A Guide To Changing a Tyre

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What You Need to Know

  1. Ensure your car contains all the equipment you might need in order to change a tyre in an emergency, such as a wheel wrench and a car jack.
  2. Make sure you car is parked on level ground when changing a tyre.
  3. If you are fitting a spare following a blow out on the road wear gloves (the wheel may be hot) and a high visibility jacket.
  4. Do not attempt to change a tyre on the motorway, call for assistance instead.
  5. Never get underneath the car when it is on the jack.
  6. The spare tyres that come as standard with most cars are for emergency use only and should be changed as soon as possible.
  7. Replacing a tyre on its own (as opposed to the whole wheel) is a tougher job and it is recommended you go to a garage to have it professionally done.

Before beginning the guide it is worth pointing out that normally when people talk about ‘changing a tyre’ or ‘fitting a spare tyre’ (as you would after an accident), the process they are talking about is actually changing a wheel.

Changing a tyre on its own is a very different job. This guide will tell you how to do both, starting with changing a wheel at the roadside in an emergency.

Instructions on how to change and balance your own tyres at home come further down the article.

Be Prepared

As with so many things in life, changing a tyre after getting a puncture is all in the preparation. Many people do not think about the equipment they’ll need to change a tyre until they are at the side of the road with a flat, by which time it’s too late.

Imagine how frustrated you would be if you got a puncture only to discover that your jack is missing or you have nothing to loosen the wheel nuts with? It is important to check that you have the right equipment in your car, particularly if you have just purchased a used vehicle.

Your car should always contain a jack and a wheel wrench. It is also advisable to carry a high visibility jacket, a pair of gloves (tyres may be hot following a blowout) and a visibility triangle, to alert road users to your situation. In can also be very handy to have a flash night in case you have a problem on a poorly lit road at night.

You can also reduce the chance of a blow out by checking your tyres are in decent condition before you set out. Driving with tyres that are worn below 1.6mm of tread depth, or that have gashes and bulges is unsafe, illegal and may even invalidate your car insurance.

Changing the Wheel

Do not attempt to change your tyre if you are on the motorway or in a dangerous place. In this scenario request roadside assistance or call the police. If you are happy that your vehicle is on a firm, level, non-slippery surface, you should put your hazard lights on, switch the ignition to lock and remove the keys. Everyone needs to get out of the car.

Once you have done this you should loosen the wheel nuts slightly, but do not remove them. Many people find this hard to do using only their own strength (in garages they use mechanised tools to loosen the nuts) but the process can be made easier with the use of an oil based lubricating spray.

To assert maximum leverage get the lug or wrench to a position where it is parallel to the ground, then stamp or jump a little with one foot on to the end of the wrench. If you are unable to loosen the wheel nuts you will have to call for assistance.

It is best to loosen the nuts in a ‘five star pattern’. After removing one, next remove the nut furthest from it, then the one furthest from that, as if you were drawing the points of a pentagram.

Next you need to jack the car up. Consult the car manual to find the jack point and jack the vehicle up until the flat tyre is completely off the ground. If you place the jack in the wrong place you cold rip through the floor of your car. If you’re on soft ground, use a piece of board or carpet from your boot to stop the jack sinking as you use it. You should never attempt to go underneath the car when it is jacked up.

After doing this remove the wheel nuts. Place them in your pocket so they do not get lost. Remove the flat and mount the spare wheel. Use you fingers to tighten the nuts. Only tighten them loosely at this stage.

Once this is done lower the car off of the jack. When the car is back on the ground fully tighten the nuts using the wheel wrench. Make sure they are sufficiently tight. If you start to drive away and hear unusual noises the wheels are probably too loose.

Get to a Garage

Most spare tyres are only designed to get you home or to the nearest garage, where you can have a full replacement job done. Do not be tempted to keep your spare tyre on longer than necessary. They are not designed to be driven on at high speeds and it is generally advised that you do not drive for more than 50 miles when using one.

Although you may have changed your tyre successfully, it is important to visit a garage as soon as possible and purchase a new tyre.

It is much safer to replace two wheels at a time and have them both fitted on the same axle, preferably the back. Therefore, after puncturing or wearing out a tyre, you normally need to buy at least two new tyres rather than one.

Even if you fit a ‘standard’ tyre designed to last thousands of miles, once you’ve fitted it you need to get to a garage as soon as possible to have it properly torqued (tightened with great force).

Changing a Tyre at Home

So far this guide has talked about changing a wheel/fitting a spare tyre. However, if you haven’t had a roadside puncture or accident and simply want to replace your tyres because they are getting old, you do not need to replace the wheels at all.

Replacing the tyres on their own is actually a much harder job than changing a wheel. Before describing how to do it, it’s worth pointing out that it can ultimately be better to have it done at a garage.

For one thing, you will need to buy new tyres online or from a garage before you can fit them. In both cases fitting is often included in the price anyway. It is always better to have tyres fitted by professionals when possible and, seeing as it may not cost you extra, there’s no real reason to give yourself the hassle.

If you do have to pay extra it normally costs about £10 to £15 per tyre, but can cost more. Bear in mind that, if you already have new tyres, a garage my not be willing to fit them if they didn’t sell them to you (for insurance purposes).

If you still want to change your own tyres here’s how to go about it;

First, remove the wheel using the process described in the ‘Removing the Wheel’ section near the top of this guide.

Next let the tyre down. To do this uncap the valve and press on it so that the air escapes.

Once the tyre is deflated lay the wheel flat, with the hubcap facing up. Use a tyre iron (or a crow bar) to break the tyre’s bead (that part that anchors the tyre to the rim) by catching the inside of the tyre’s lip and wrenching it upwards, away from the rim.

Pull the tyre up so that the other, un-removed lip is now at the rim. Follow the same steps as before to prise it away. Then leverage the new tyres on using the tyre iron.

Before you reattach the wheel (using the steps from the ‘changing the wheel section’ of this article) you must first balance your tyres.

Balancing Tyres

This is a complicated process and it’s very important to get it right as the consequences of doing a poor job can be very serious (which is why we suggest going to a garage).

First you must remove any wheel weights. Next place the wheel on a wheel balancer. Spin the wheel and when it stops mark the spot at the top. This is the lightest spot on the wheel. Add wheel weights below this point.

Place this mark, with the weights attached, at a 3’o clock position, so that it’s parallel to the ground. Let go. If the tyre is balanced the mark will stay where it is. If it moves up, add more weight, if it moves down, take some away. Add or remove weights until the mark no longer moves from the 3 o’clock position when let go. It can take many attempts to get this right.

Once balanced attach the wheel using the technique discussed in the ‘changing a wheel section.’

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