It always looks so easy – when somebody else does it
Changing a flat tyre is one of those life skills that everyone should know. It’s not difficult if you follow a few basic steps, have the right gear and know how to use it.
Flat tyres often happen in inconvenient locations. Out on the road, you’ll need to find a safe spot to pull over and make the change. ‘Safe’ means well clear of traffic and preferably on a hard, level surface.
If you find yourself stopped on soft ground, a piece of solid board is a handy item for sticking underneath the jack before you start lifting up the car.
First, you’ll need a few things
To change a car tyre, you’ll need a spare, a wheel brace for loosening the lug nuts (or an appropriately sized socket with long handle) and a sturdy jack. It’s a good idea to carry a brick or chunk of wood as well – this can be wedged up against one of the wheels on the opposite side of the car for extra safety and stability.
This is especially important if the ground isn’t quite as level as you’d like. If you find yourself stopped on soft ground, a piece of solid board is a handy item for sticking underneath the jack before you start lifting up the car.
Lift up the vehicle
Before you get started, activate your hazard lights, make sure the car is in Park and apply the handbrake. Look for the notches or grooves on the underside of the car – these are where the jack is safely placed. Once you’re happy with the stability of the vehicle and placement of the jack, start slowly turning the wheel brace until you’ve taken a bit of the weight off the flat tyre. (Make sure there is still enough weight on the tyre to allow you to loosen the wheel nuts without inadvertently spinning the wheel.)
Loosen the wheel nuts and remove the flat tyre
Getting stubborn wheel nuts to loosen up is less about brute force and more about using proper technique.
Getting stubborn wheel nuts to loosen up is less about brute force and more about using proper technique. Once you’ve got the wheel brace onto one of the nuts, use a quick anti-clockwise ‘jolt’ to loosen it. Face the wheel and keep both your arm and your back straight. Don’t let the brace slip off the nut. Go around and loosen each nut in turn. The trick is to keep the wheel brace more or less horizontal to the ground and let your body weight do most of the work.
Once all the nuts have been loosened, use the jack to continue lifting the car so it is high enough off the ground to allow for putting the new wheel on. If the flat is suspended an inch or two above the ground, this is usually sufficient. Don’t lift the car any more than you need to. To remove the old tyre, take off all the wheel nuts (and keep track of them!) and then carefully lift the wheel from the vehicle.
Put on the new tyre
Grab your bright, shiny new wheel from its recess in the boot and position it up against the wheel assembly. Line up the wheel holes first so you can lift it straight onto the car in one go without twisting and fiddling. Once the wheel is up and in position, screw on all the lug nuts and hand-tighten. You don’t want to tighten them all the way at this stage – wait for full tightening until the car is down off the jack and completely stable.
Whenever you lift a tyre off a car or put a new one on, it’s important not to have any twist in your back. Position your feet for maximum stability and don’t lean over any more than you need to – that’s how back injuries happen.
Position your feet for maximum stability and don’t lean over any more than you need to – that’s how back injuries happen.
Lower the car and remove the jack
Slowly wind the jack down until the new tyre has taken the vehicle’s weight. Remove the jack. Now is the time to fully tighten the wheel nuts. Once again, use your body weight (not pure arm strength) and keep the wheel brace parallel to the ground as you tighten each wheel nut.
Properly stow your wheel brace, jack and the flat tyre in the boot. Don’t just dump the old tyre in the recess: secure it in place so it doesn’t slide around while you’re driving.
And lastly, now that you’re back on the road, remember to get your tyre fixed so that you always have a spare to rely on.