If you found your car had a flat tire – either before you set off or due to a puncture during the journey – would you know what to do?
Changing a tire is one of those basic mechanical tasks every motorist should know but many of us neglect to learn. After all, it never looks that complicated – surely we’d be able to work it out? In reality, especially if you’re stuck at the roadside in the dark or bad weather, that’s unlikely to be the case.
Getting familiar with the process before you need it is a good idea, so we’ve broken it down into 7 simple steps.
First things first
Make sure you know where your vehicle’s spare tire and jack are located. Usually, you’ll find them in a special compartment beneath the base of the rear storage area. Not all models are the same, though, so make sure you check. Most car jacks have a built-in lug wrench to loosen the nuts that secure the wheel to the vehicle.
If you get a puncture and need to change a tire while traveling, slow down carefully and steer your vehicle as far off the road as you can. Ideally, you should stop somewhere wide enough for you to move around your car without putting yourself at risk of being hit by other motorists.
Make sure your hazard lights are on and, if you have one, place a reflective warning triangle ten meters or so behind your vehicle so other road-users know to be cautious. As well as ensuring your handbrake is firmly applied, if you can find a large rock or stick nearby, wedge it behind the tire opposite the flat one to prevent any rolling.
Carefully remove your spare tire from its compartment and put it on the ground near the one you need to change. Take out the jack and, if your car has removable hub caps, use the lug wrench to loosen the one on the damaged tire. Remove the cap and place it to one side.
Apply some pressure
Before jacking up the car, use the lug wrench to loosen each wheel nut a little by turning them anti-clockwise. Don’t remove them at this stage. If you’re struggling to loosen the nuts, use your foot or knee for extra leverage. Water and dirt can also cause them to stick, so it’s a good idea to carry a can of multi-use WD40 or similar in your car as this will often help.
Jack it up
To lift the wheel off the ground, the jack should be braced on a strong part of your vehicle’s frame. Your user manual will specify where this is for each wheel and give guidance on using the jack, so refer to it for detailed information. Use your hand to turn the jack clockwise until it meets the relevant point on the car, then use the handle until the damaged wheel is several inches clear of the ground.
Change the wheel
Use the lug wrench again, this time to completely remove the nuts you loosened earlier. Make sure you keep them somewhere safe so you don’t lose them. Remove the damaged wheel and place it out of the way before replacing it with the spare, carefully lining up the holes and bolts. Replace the lug nuts and turn them clockwise, then use the lug wrench again to ensure they are tightly in place.
Back down to earth
Lastly, lower your vehicle by turning the jack handle anti-clockwise. Once the spare wheel is on the ground, remove the jack and give the wheel nuts a final check with the lug wrench to make sure they are secure. Stow the damaged wheel, jack and lug wrench in your vehicle.
Knowing how to change a car tire is a useful skill and you’ll save both time and money by doing it yourself rather than calling a breakdown service. It’s important to note most modern spare tires are only meant as a temporary fix and not for long journeys. You should visit a garage as soon as you can to get your damaged tire repaired or replaced.
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