New Rubber For Old: Changing a Wheel Safely

Changing a car wheel with a flat tyre is a relatively easy task that can be done safely, provided you follow the rules. Here’s how it can be done in five basic steps, with a few tips to maintain safe progress and make life easier.

1: Stop in a safe place, with a smooth, firm surface
Never, ever try to change a car tyre and wheel on the hard shoulder, it’s better to drive on slowly and risk ruining the tyre. Switch on the car’s hazard lights and make any passengers stand well back and away from passing traffic. Extract the spare wheel and tools from the boot, setting up the warning triangle if there is one. Switch on the car’s hazard warning lights.

2: Loosen the wheel nuts/bolts
Put the handbrake on, and select ‘park’ if your car is an automatic. Remove the relevant wheel trim or the wheel nut/bolt caps, if present. You’ll need the special ‘key’ nut to remove a locking wheel fastening. Next, loosen the wheel nuts/bolts. These usually undo anticlockwise and you should always be pushing down on the wheel wrench, not pulling upwards.

3: Jack the car up
Put a chock under the wheel diagonally opposite to the one with the flat tyre. Place the car jack under the jacking point nearest the loosened wheel…never try to use the jack anywhere else. Wind or pump up the jack until there’s enough clearance under the wheel to allow for the fully inflated replacement tyre to fit. Don’t allow any part of you get between the car and the ground.

4: Change the wheel
Turn the wheel until one of the fastenings is at the top. Remove the other three (or four) nuts/bolts first. Then unscrew the topmost fastening. Lift the wheel off, keeping your back straight and taking care not to slip. Fit the spare wheel, aligning the fastenings carefully. Replace the topmost nut/bolt first, followed by the remaining ones. Tighten the fastenings until the wheel is fully seated on the hub.

5: Tighten the wheel nuts/bolts
Let the jack down completely and set it aside. You can now tighten the wheel fastenings firmly, working in a diagonal pattern.

You can now go on your way but there is one more step, for which you’ll need to go to a car tyre bay. Car wheel fastenings should be tightened by a specific amount and a tyre bay will use a torque wrench to do this. While at the tyre bay, it makes sense to have the flat tyre repaired or replaced as necessary.

It’s also worth making some preparations before you experience a puncture because they can make life much easier. Changing a wheel is a dirty job so carrying some industrial gloves and a mat or piece of carpet in the car can make life much more pleasant. You may also want to familiarise yourself with the wheel changing equipment. Is it accessible? Is it all there? Is the jack there? Does it need lubricating? Better to find out before the event.

Finally, does your car have a space saver spare? These usually have limitations concerning speed and distance. Also, a space saver can cause dashboard warning lamps to illuminate, because it confuses the car’s sensors. Your handbook will warn you if this is likely to happen.


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