How to change a flat tyre
Tips for changing a flat tyre easily
Important things to remember:
- Road safety experts warn that it’s not safe to change a punctured wheel when the stricken vehicle is stopped on a hard shoulder of a highway or simply at the side of a road. They advise motorists to pull off as far away as possible from passing traffic, making sure that the ground on which the car is parked is firm and even.
- If you have no option but to work within the confines of a public road, then your vehicle’s hazard lights must be turned on and a warning triangle placed 45 metres behind the car to signal the breakdown.
- Before you begin work, make sure you’ve read your vehicle’s handbook – you’ll need to know where the car’s jacking points are located. Positioning the jack in the wrong place can damage the vehicle’s undercarriage or result in the jack falling over or collapsing.
- It’s advisable to carry in the boot of your car a pair of gloves which you can wear to protect your hands, along with a ground sheet or old towel on which to kneel. A wheel chock to stop the vehicle from rolling when it’s on the jack is important, too, as is an extension bar for the wheel wrench if nuts prove stubborn to remove.
- If lock nuts are fitted, make sure the correct adaptor is in your tool kit. You’ll also need a pair of cutters to remove cable ties that may have been used to hold wheel trim in place. If the puncture occurs at night, a torch or plug-in emergency light will help you to illuminate the work area.
Making the change
- First thing to do is to remove the spare wheel from the boot well or carrier. Lay it flat on the ground at a spot that is conveniently close for the fitting process, but which will be out of your way when you remove the punctured wheel from the hub.
- Before you jack up your vehicle, make sure the parking brake is on and that first gear – or P in an automatic – has been engaged.
- Position the chock under the wheel which is diagonally opposite the one you are replacing. Remove any trim from the damaged tyre’s rim – to do this, you may have to cut cable ties and lever off the cover or hubcap.
- Place the jack at the lifting point closest to the wheel you’re changing. Make sure that the base is on a firm, flat, supportive surface and that the head engages properly at the lifting point, as outlined in the vehicle’s handbook.
- Slowly jack up the car until it just starts to lift on its springs. Don’t extend the jack any further yet – first you have to loosen the wheel nuts. Check to see if protective plastic covers are fitted to the nuts and, if so, remove them.
- Engage the wheel wrench – and lock nut adaptor, if necessary – and apply pressure downwards, keeping your body weight evenly distributed on both feet. Most wheel nuts undo by turning them in an anticlockwise direction. Making use of the wrench’s extension bar will give you extra leverage.
- Apply effort downwards in a controlled way, so that when the nut finally gives you don’t lose your balance. Repeat the process until all the nuts are loose, but do not remove them from their stubs – they need to keep the wheel in place until you are ready to take it off the hub.
- Raise the jack until the wheel clears the ground. Remove the loose wheel nuts, leaving the top nut until last while keeping the wheel in position with your knee or foot. You’ll need both hands to lift the wheel away from the hub – it might be heavier than expected, so be prepared to use some muscle.
Fitting the spare
- To fit the spare tyre you basically follow the removal sequence in reverse. First, line up the bolt holes on the spare wheel with the stubs on the hub, then lift it into position. Secure the wheel by refitting the top nut first, tightening it by hand. Moving in a diagonal sequence, fit and hand tighten the remaining nuts until all are firmly in place.
- Slowly lower the jack until the wheel just touches the ground and won’t turn. Then, using the wheel wrench, fully tighten the nuts following the diagonal sequence you used previously. When you are sure that the wheel is properly secured, lower the jack completely and remove it from under the car.
- Put the punctured tyre in the boot well or wheel carrier, retrieve the wheel chock and warning triangle and repack and store the tool kit. Replace the wheel trim, if required, or stow it in the boot.
- If the spare wheel is a temporary use space saver, make sure you check your vehicle’s handbook to see what restrictions apply to its use – usually, you can travel at only up to 80km/h on a temporary spare.
You might see some of your dashboard lights come on as systems like ABS, traction control and some automatic gearboxes don’t like tyres that don’t match. As soon as you can get to a tyre dealer or a garage, make sure you:
- Have the pressure in the replacement tyre checked
- Get the wheel nuts properly torqued
- Replace or repair the punctured tyre