Anyone can change a flat car tyre. But if you’ve never changed a flat tyre before, don’t worry, it's not quite the dark art you imagine it to be.
If you have a flat car tyre now and are reading this you might not want to hear it, but preparation is key. Do you have a basic kit and spare tyre or alternative in your vehicle?
The other part is smooth operating if you follow these steps. Learn how to do it in our step-by-step guide.
What you need to change a flat tyre:
When you are changing a flat car tyre, preparation is key. If you don’t have a basic kit in your car already, get one now. It might help you get your vehicle up and running in short order.
To get the job done quickly and most importantly, safely and correctly, you need the items below:
Your user manual
A spare tyre, inflated and in good condition
A flat-headed screwdriver
A jack with a winding handle
A socket spanner (check its the right size for the bolt)
Rubber wheel chocks or wheel immobilisers
To ensure you can be seen on the road, it's also a good idea to have a high-vis jacket and a reflective triangle. A mat or old bit of carpet in the boot is helpful to kneel on.
You should also find out if your car has locking wheel nuts (check the user manual). If it does, make sure you know where the locking wheel nut key is. There’s nothing more frustrating than hunting for the key just when you need it.
How to change a tyre step-by-step
Now that you’re fully prepared, here’s your step-by-step guide to changing a flat or damaged tyre. In a nutshell:
- Pull in safely
- Let other drivers know you're there
- Remove the hubcaps and locking nuts
- Position the jack
- Fit the new tyre in place
- Secure the wheel
- Finish up
1. Pull in safely, preferably somewhere flat
- If your flat tyre happens while you’re driving, put on your hazard lights and slow down to about 5 mph.
- Pull in at the first convenient, safe place, away from heavy traffic.
- If this isn’t possible, at least go somewhere the vehicle is clearly visible.
- If you’re on a winding lane try and pull in at a spot where approaching drivers should be able to see you.
- Make sure you are parked on flat ground, never try and change a tyre on a slope or uneven ground.
WARNING: You should never attempt to change a tyre on the hard shoulder of a motorway – it’s just too dangerous. Call your breakdown company instead.
2. Let other drivers know you're there
- Put the hand brake on firmly and put the car into first gear, or park if it’s an automatic.
- Place your chocks behind your wheels.
- Put a rubber wheel chock in front and behind the wheel diagonal to the tyre you’re changing. For example, if the flat is front passenger side, place the chocks around the rear driver-side wheel.
- Popping up your bonnet helps other drivers know that you are working on your car.
- Now get your reflective triangle and put it about 20 metres behind the car.
3. Remove the hubcaps and locking nuts
- Get the spare tyre and check it’s inflated properly. You should also get all the other items we've listed in the preparation section.
- If your car has hubcaps, take them off with the screwdriver.
- Your next step is to loosen the wheel nuts, turning anti-clockwise. Do this while the car is on the floor, as the weight should help you .
- Don’t take the nuts off at this point, just loosen them so they’re finger tight. If they’re too stiff to move, spray some lubricant on each nut and try again.
- Get the locking wheel nut key if needed to remove your wheel nuts.
4. Position the jack
- You need to find the jacking point on the car. This should be detailed in the user manual and is something you really want to get right.
- If you put the jack head in the wrong place, it might go through the floor of your car when you start raising it up.
- Lift the car high enough so a fully inflated tyre can go in its place.
WARNING: It’s important you never, ever go under any vehicle that’s only raised up by a jack.
5. Fit the new tyre in place
- Now remove the wheel nuts completely and put them in safe place so they don’t roll away.
- Remove the flat tyre and put it down flat.
- Put the new tyre in place, and put the wheel nuts back on, just tight enough so the new wheel won’t come off.
6. Secure the wheel
- Lower the vehicle until the wheel just touches the ground.
- Now tighten the wheel nuts using the socket spanner, turning clockwise. Tighten in a diagonal fashion. For example, if you’ve tightened the nut at the 10 o’clock position, tighten the nut at 4 o’clock next, and so on until they’re all as tight as you can get them.
- The jack should only be removed once the nuts have been fully tightened. Once the wheels are bearing the full weight of the car again, you won't be able to tighten them properly.
7. Finish up
- Pop the hubcap back on and put all your equipment away.
- There are no marks awarded for speed, so take your time and don’t rush
- Get the old tyre mended as soon as possible.
- If, when investigating the flat tyre, you discover something more serious is wrong with your car, you might need to get your car to a garage for repairs.
Compare car services, repairs and MOTs
Can you change a tyre on a motorway or a hard shoulder?
If you’ve developed a flat on the motorway don’t panic. It’s best if you can get your vehicle off at the next exit or pull into a service area if possible.
If not pull over to a hard shoulder or try to stop by an emergency phone. If neither is possible put the hazard lights on the car and move well away from the hard shoulder.
Don’t try to change a tyre on a motorway or a hard shoulder. Call your breakdown service.
Rule 275 of the Highway Code is explicit about dos and don’ts on the motorway if you’ve broken down. For example, you should use the emergency phone on the motorway, rather than using your mobile phone.
Spare wheel alternatives
Many modern vehicles no longer carry full-size spare tyres.
Most people never used them, opting instead for additional space and less weight ( resulting in greater fuel economy and efficiency). It’s also more cost-effective for the manufacturer.
You may find your car has a space-saver tyre. These compact tyres are meant as a temporary fix only.
With this type of tyre, you’re limited to travelling at 50 mph and you can only go to a distance of 50 miles.
Another alternative is the breakdown kit, which has an air compressor and a bottle of sealant to repair the flat tyre.
It only works for minor tyre damage though, anything greater and you should get it to a garage or call your breakdown service. With a breakdown kit, you’re limited again to 50 mph and a distance of 50 miles.
Does breakdown cover include tyre punctures?
A flat or damaged tyre is among the top three reasons listed by many breakdown cover providers for call out assistance.
If you’re unable to change a flat tyre yourself, your breakdown recovery service should assist with changing a tyre.
They may provide a spare if you’re without one too. Check your cover to see what your provider offers.
For more information, check out our guide on what to do if you have a breakdown.
How to check for a flat tyre
The biggest indication of a flat tyre while driving is through the steering wheel which tends to vibrate and become unstable. You may hear a loud noise too. It’s a serious hazard to drive with a flat tyre.
Get into the habit of monitoring the conditions of your tyres at least once a week. Whenever you add fuel to your car may be a good time to check the pressure in your tyres.
Make sure that the tread depth is over the legal limit of 1.6 mm and see if there’s other damage like bulges, tears or lumps.
You can determine if there’s a slow puncture by rechecking within a couple of days and see if there’s a big difference in pressure.
You can get it fixed before your tyre becomes flat. If you don’t want to grapple with replacing a flat tyre consider fitting run-flat tyres.
If you develop a puncture these tyres allow you to travel up to 50 miles not at high speed but to a safe distance to get your tyre fixed or replaced.