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How to Change a Tyre

Change Flat Tire

A manly skill that seems to have been somewhat forgotten these days. With the advent of mobile phones, breakdown services, and the reliability of the modern tyre changing a wheel has become a dark art.

However you should still make the effort to know how to change a tyre in case you are out of cell phone coverage, the break down service is two hours away (and you need to be at the airport in 45 minutes) or you come across a damsel in distress!

So here is a step by step guide:

  • Pull over if the car's handling characteristics change (pulling to one side, unstable in corners etc) and park in a safe place. Do it before you hear the flap flap flap sound (not good!)

  • Get out of the car, puff out your chest and wander around it looking like you know what you are doing.

  • Having now identified that what you felt and heard was in fact a flat tyre, give yourself a pat on the back.

  • Unpack the boot (removing the golf clubs and trundler that have been in there since you last played 6 weeks ago).

  • Identify that you have all the necessary equipment to proceed i.e. a spare with air in it, a jack with a handle and wheel brace. Missing any of these items? Then put the clubs back in the boot, slam it shut and curse the previous owner, your wife (as if she'd ever take anything out of the boot), your mechanic for not checking the pressure in the spare when it was in for a service the previous week. Phone your designated roadside service provider or start making hand signals at passing motorists in the hope they will stop and lend you a phone.

  • Before attempting to jack up the vehicle ensure it is on level ground and the handbrake is on. Remove any wheel or nut covers. If there are any locking wheel nuts (one on each wheel) now is a good time to produce the key. If no key can be found return to the previous step.

  • Loosen the wheel nuts (lefty, loosie, righty, tighty). It is always easier to do this with the car still on the ground and have the wheel brace handle horizontal. Don't be scared to use your body weight to full advantage by standing on the end of the brace.

  • Place the jack under a designated lifting point. These can be identified by checking the vehicle handbook or finding the strengthened areas of the door sills ( two on each sill, one forward, one aft). Attempting to lift off these areas could mean your door sills wind up resembling a crumpled ice cream container!

  • Raise the vehicle just high enough to be able to remove the wheel. There is no need to lift it up as if you are about to perform an under-car inspection. That just wastes precious time (they have just made the first boarding announcement for your flight), makes placing the spare onto the hub harder and makes the whole operation more unsafe.

  • Remove the wheel nuts and put them out of harms way. Roll the spare wheel into position. I say roll as I've seen many people carrying wheels around getting themselves filthy and hot and bothered (the average rim and tyre combo is around 20kg). Rolling a wheel (as the are designed to do) requires virtually no effort at all.

  • From a crouching position lift the spare wheel onto the hub. Line up a bolt hole at the top with a stud lift and the wheel into place. Hold it in position with one hand then grab a wheel nut, which you will have put out of harms way just out of reach. Wind on the nut a couple of turns (tapered end first - don't laugh, I've seen it done the opposite way which will never end well!). Wind on the remaining nuts finger tight then nip up each nut in a crisscross fashion ensuring that the centre hole of the wheel has located properly on the hub. 

  • Lower the vehicle off the jack and tighten the nuts evenly in the same sequence as above. Lean on the wheel brace with moderate downward pressure. There is no need to use your body weight to full advantage here. Replace and locking devices, wheel cover etc. and hurriedly throw the flat tyre and tools along with all the luggage back in the boot. Slam it shut and stop the stopwatch. Under 5 minutes and you should be on Vettel's F1 team! 5-15 mins, not bad - you might still make it too the airport but won't have time for that drink in the airline lounge. 15-30 mins you'll be lucky to have time to wash your hands before joining the back of the queue at security. Over 30 mins, relax, just think about how many drinks you will be able to have before your re-booked flight leaves!

All this is based on a relatively straight forward tyre change in daylight hours when it's not raining! It's probably a good idea to do a dumby run in the driveway at home especially if you have never changed a wheel before or if the car is new to you. I'm sure car designers take delight in making secret panels in car boots behind which they hide the various tools you need.

If attempting to do a roadside tyre change at night a great deal of extra caution is a required. A torch is a very useful tool to carry in the glove box. Check out our B-Safe 4-in-one Auto Emergency Tool.


Happy Motoring!

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