How to change a tyre
Friday, 12 May 2023
If there’s one essential skill you should learn in terms of motor DIY, it’s changing a tyre. The last thing anyone wants is to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere and wait for hours in the cold for a rescue team to appear! Learning to change a tyre yourself is an important step in being a responsible motorist and this guide will teach you how, plus go over some important safety points.
Where is it safe to change a tyre?
Before even attempting to change a tyre ask yourself the following questions:
- Have I stopped the car in the best place?
- Is it out of the way of other vehicles?
- Am I visible to other drivers?
- Can I safely change the tyre here?
If you can answer yes to all these questions, it is safe. If not, either move the car somewhere safer or call out an emergency repair company.
What tools do you need to change a tyre?
- A spare tyre (obviously)
- A jack for lifting the car off the ground
- A wrench for removing the wheel nuts
- A wheel chock to stop the car from rolling when jacked up (bricks or large rocks can be used instead)
- A wheel nut key (if locking nuts are fitted)
- Your car’s handbook for reference on jacking points
- Some tarp or mat to kneel on (not essential, but more comfortable than kneeling on the concrete or in the mud!)
Other things that might come in handy, but aren’t essential:
- A torch for working at night (check batteries regularly)
- Gloves as the wheels will be dirty
- A reflective jacket to make you visible
- A warning triangle to alert other drivers to a hazard/obstruction
- A tyre pressure gauge for checking the new tyre is fully inflated
A step-by-step to changing a flat tyre
Park the car on hard, level ground. Don’t try to change the wheel on an incline, gravel, or soft ground or it can be seriously tough. All passengers need to be safely out of the car.
Turn on your hazard lights. Safety is first here. Get out your jack, wrench and spare tyre from the boot and bring them over to the flat tyre, along with anything else you might need.
Position a chock on the opposite wheel to the one with a puncture, or use large stones or bricks for this if you don’t have a chock with you.
Use your wrench to loosen, not remove, the lug nuts (you may need to remove the hubcap to do this). It’s easier and safer to do this while the car is on the ground. The nuts on most cars will loosen when you them turn anti-clockwise or you can use the righty tighty, lefty loosey expression to help you. Don’t remove the lug nuts for now, they just need to be loose.
TIP: If the lug nuts are really tight, try placing your wrench on the nut and then stand on the wrench arm with your full weight. Hitting the wrench arm with a rock can also be effective (if a bit crude).
All cars have dedicated jacking points, so check your handbook to see where these are so you can securely fit the jack under your vehicle. Use the jack to lift your vehicle around 10-15 cm/ 6 inches off the ground or high enough to fit the new, inflated tyre. The jack must stay straight and parallel as you lift, so keep checking.
Now you can remove the lug nuts and pull the tyre off the car. Make sure to keep the lug nuts in a safe pile so they don’t get scattered everywhere. Pull the tyre straight towards yourself so it’s properly removed from the wheelbase.
Place the spare wheel on the car, lining up the lug nut posts with the holes in the spare. Then, push the spare all the way onto the wheelbase until it won’t go any further.
Re-seal the lug nuts. Don’t put them on too tightly, but enough for the spare to stay on the car for the next minute or so. Use the jack to bring your car back down to ground level, and then remove the jack.
Tighten the lug nuts up. Once the car’s back on the ground, it’s time to give the lug nuts a serious tighten. Rather than doing one by one in order, tighten each one about 50 per cent, then move to the next one. Once they’re all at 50 per cent, go back around and fully tighten them all properly.
You can now get back out on the road. Remember though, if you have a temporary-use skinny spare, you can only travel up to 50 mph and you’ll need to replace it with a normal tyre as soon as you can.
How long does it take to change a tyre?
It should take you around 30 to 45 minutes to change a tyre and get back on the road. But if you’re in nasty weather or working in the dark it may take longer.
Can you change a tyre on the motorway?
If you break down on the hard shoulder of a busy motorway, it can be tempting to try a replacement yourself. Be aware of the risks. Replacing a tyre located on the side furthest away from the road carries less risk, but do not assume all drivers will stay straight – a sleepy or careless driver could drift into the hard shoulder. Changing a tyre on the side nearest to the road (where vehicles are travelling at 70mph) is too risky, even if you have someone with you to help.
If in any doubt, get yourself behind the barrier and call for assistance. You should never attempt to change a tyre if you feel that the environment is unsafe.
Knowing how to fix a flat tyre is great, but regular maintenance is even more important. Keep your tyres properly inflated, rotate them according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, and monitor for tread wear. This will extend the life of your tyres and reduce the likelihood of a flat.
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