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How to . . .
We’ve put together a useful guide on general tyre maintenance and checks but this guide is designed to help you if you need to change a tyre.
We know that when you need to change a tyre it’s usually when you’re stranded with a flat on the side of a road and so we’ve put together this straightforward step by step how to, that’s designed to help make the process as simple as possible for you.
However, we do recommend that whenever you get a new vehicle if it is supplied with a spare tyre you try changing one of the wheels before you actually need to. Changing a wheel in a safe location without time pressures, poor weather conditions or any other stresser will allow you to become familiar with the process so if you ever do need to do it in an emergency situation you’ll know what you’re doing.
In order to change a tyre safely you will need several items, most of which should already be in the vehicle. These are:
This should be a legal inflated tyre. We recommend checking that the spare tyre is fully inflated and in a good condition when you check the tyres on the rest of your vehicle as part of your regular vehicle maintenance.
If your vehicle is supplied with a spare wheel then it usually also comes with a jack and the other necessary tools to change a wheel.
Whether you have a brand new vehicle or are buying a used car we recommend checking that the jack and all other tools are in the vehicle and operational so that you are prepared if you ever need to use them.
If you do need to purchase a jack for your spare wheel we recommend finding one from the manufacturer that is designed for your vehicle.
Each wheel will usually have a locking nut or bolt to ensure your wheels remain on the vehicle. If your wheels have a locking nut or bolt then you will also have a locking wheel nut key to undo it.
Without the key you will not be able to change the wheel.
You will also need a wrench or wheel brace in order to remove the other nuts or bolts from the wheel as there is only one that will be a locking nut.
Again, we recommend making sure this fits the nuts or bolts on your wheels before you need to use it.
If your vehicle has wheel bolts rather than nuts it might also come with an alignment tool to help you fit them.
Some vehicles have instructions on how to change a wheel in their handbook, as well as information on where to place the jack for your particular model and other helpful tips.
Your vehicle might be supplied with them or you might want to find some blocks of wood that you can put under your wheels in case you need to change one on an incline.
These wheel chocks or blocks will prevent your vehicle from moving and we recommend using them whether or not you feel your vehicle is on an incline.
We always recommend having a few pairs of disposable gloves in the car in case you need to do any maintenance on the go, from checking the dipstick and topping up the screen wash through to changing a tyre. These gloves prevent your hands from getting dirty and depending on their thickness can provide some protection as well.
We recommend keeping a warning triangle and hi-vis jacket in your vehicle in the event that you break down. If you do need to change a wheel whilst on the road we advise putting your hazards on and placing the warning triangle a safe distance from the vehicle to let other drivers know there is a stopped vehicle. Wearing the hi-vis will also help them spot you when passing the vehicle to ensure they give you enough room.
Now that we’ve covered what you need to change a wheel we’re going to break down the process step by step
The first thing you need to do is to prepare the vehicle.
If you are able to try to pull off the road in a safe location and where you will not be vulnerable to oncoming traffic when working.
You should then apply the handbrake, turn off the engine and put your hazards on. If you are still on the road slightly then we recommend also putting your warning triangle out.
If there are any passengers in the vehicle they will need to step out and stand in a safe location whilst you change the tyre, this reduces the weight of the vehicle and the risk to them and yourself while working.
The next thing you want to do is to get all the required equipment out.
If you have a hi-vis jacket and haven’t put it on yet then we recommend doing so now.
You’ll also need to get the spare wheel, jack and tools out of the vehicle and place them in a safe location near the wheel that needs changing.
Position the wheel blocks to prevent the car from moving.
You should position them behind the wheel that is diagonal to the flat. So, for example, if you are changing the front right tyre then put the block behind the rear left tyre.
If you have a plastic wheel trim then you may need to remove this in order to remove the wheel.
Use the locking tool to loosen the locking nut or bolt and then also loosen the rest of the nuts / bolts.
It is safer to loosen these when the vehicle is on the ground but you should not fully remove them just yet.
We suggest loosening them enough that you can then turn them by hand rather than using the wrench.
Place the jack at a safe point on the vehicle, many modern cars now have markers on their lower side to show where to place the jack.
If not the vehicle handbook or manufacturer’s website should show you the correct location to place it.
Once in place you will need to raise it until the tyre is around 10 to 15 cm off the ground.
When the wheel is a safe distance from the floor you can then fully loosen and remove the nuts from the wheel. Put these in a safe location as you will need them to secure the spare tyre.
You’ll then need to remove the wheel, carefully sliding it forward. It should come off fairly easily, though might need a little persuasion if the wheel is stuck.
If you are not able to remove the wheel without too much force then it may be best to resecure the wheel nuts and calling for professional help.
The next step is to place the new wheel, onto either the wheel nut slots or protruding hub bolts depending on the vehicle.
Be careful when lifting the wheel as it can be quite heavy.
Once the wheel is placed you’ll then need to put back the nuts you removed and tighten these by hand. Like when you removed them do not tighten them all the way, just as far as you can by hand.
The next step is to lower the jack until the wheel is resting on the ground and then to use the wrench and locking key to fully secure the nuts so that the wheel is secure.
When you are confident that the nuts have been tightened as much as possible you can then lower the jack the rest of the way and remove it from under your vehicle.
Once the jack is removed you might want to do one final check of the nuts to ensure they are tightened as much as possible.
If you have a tyre pressure gauge in your vehicle then you can check the pressure before setting off. If not we advise stopping at the next service station to use their pressure gauge to check it and fill to the correct level if needed.
Once you’ve completed these ten steps you can then place your tools, damaged wheel and any warning triangles you have set out back into the car and continue on your journey.
We recommend having the tyre replaced as soon as you are able to as spare tyres do not have the same lifetime as a regular tyre and wear much quicker.
Some space saver tyres also have restrictions on the distance you can travel on them as well as a maximum speed. We advise you check these before you need to use the tyre and keeping a note of any restrictions somewhere handy in the vehicle.
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