It doesn’t take much time or know-how, and you don’t have to have the strength of Hercules to do it. But knowing how to change your own tyres can get you out of a potentially sticky situation. The Hood Honcho takes a close look.
What will I need?
- A good spare tyre (dodgy bald spares are no good)
- A jack to hoist up your car
- A wheel brace to undo the wheel nuts
- Chocks. A lump of wood, brick or decent sized rock will do.
It’s also a good idea to carry a torch, a pair of disposable gloves and an old towel or blanket to kneel on.
Before you start
Ok so, you’ve realised you've got a flat tyre. No problem – it’s easily fixed, just follow these easy steps.
Step 1: Make sure you’re parked in a safe place away from traffic and apply the hand brake.
You’ll need a firm, level surface to put the jack on.
Step 2: Have a look at your car’s handbook to see where the jack needs to be positioned.
Step 3: To stop the car rolling, chock the wheel diagonally opposite the tyre you are changing.
So if the flat is on the driver’s side front, you need to chock the back of the rear passenger side wheel.
Changing the wheel
Step 1: Use your wheel brace to loosen the wheel nuts on the wheel that you’re changing. Don’t undo them completely yet.
If they’re a bit too tight, gently use your foot to loosen them but be careful.
Step 2: Have a look at your car's handbook to see where the jack needs to be positioned.
Place the jack in the right spot under your car, then jack the car high enough to let the tyre spin clear off the ground and allow you to fit the spare wheel.
Tip: After you’ve read this, why not dig your jack out of the boot and give it a go? Better now than in a more stressful situation.
Step 3: Remove the wheel nuts and then the wheel. Make sure you take notice of how they were fitted (wheel nuts differ from car to car).
If your car wheel has a cover and your wheel nuts are not visible, you’ll need to remove the cover to access the wheel nuts. These usually just unclip to come off.
Step 4: Fit the spare wheel onto the car and do up the wheel nuts firmly – but don’t tighten them fully yet.
Step 5: Lower the car jack so that the wheel is on the ground and now you can fully tighten the wheel nuts.
Tip: If the wheel has four nuts, then tighten them in diagonally opposite pairs. If you've got five, tighten every second one until all are tight. Repeat the tightening sequence a couple of times.
Step 6: Pop the flat tyre where the spare was.
And you're done!
One point to note is that these days many vehicles have space saver tyres as spare tyres. These are much smaller in size then an actual car tyre and if used should only be driven for a maximum of 80km/h.
It’s a good idea to stop into a service station as soon as you’re able and check the tyre pressure on the wheel you’ve fitted. In fact, it’s a good idea to check the spare whenever you check the tyre pressures.
As soon as you can, have the flat repaired or replaced.
You should be able to do all this yourself. However, sometimes the wheel nuts can be over-tightened and then you might have to call for roadside assistance to help you.
Caring for your tyres
Tyres are expensive and essential for the safety of your car. Here’s how to keep them in tip-top shape.
Always keep the tyre pressure at the level recommended by the maker of your car. This is specified in the handbook or on a little placard attached to your car (look somewhere like inside the door cavity or glovebox).
Check the pressure at least once a month or before a big trip, remembering to also check your spare. The recommended pressure will be different for day-to-day motoring, high speed travel and heavy loads.
- Keep it clean
Remove pebbles or sharp objects that get stuck in the tyre tread and visit your garage or tyre shop to make sure you don’t have a puncture.
If the side walls of the tyre are damaged or have a bubble-like bulge, replace it – you can’t fix it.
- Balance, align and rotate
Wheel balancing makes sure you get the best performance from your car. You might need to get your wheels balanced if your steering wheel or car is vibrating or if your tyres are noisy.
Alignment ensures your car steers properly and your tyres wear evenly. You’ll probably need a wheel alignment if the car pulls to the side, if you’ve hit a nasty pothole or given the curb a good whack.
Rotating the tyres between front and back can also make your tyres last longer – a bit like flipping the old mattress. Remember, some tyres are ‘asymmetrical’, meaning they must stay on the same side of the car.
Your local tyre shop can do all of these things for you. You’ll probably only need balancing and a wheel alignment once a year.
- Keep a lid on it
Those little caps on the tyre valves help maintain pressure and stop dirt and water getting into the valve and your tyres.
- Time to fork out
If your tyres don’t have enough tread or are damaged then two bad things could happen. Firstly you could crash. Secondly you could get smacked with a fine from the Police.
Legal tread depth is 1.5 millimetres. If the tyre is worn to the level of the tread depth indicator, it’s about time for a new tyre.
A good trick is to whack the red end of a match into the tread – if you can see any of the red, then it’s time to replace the tyre. If you’re worried, get your mechanic or a trusted tyre dealer to take a look.