Many motorists regard mobile phones as the only way to prevent being stranded on the side of the road. They can certainly help you get hold of a car glass specialist if your windscreen is cracked, but if you need to change a flat tyre before getting back on the road, it’s best to know how to do this yourself.

In addition, mobiles tend to be left at home, are out of reception range, and batteries run flat. Tyre-changing skills are necessary, not too challenging to learn — and can save the day.

Modern cars have traditional spare tyres (we’ll focus on these in the below discussion), space saver tyres, run-flat tyres, or a small compressor with a puncture plug-kit.

Let us look at some tips.

Items you’ll need to fix a car tyre

Confirm your vehicle has the following:

  • The car owner’s manual
  • Jack
  • Wheel spanner
  • Fully inflated spare tyre (you must check the pressure every time you check the vehicle’s other tyres as per the manufacturer’s recommended numbers)
  • Optional items include a charged torchlight (or one with fresh batteries), a rain poncho for the UK’s weather, a pair of gloves, a piece of wood (75 mm x 100 mm) to support the jack, and a set of wheel-wedges.
Tyre change on the side of the road

How to change a car tyre

  1. Park the car on a level area away from traffic, even if you must slowly crawl the car on the deflated tyre.
  2. Hazard lights on.
  3. Engage park-brake.
  4. Put wheel-wedges (or rocks) behind and front of a wheel opposite to the flat tyre (i.e., if a rear tyre is flat, wedge a front wheel) to prevent the car from rolling off the jack.
  5. Remove the spare wheel from the boot and place it close to the flat tyre.
  6. Remove the hubcap (if fitted) using the flat end of the spanner (or, if applicable, the special tool as per the owner’s manual).
  7. Loosen the wheel nuts (or studs) a quarter-turn (counter-clockwise).
  8. Place the jack in the demarcated area (check the owner’s manual; usually, the jack-point is close to the wheel-arch). The jack’s base must be on top of the flat piece of wood (especially if the road surface is soft asphalt or dirt).
  9. Be careful to keep all parts of your body away from the vehicle, and then jack the car up until the flat tyre is 150 mm off the ground.
  10. Fully unscrew the nuts or studs (it should be doable by hand).
  11. Pull the wheel towards you until it’s free of the hub and roll it away.
  12. Lift the spare wheel onto the hub and line the bolts up with the rim holes.
  13. Tighten the nuts or studs clockwise by hand and lower the jack slowly until the tyre rests on the ground (do not lower the car’s total weight onto the tyre).
  14. Fully tighten the nuts clockwise with the spanner.
  15. Lower the jack all the way and remove it. Confirm with the spanner that all the nuts are fully secured.
  16. Replace the hubcap and store the flat tyre and all the equipment.
Woman changing the tyre on a red car

Driving on a spare tyre

  • Check the spare tyre’s pressure as soon as possible (usually, space-saver spare tyres have higher pressures).
  • Remember to adhere to the lower speed limit for space-saver spare tyres.
  • Repair or replace the flat tyre at the first opportunity as you do not want to be without a spare tyre.

Tips to improve car tyre life

  • Check your tyre pressure regularly (it also saves fuel).
  • Rotate the tyres every 15 000 km between the front and rear axle. Also ask a specialist to check the wheel balance.
  • Replace a tyre when the tread depth reaches a mimum of 2 mm on any part of the running surface.
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