Flat tyres

How to change a wheel safely

Don't try to change a wheel on the hard shoulder of a motorway or at the side of a road

Don't try to change a wheel on the hard shoulder of a motorway or at the side of a road

To save space and weight, many new cars have a punture repair kit - sealant and compressor - rather than a spare wheel.  If you don't have a spare it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with the kit provided so you'll know what to do if you do get a puncture.

If your car does have a spare it's a good idea to practise changing a wheel at home in the daylight when the weather's warm and dry. Then, if you do suffer a puncture you'll be able to cope more easily, even if it's dark, cold or wet.

Given a safe environment, the right tools and some basic knowledge, changing a wheel on any vehicle should be fairly straightforward. Check the handbook first as this might include vehicle specific advice.

Where the handbook and our advice appear to be in conflict, follow the advice in the handbook.

For your own safety

  • Don't try to change a wheel on the hard shoulder of a motorway or at the side of a road. Turn off or pull over well away from the traffic and call for help.
  • Don't try to change a wheel on soft, loose or uneven ground.
  • Don't try to change a wheel with passengers still in the car. Move everyone to a place of safety, well away from the vehicle and carriageway.
  • Don't work under a car while it's raised on a jack.
  • Don't try to use the jack anywhere other than at the specified jacking points – attaching the jack in the wrong place can cause damage to the car and/or risks it collapsing when lifted.

What you'll need

  • handbook - showing where to attach the jack
  • spare wheel - with adequate tread and correctly inflated
  • vehicle jack
  • wheel-nut wrenchwith extension bar and locking wheel nut adaptor if fitted
  • at least one wheel chock
  • gloves – the wheel/tyre will be dirty
  • something to kneel on – the ground will be dirty too
  • sharp knife or cutters to remove cable ties if these are used to hold wheel trims in place
  • torch
  • reflective jacket and sensible/strong shoes for your own safety

Before lifting the car

  1. Plan the job so that the vehicle is raised for the minimum amount of time.
  2. Switch off the engine and turn on the hazard lights.
  3. Apply the handbrake and engage first gear (or 'P' if an automatic).
  4. Chock the road wheel diagonally opposite the one to be replaced.
  5. Remove the spare from the boot/carrier – a carrier under the vehicle may be rusty and difficult to move.
  6. Lay the spare on the ground where it will be convenient for fitting.
  7. Remove the wheel trim (if fitted) – you may have to cut cable ties and/or lever the trim off.
  8. Place the jack in the recommended lifting point closest to the wheel to be removed. Ensure that the jack head engages correctly (as shown in the handbook) and extend the jack until it just starts to lift the car on its springs. Don't lift the car any further yet.
  9. Slacken off the wheel nuts/bolts (most turn anti–clockwise to undo) using the vehicle's wheel brace and locking wheel-nut adapter if required. (There might be a protective cover over locking wheel nuts.)
  10. Keep your back straight and body weight evenly distributed on both feet. Apply effort downward and in a controlled way so that when the nut finally 'breaks' you won't lose your balance or fall over. You can achieve greater efficiency by applying controlled effort through the foot, but only if you can support your upper body.

Lifting the car

Raise the jack to lift the vehicle sufficiently so that the wheel is just clear of the ground.

Remove the slackened wheel nuts/bolts while keeping the wheel in position on the hub using a knee or toe – leave the top one until last so that both hands are free to lift the wheel away from the hub.

Fitting the spare

Fitting the spare is the reverse of the removal procedure – secure the wheel by refitting the top bolt/nut first, and tighten all the nuts by hand first in stages and in a diagonal sequence.

Don't oil the bolts/nuts before refitting them, as this will make them more likely to work lose.

Carefully lower the wheel to make contact with the ground before fully tightening the wheel nuts – again in diagonal sequence.

Stow the damaged wheel safety. Replace it in the carrier or boot well.

And finally

If the spare is a temporary-use 'skinny' spare, note any restrictions on use – they're typically limited to 50mph and should be replaced with a normal tyre as soon as possible. Some dashboard lights may come on while a space saver spare is used because systems like ABS, traction control and some automatic gearboxes can be upset by odd tyre sizes.

  • Check/adjust the pressure in the 'new' tyre as soon as possible.
  • Get the wheel nuts tightened to the correct torque figure as soon as possible.
  • Get the damaged tyre replaced or repaired as soon as possible.

(1 November 2011)