How To Rebuild A Wheel

Motorcycle rim replacement step by step

Last month we showed you how to fix a dented rim, but if your rim is too far gone, here is how you replace it. This is an intermediate mechanical skill level and can be done with common tools. Some upgraded tools that will help are a good-quality spoke torque wrench and a wheel stand. In most cases, if you are just upgrading, replacing with stock style, or maybe going to a different color rim, you can normally get away with reusing the OEM spokes and nipples.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 1Sean Klinger

Step 1

Once you have removed the tire, rim lock, and rim band from the wheel you will want to check the spoke nipple size. Most new MX and off-road motorcycles come with aluminum nipples. You will want to be sure you have a good-quality spoke wrench and the correct size for your nipples. Otherwise you will find yourself stripping them quite easily. Front and rear nipples are usually different. They can also vary in size depending on the model or size of motorcycle you have.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 2Sean Klinger

Step 2

Lay the wheel flat on a large, clean work area. Begin on one side of the wheel, loosening each spoke only one-quarter turn at a time. Work around the rim keeping an even tension on the spokes as you go around to not damage any nipples. Once all the nipples on the side you are working on feel loose (you don’t remove them completely yet), flip the wheel over and repeat with the other spokes.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 3Sean Klinger

Step 3

After all the nipples are loose and free you can use a power driver to completely remove all the nipples. No need to skip, do one side first, or loosen them in any order; just power through them one at a time.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 4Sean Klinger

Step 4

You should be left with something that looks like this. Since this is just an upgrade or change in rim color there is no need to remove the spokes from the hub.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 5Sean Klinger

Step 5

Before assembly, lube the threads on the spokes with a light oil or grease. Just about anything will work fine. Here I am using a light transmission oil, mainly because it is just for assembly and is easy to clean up. You only need a drop; no need to make a mess.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 6Sean Klinger

Step 6

Take a minute to double-check your new rim. Most rims are stamped with info like part number, size, and width. As you can see, this is a 19-inch diameter by 1.85-inch width. Second, make a note of the angle and direction of the nipple holes. This is a very important step, as one mistake at the start will make you begin all over when you thought you were almost finished.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 7Sean Klinger

Step 7

Begin with the top side and thread each nipple onto the spoke a little by hand. Work your way around until one side is complete, and then start on the other side. Keep an eye on the cross pattern and spoke alignment.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 8Sean Klinger

Step 8

Once all the spokes and nipples have been just started by hand you will want to stop and check that everything is lined up correctly. Here you can see that we have one set of spokes not lined up correctly. The upper/outer spoke is threaded under the inner spoke. This is easy to correct by removing one of the spokes and rethreading it back in correctly.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 9Sean Klinger

Step 9

You can begin to thread the nipples on further. Usually you can go up where there are only a few threads exposed on the spoke. Try and keep them all about equal. Do one side and then flip the wheel and do the other side until they are all finger tight.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 10Sean Klinger

Step 10

You are now ready to true the wheel and torque the spokes. First you will want to work on the up and down. Since the nipples are still only finger tight you should be able to pull the high spots into place slowly. As you come to a high spot, tighten each spoke in that area one-quarter turn and spin the rim. Also keep an eye out for low spots. You might need to loosen spokes in the low spots a quarter turn at a time. Overall make sure your wheel is round and evenly spaced from the axle and not something that appears egg shaped when you spin it.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 11Sean Klinger

Step 11

Now that you have the up and down dialed in, you can start to work on the side to side. Your spokes should still be fairly loose so you should be able to manipulate the rim quite easily. A spoke torque wrench is a big help for these steps. As you come to a spot that is too far to the left, let’s say sprocket side, you will want to give the right (disc) side spokes a quarter turn. If you are trying to move the rim one way and the spokes are starting to get tight, begin loosening the opposite side. You are trying to tighten the spoke, yet this is still just truing the wheel. Take your time and don’t overtighten the spokes. Remember the whole wheel is a tug-of-war, so if you want to go a little in one direction, give a little in the other. Patience will go a long way if you are new to this; it’s not impossible. Don’t feel like you have to make the wheel absolutely perfect. This is for a dirt bike, and the first thing you are going to do after you put it on your bike is flat-land a jump or slam into some rocks. There goes your perfect wheel.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 12Sean Klinger

Step 12

You will see a weld on your rim. Don’t worry; it’s not a mistake. All dirt bike rims are welded. At the weld you will always have a small hop or flat spot. It’s normal and there is nothing you can do about it.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 13Sean Klinger

Step 13

Time to torque the spokes. Use a small piece of tape on the rim so you know where your starting point is.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 14Sean Klinger

Step 14

Most full-size dirt bike wheels have 36 spokes. Honda CR/CRF rear wheels only have 32. As you torque the spokes use the same steps as loosening them. Never turn a nipple more than a quarter at a time. Start with the one you have marked with a piece of tape and work your way around the rim tightening each third spoke. Use one hand on the wrench and the other hand to grab the two spokes you are going to skip. Once you make your way around to the tape, skip that spoke and repeat. You will have to do three laps around to hit all the spokes once. If a spoke is already tight, don’t continue giving it a quarter turn. Never overtighten your spokes.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 15Sean Klinger

Step 15

If you don’t have a truing stand, don’t worry. A little duct tape and marker/pencil/straw or just about anything that won’t scratch your rim can double as your indicator.

How To Rebuild A Wheel
Step 16Sean Klinger

Step 16

Now that your wheel is assembled you can begin to mount the tire. You can try using duct tape in place of the rim band. This will make tire changes much easier in the future. Use a good-quality duct tape and make sure you go around the rim two times. Also be sure to keep the tape inside the tire beads, otherwise the tape and glue will get between the tire and rim causing you problems down the trail.