.

Lowering the spare tire on a Ram 3500 dually truck

Twist the handle to lower (or raise) the spare tire.

This gradually lowered the spare tire from its storage spot under the chassis of the truck onto the ground

Lowering the spare tire on a Ram 3500 pickup truck

The spare tire is held to the truck chassis by a brace that compresses a spring.

The spare tire is held tight to the underside of the truck with a spring fitting that can be snugged nice and tight.

Spare tire mounting system Ram 3500 pickup truck

Bracket and spring under the spare tire.

Then he mounted the spare tire on the truck to replace the flat tire.

Mounting the spare tire on rear of Ram 3500 dually truck

The spare tire is mounted on the truck.

Next, he slid the outer wheel in place. Using his cordless impact driver, he replaced the lug nuts, tightening them in increments. Starting at the valve stem, he tightened the closest lug nut a bit and then tightened the one that was opposite, then tightened the next one, and then the one opposite that one, etc., working his way around the rim and tightening the wheel equally all the way around. Then he gave each lug nut a final tightening using the breaker bar.

Then he put the hubcap back on. It didn’t pop on really easily using his palm, so he used the top of a rubber mallet to tap it in place.

Replace hub cap on dually truck rear wheel

The hubcap didn’t snap in place using palms only, but the butt end of a soft rubber mallet did the trick.

Interestingly, we could now see exactly how much rubber we had worn off our rear tires in 9,100 miles, because the wheels didn’t hang down evenly.

Spare tire and used tire height difference on Ram 3500 dually truck

The brand new spare and 9,000 mile used tire are different heights.

Using a pocket knife, he got a rough estimate of just how much rubber had been worn off — maybe 1/8″ or so.

Rear tIre wear dually truck 9000 miles

About 1/8″ of rubber has come off of the tire in 9,000 miles of driving.

He raised the flat tire up into the storage spot under the truck chassis where the spare tire had been, and lowered the bottle jack under the axle so the truck was sitting on all four rear wheels again. We hitched the trailer back up and started to drive.

This little hiccup in our RVing lifestyle had taken about 30 minutes.

Our fancy new truck has a cool display (the DID, or Driver Information Display) that shows the air pressure in each of the six tires on the truck (this is the TPMS, or Tire Pressure Monitor System). We were both really alarmed when the spare tire reported that it had 17 lbs. of pressure while the other three rear tires all had 63 to 65 lbs. What the heck??

Tire pressure dashboard readout Ram 3500 truck

The tire pressure for the spare is 17 lbs. Yikes!! (huh????)

The dealership where we bought the truck had told us they’d aired up the spare when we bought the truck new six months earlier. Even though Mark usually uses a tire gauge to measure the air in the spare, he hadn’t this time because it was a brand new tire that seemed perfectly good, had the right sound when he thumped it, and bounced nicely on the ground.

But we grew ever more alarmed as the dashboard display showed 15 lbs., then 13 lbs., and then went to dashes. The road was super quiet, so while driving the 17 miles to get to the Les Schwab tire place in Libby, we pulled over several times to check that the tire wasn’t heating up… It wasn’t.

Tire pressure dashboard readout Ram 3500 truck

Now the tire pressure is dashes. What does THAT mean??

We made it to Les Schwab, and they put a terrific new kind of patch on the tire that mounts from the inside. It has a big round rubber flange that mounts inside the tire with a plug that fills the hole.

The spare turned out to have 65 lbs. of air pressure, just the way it should have. So, we all scratched our heads for a while about the weird air pressure numbers we’d seen on the dashboard.

Then our service guy suddenly brightened up. “I know what it was!” he said. “The spare tire doesn’t have a sensor in it to report its tire pressure to the truck, but the original tire did!”

So, as the original tire was being carried under the chassis of the truck, where the spare usually sits, it was transmitting its decreasing tire pressure to the console on the dashboard, and the dashboard was dutifully displaying the numbers as coming from the right inside rear tire even though the tire was no longer in that position. Eventually the tire pressure got so low it was below the minimum, so the display showed dashes.

It turns out that that option for the spare tire to have a sensor on the valve stem is only available on Premium models of Ram trucks. We never saw that option in any dealer option lists.

I just showed this post to Mark to see what he thought, and he looked at me in astonishment and said, “When did you take all these photos? This is great!”

“When you were changing the tire!” I explained. “I’m sneaky!” (And I’d MUCH rather write about changing a tire than do it myself!)

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14 thoughts on “How To Change The Inner Rear Tire on a Dually Truck

  1. Howdy you two
    What a great blog!
    I should introduce myself, my name is Ian, and my wife and I have been full time in our RV in New Zealand for 3 or 4 years, (threw the watch away so don’t keep track of time very well any more…..it great!).
    We lived in an RV in north America for about a year some years back and have never been cured?.
    I am trying to work out the logistics of taking another trip over your way, buying another RV and goofing around again, hence I stumbled on your blog, which has been a excellent source of information.
    Anyway enough of the blah, I thought you may be interested in a safety tip some bright spark passed on to me regarding changing tires.
    His suggestion was to first take out the spare tire and place it under the chassis. That way, if the vehicle slips off the jack while the punctured tire is removed, the vehicle will not fall right to the ground, possibly causing injury, and or making it impossible to fit the jack under the axle again. Once the punctured tire is removed it can also be placed under the chassis before the good tire is removed and fitted. Thus the vehicle has no chance of dropping too far and squashing any pinkies you may be planning to use later.
    Anyway thank you for the many hours you have put into keeping us all informed???
    Take it easy
    Ian and Maron

    • How fantastic to hear from a full-timer in New Zealand!! Thank you so much for dropping us a line, Ian & Maron, and letting us know that RVers in the Southern Hemisphere have bumped into our blog. I hope your research answers all your questions and you are able to come back to North America for another RVing adventure soon. We dream of spending some time exploring your beautiful country by RV someday too.

      Thank you, too, for your excellent tire changing safety tip of placing the spare under the axle before raising it up. Mark usually does exactly that. He learned it from his dad when he got his first car! In this particular case, the flat metal plate welded onto the Ram dually’s rear axle makes a very secure spot for the jack, and there’s minimal risk it could slip off. Under the trailer, however, and on our old truck, that was definitely the way to go and was his first step.

      Thank you for pointing this out for our readers who haven’t heard of that trick before, and please say hello to any kakapo parrots that you see running around on the ground in your travels!!

  2. you can carry a plug kit [i like the 4″ long goooey ropeish kind at the auto supply store] and fix tire problems like you had in minutes without taking the tire off or changing it.
    get to a safe place or wayyy off the hiway….after spotting the nail/screw with flashlight, pull it out with pliers…… instead of struggling with the ‘reamer’ in the plug kit, ream out hole with a 3/16″ drill bit [have it already in the kit so you don’t have to hunt one] in a drill, leave drill n bit in hole in tire! …….get plug in installation tool with glue on it…..pull out drill n bit…….push in tire plug all the way, pull back out a half inch…..remove installation driver….cut off part sticking out with razor knife flush with tire tread………drive away [u do not need to wait].
    been doing this with tire on vehicle for 40 years…….plugged probly 30 times…….never had a failure!…..this is, afterall, how they will fix your tire anyway…..when i was very young, i
    You should see the looks i get ‘drilling a tire’ !!!
    its alittle more difficult on a dually inner, as i have done that…..a little more laying on the ground…….on as front tire, you can turn the steering wheel and get the spot in the perfect place to just bend over.
    But i can understand how most people will call a tire service.

  3. Good article! Make sure the emergency brake is set and a front wheel is blocked as the truck can roll back when the wheel is lifted if the truck is only in park without the emergency brake set. We carry a tire plug kit and tire compressor along. We’ve only had to use it once, but it’s real quick although some tire mechanics don’t like plugs as a permanent solution.

    • Definitely have the emergency brake on!! Good call!! We did that and also braced all four sets of wheels on both the truck and on the trailer too with big wooden blocks we carry in the bed of the truck (I didn’t happen to get pics of those!).

      Plug kits are terrific too, and we carry and use them. In this case, since we were towing and the bolt head was very large and a tire shop was nearby, Mark decided not to use a plug kit.

      Consumer plug kits plug the hole from the outside. What was great about the patch kit that Les Schwab used is that it was installed from inside the tire (once it was off the rim), and it was very heavy duty with a huge wide flange as well as a plug that went in the hole. In the end, this was a much better and more permanent solution than a consumer plug kit would have been…

  4. Sounds like two are still gaining experience, and the best, is sharing your experience with us looligaggers, and watchers, to help us with such an experience. Once again, your tips have added to our on-the-road arsenal, including using the impact drill/wrench on the wheels.

    As always, we enjoy your great pictures and your wonderful stories, so keep em comin, M & M. Smart to have a picture taker of the doer, too. Very wily!

    Safe travels. Take care from Bette & Glen Horsmann, in “HOT” Sun City, Aryzona

    • One of the best things in this lifestyle is that there is always something new to learn and discover, and for us, the neat part is that we have people like you who enjoy learning and discovering along with us. Thanks for reading, Glen & Bette, and stay cool!

  5. Thanks for the informative article! I had no idea how to change the inner tire, and figured I’d just call road service (which wasn’t an option for you this time). When you wrote about getting out the stool, I thought it would be for you to sit on while you wrote about the experience. But I did see that Mark posed for several shots sitting on the stool. 🙂

    • Very funny, Don! I was actually the one squatting ’cause I wanted to take the pics without getting in Mark’s way. I’d love to have asked him to slow down and pose, or at least hold still, a few times, but he’s was working fast and I had to be pretty quick myself to catch him in the act before he flew on to the next thing!!

  6. Super helpful. Had no idea what it would take to change a dually. I will certainly have the correct equipment now before I head out again. Thanks to you both.

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