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30 Jun 2021
Adam Bate Claire Hunte

How to change a tyre

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Freshly fitted tyre with jack

Anyone can change a tyre. But if you’ve never changed one before don’t worry, it’s not quite the dark arts you imagine it to be.

If you have a flat now and are reading this you may not want to hear it, but it’s one part preparation. Do you have a basic kit and spare tyre or alternative in your vehicle?

The other part is smooth operation if you follow these steps. Promise. Learn how to do it in our step-by-step guide.

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Preparation – what you’ll need to change a tyre:

As with most things in motoring, preparation is key. And if you don’t have a basic kit in your car, get one now. It’ll help you get your vehicle up and running in short order.

To get the job done quickly and most importantly, safely and correctly, you’ll need the items below:

  • Have your user manual to hand.

  • Know if your car has a locking wheel nut (check the user manual) – there’s nothing more frustrating than hunting for one just when you need it.

  • A flat-headed screwdriver.

  • A jack complete with winding handle.

  • The right sized socket spanner (unless you’re organised and know this you’ll need a spanner set to find the right spanner for your bolt size).

  • Rubber wheel chocks or wheel immobilisers (get some good quality heavy duty chocks so they do the job they’re meant to do and protect you).

  • A reflective triangle.

  • An oil-based lubricant such as WD40 may be handy.

  • A high-vis jacket.

  • A mat or a bit of old carpet to kneel on.

  • A spare tyre, inflated and in good condition.

 

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

 

1. Pull in safely, preferably somewhere flat

  • Where this is depends on what road you’re on. If you’re on a winding lane, for example, try and pull in somewhere that‘ll warn approaching drivers you’re there.

  • Popping up your bonnet is also a good idea to let other drivers know you’re repairing something.

 

2.Take off the hubcaps

  • If your flat happens while you’re driving, put on the 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.

  • For the record, never attempt to change a tyre on the hard shoulder of a motorway – it’s just too dangerous. Call your breakdown company instead.

 

3. Park up on even ground

  • Now you’ve pulled over, make sure the car is parked on flat ground – remember, never change a tyre on uneven ground, like a slope.

  • 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.

  • Place a rubber wheel chock in front and behind the wheel diagonal to the one you’re changing. For example, if the flat is front passenger side, place the chocks around the rear driver-side wheel.

  • Now get your reflective triangle and put it about 20 metres behind the car.

  • Get the spare tyre ensuring it’s inflated properly. You’ll also need all the other items you’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 will 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 key if your car has one for the wheel nuts.

 

4. Position the jack

  • You need to find the jacking point on the car. This’ll be made clear 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 and only remove the jack when the car is firmly on 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 one at 4 o’clock next, and so on until they’re all as tight as you can get them with your hand.

 

7. Finish up

  • Pop the hubcap back on and put all the equipment away.

  • There are no marks awarded for speed, so take your time and don’t rush.

  • You’ll also need to 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’ll probably need to get your car to a garage.

 

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 do’s and don’t on the motorway if you’ve broken down. For example, Using 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 it, opting for additional space and less weight lending to greater fuel economy and efficiency. It’s also cost effective for the manufacturer.

You may find your car has a space-saver tyre. These compact tyres are meant as a temporary fix.

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.

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.  

READ MORE: Breakdown kit checklist

 

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 will 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.

 

Safety tips 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 leak 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.

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