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Can you change a flat tyre?


When you get a flat tyre is your first reaction to roll up your sleeves and change the wheel yourself - or would you call a breakdown service or mechanic to do it for you?

man changing tyre

The ability to change a wheel has long been seen as car maintenance 101 - something that every motorist should be able to do.

But is this still the case? 

It seems that even if you are keen to do it yourself, you can't always rely on a spare wheel being provided for you.

Does your motor even have a spare wheel?

A survey by consumer rights champion Which? found that fewer spare wheels are being made available as standard on new cars.

Which? analysed the specifications of 8,755 mainstream car models and found that just 29.5 per cent came with a full-size or space-saver wheel as standard.

Half came with a tyre-repair kit, while the remaining 20.5 per cent had run-flat tyres fitted.

Run-flat tyres resist deflation and, when punctured, can be driven at reduced speeds for short distances, to allow the motorist to get home or to a garage.

Men just as likely as women to get mechanic to change wheel

mechanic changing tyre

But even if they do have a spare wheel many motorists don't feel completely confident about changing it and would rather call on their breakdown cover provider to help.

And this isn't a gender issue either.

RAC patrol Chris Burgess says it's not his experience that men change wheels themselves while women phone for help.

"I get roughly equal numbers of calls from men and women and I don't think anyone need feel embarrassed about calling out the breakdown service.

"Patrols have got tools that are far superior to those supplied in cars as standard, and we're dressed in the right clothes with steel-toe capped boots.

"Changing a tyre can be a messy business, and if I were dressed in a suit I probably wouldn't want to do it myself either!"

Motorists lack confidence to do car DIY

Some men are happy to admit that changing a wheel is a job they'd rather leave to the professionals.

David Simister, 27, a motoring journalist from Peterborough says, "I love cars but I'm not a natural mechanic.

"I've changed wheels when I've been with other more experienced friends.

"But if I was on my own on a lonely road I'd worry that the wheel might come off after I'd driven a couple of miles." 

Elizabeth Ashworth, 55, a writer, from Blackburn is also reluctant to change a wheel.

"I know how to do it in principle, but I wouldn't try," says Ashworth.

"For one thing I can't shift the wheel nuts, and even if I could I wouldn't be sure I could tighten them again safely.

"So it would always be the breakdown service for me."

Changing a wheel 'skill worth acquiring'

However, Daniel Taylor, a driving instructor from Bearwood in the West Midlands, says learning to change a wheel is a skill worth acquiring.

"You could be stuck in the countryside with no mobile signal," he cautions.

"I encourage my students to learn the basics from family members or to take a car maintenance course."

Taylor says he learned how to change a wheel through viewing YouTube videos and watching others.

Changing a wheel can be 'complicated'

RAC patrol Chris Burgess says that changing a wheel can be a complicated business.

"In theory it's simple, but in practice it can be more challenging.

"Each car is different with its own jacking points and equipment.

"Also changing a wheel in a level car park is much easier than attempting it by the side of the road. 

When not to DIY

"If someone breaks down in a dangerous place such as on a bend, a dual carriageway or motorway I would strongly advise against them trying to change it themselves.

"The breakdown truck can be placed between your vehicle and the oncoming traffic and makes the whole process much safer."

Although it is not illegal to change a wheel on the motorway hard shoulder, the Highway Code advises against this and urges motorists to not attempt even simple repairs.

Instead motorists are advised to leave the car and get onto the verge and telephone for assistance.


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