Editor’s Note: Despite abundant evidence of this crazy trick working, the process involves causing a very dangerous explosion on purpose and therefore we urge you, DO NOT try this at home. If you ignore this advice, the extremely likely injury you’ll incur is on you. You’ve been warned.
Despite the Internet’s vast, collective knowledge, there’s little indication who the first brave soul to actually attempt exploding their tire back onto its rim was. But thanks to YouTube and the fact that this seemingly insane idea actually works, the method of setting a bead using a bit of ether and some fire has spread far and wide. (Pun not intended.)
The first question most ask is why would anyone try something like this when an air tank or tire mounting machine does the job safely? The typical response to this very reasonable line of questioning is “We didn’t have an air tank around.”
Funny thing is, most of the videos you can find of the trick are filmed at home or in a shop, so we’re not buying that excuse. Just look at this genius to the right for an example of how this can quickly go wrong.
That being said, when this process works, it works quickly and looks cool doing it. But why?
The process, which Car & Driver explains in step-by-step detail, involves spraying ether or another flammable substance around the area between the lip of an unmounted tire and the rim. Then, lighting that on fire. When ignited, an explosion is caused, expanding the air around the rim and inside the tire and making the opening wide enough to set around the rim.
In the videos below, where everything luckily goes as planned, you get the distinct impression that there are a heck of a lot of variables in play that could easily result in death or causing the machine or vehicle nearby to go up in flames as well.
Beyond that, the process typically overinflates the tire, which means that even if the first fiery explosion doesn’t kill you, the one resulting from too much tire pressure certainly could. Frankly, we were surprised to find a group of guys trying this risky process on a loader which ups the danger level in a big way. (There is evidence these guys aren’t very professional. Even before the explosion, the guy lighting the ether is hit in the head with a backhoe bucket.)
We also found several mentions in forums around the Web of tires continuing to burn on the inside due to small fires sparked by the explosions.
This just goes to show you that not all scientifically-sound ideas are good ones.