Car Care: What to do if you get a flat tyre
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AA Motoring says knowing how to change a tyre is a worthwhile skill
Though many new vehicles are equipped with run-flat tyres or a tyre inflator/sealer, there are still plenty of vehicles that have space-savers, and so knowing how to change a tyre is a worthwhile skill to have under your belt. After all, no one plans to get a flat and so it’s often Murphy’s Law that it happens at the most inconvenient time and place.
Preparation is important
If you haven't had to change a tyre before, don’t let your first time be the time that it needs to be done. We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect” and it makes sense to try changing your car’s tyre in a non-urgent scenario. Remove the pressure by getting a practice in beforehand. For safety reasons, remember to always carry out any tyre changing on a flat surface.
It’s a good idea to store a few handy items in your car, so you’re ready and equipped should the worst happen. Your vehicle manual will make valuable reading and we’d recommend keeping a small plastic sheet in the car to kneel on (or you can use a floor mat), along with gloves to protect your hands and a torch with spare batteries in case you get a flat tyre at night.
If you share your car or it’s used by more than one driver, make sure the tools and jack are kept in the right place and don’t use or attempt to change the tyre if they’re not in good working condition.
You can also help to prevent punctures yourself by checking your tyre pressure on a regular basis — and remember to check the spare as well.
Step-by-step instructions for changing a car tyre
1. Make sure no one is inside the vehicle.
2. Apply the handbrake and put the vehicle in park (if automatic) or in gear (if manual).
3. Block the wheels on the side not being lifted.
4. Remove the hub cap or wheel cover if fitted. Some vehicles, mostly 4WDs, have a centre cover. Removing the cover allows the wheel nuts to be accessed.
5. Loosen the wheel nuts with the wheel wrench while the vehicle is on the ground. Do not remove them at this point.
6. If the nuts are too tight to loosen by hand, apply pressure to the wheel wrench with your foot, ensuring that it’s in a horizontal position for your own safety. Here’s another tip — Lefty loosey, righty tighty!
7. Place the jack underneath the jacking point of your vehicle on firm flat ground and slowly raise the vehicle. Refer to your car manual if you’re unsure of the jacking point location.
8. Remove the nuts and wheel, pulling the wheel towards you with both hands.
9. Lift the spare tyre into place. If using a space saver, it’s important to note that this is a temporary tyre and it’s not intended to be driven long distances or at speeds over 80km/h.
10. Replace all wheel nuts, making sure these go on the right way. Taper them towards the wheel and tighten snugly.
11. Lower the vehicle back onto the ground and tighten the wheel nuts using your wheel wrench. Again, you can stand on the wrench handle if needed.
12. Refit the hubcap, wheel cover or centre cover. (Not applicable to space savers.)
13. Take the punctured wheel to a tyre shop for repair or replacement.
When finished, you can also use the plastic sheet that you kneel on to protect your boot from the flat dirty tyre.
Changing tyres on tricky car models
Some car models don’t have studs extending from the hub to hang the wheel on. This is often the case for European cars. Instead, their wheels have centring flanges with small pins which help you to position the wheel. The tool kit includes a longer pin which screws into a bolt hole. Lifting the wheel onto this, lines it up perfectly but it helps if there are two of you – one person to manoeuvre the wheel, and the other to guide you.
To prevent theft, many alloy wheels have locking nuts which won't fit a standard socket or wheel brace. When buying a car with alloys, check its wheel brace or socket matches the alloy’s locking nuts.
Even if you know what you’re doing, always put the safety of yourself, any passengers and other road users first.
Pull over when it’s safe to do so, and park your car as far to the left-hand side of the road as possible. If lighting is poor, (at night or during poor weather), activate hazard lights to make sure you can be seen by other motorists.
If you’re unsure about what to do or are in a difficult location that prevents you from changing the tyre safely, call your road service provider for assistance.