Every once in a while, a piece of equipment comes along that just makes sense. It’s inexpensive, versatile, and small. And once you have one, you wonder how you got by without it. Such is the case with the 4-way valve tool.
Chances are you’ve seen one of these before. Might even have one lying around somewhere. Do you know what’s it’s used for?
Offered by several manufacturers, the 4-way valve tool can be had for around $2 or $3. (They run up to about $17, but you don’t need to spend that much.) Small and compact – it fits in the palm of your hand – the 4-way tool has all the features you need for issues related to tire valve stems. This humble device replaces at least four other tools. (Though the individual tools perform better in some instances.)
How is the 4-way valve tool used?
As the name suggests, the 4-way valve tool is four tools in one.
It aids in removing, cleaning and reinstalling a valve stem and Schrader valve. The tool is designed for most passenger and truck tires.
Narrow tube with slot: To tighten, remove or install a Schrader valve.
Wide tube: Thread chaser for threads that the valve cap screws into. Is also used to pull a valve stem through the hole in the rim. (Do not use pliers for this step. You’re likely to damage the threads and/or crunch the brass stem itself.) Screw this onto the cap threads, and give it a good pull.
Threaded stub: A thread chaser for the threads the Schrader valve screws into.
Tapered tool/end: Deburring tool. To remove dirt and dust from the inside of the valve stem.
Common tire valve issues solved with 4-way valve tool
If a tire is slowly losing air, the first thing to check is the Schrader valve. If loose, use the appropriate end to tighten the Schrader valve. Many times, that simple step stops the air leak.
At times you’ll need to replace the Schrader valve. Prior to installing the new Shrader valve, use the tapered deburring tool to remove any debris or dirt from inside the tire valve stem.
If the cap threads appear to be chewed up, use the appropriate cap tread chaser tool to restore the threads.
Finally, as mentioned, the large open-ended tool is used to grip and pull a new valve stem into position. This is handy, because you don’t need to fully remove a tire to replace a valve stem. Break the bead for several inches around the valve stem. That will provide enough room to get a hand in there.
Pack extra valve stems
This is a good time to discuss valve stems. I suggest having several on hand at all times. If you do any amount of work on your tires, you’re bound to snap one on occasion.
Buy a three-pack of the standard valve stems. Each valve stem includes a Schrader valve. You can replace an entire valve stem or just the Schrader valve. If you lose a Schrader valve, you can cannibalize from one of the complete valve stems.
Invariably, you will drop a valve stem into the tire before it gets pulled through. Leave it there and get another one.
Safety Seal tire kit is a good addition to your toolbox
Of all the tire kits available, I’m really keen on those made by Safety Seal. Their tools are good, and their tire plugs are probably the best around. Unfortunately, the kits don’t always have all the tools I think they should.
Plus, most of the kits are made of hard plastic. That type of box takes up extra space in your tool box. Buy the soft-sided case instead, and supplement it with various tools for a complete tire repair kit. Tools to add include:
- 4-way valve tool
- Tire gauge
- Two or three lug nuts for your wheels
- Box cutter. Safer and more useful than the razor blade included.
Rubber valve stems preferred over metal ones
Some guys like flashy parts, including steel or chromed valve stems. While those look nicer, rubber valve stems are more practical for four-wheeling.
Steel valve stems are prone to snapping off when hit. With all the brush, rocks and other debris found on the trails, a metal valve stem is bound to snap off sometime during the trip.
Valve stems with a chrome sleeve cause trouble airing up your tires. The air chuck can’t get past the chromed surface to get a good grip.
Bottom line: Buy rubber valve stems. They’re more practical and a lot cheaper.
In my opinion, the 4-way valve tool is a must-have piece of equipment. While there are better individual tools, you need a handful to perform the same tasks. And all those tools take up valuable space.
How often you use one depends on driving conditions. But the 4-way valve tool is so inexpensive, you can afford to store one in your toolbox. That modest purchase just might make a difference during a trip. Pick one up today.