Expert advice: Changing a wheel after a puncture

Changing a wheel

Changing a wheel should be quite straightforward. Follow our expert advice to avoid common pitfalls (Picture © TyreSafe)

Changing a wheel: it’s one of the most common things Green Flag’s expert technicians are called out to fix and it’s also considered to be one of the simplest to do. There used to be a very macho perception that anyone can change a wheel and it was only people who didn’t want to get their hands dirty who called a breakdown service because they had a flat tyre. That’s nonsense. Changing a wheel can be tricky. Here’s a simple guide to de-mystify it. 

Changing a wheel: Do you really have to change it?
To save weight, rather than fit modern cars with a spare wheel they frequently have what is effectively a puncture repair kit, comprising special sealant and a compressor. The compressor plugs into the car’s 12-volt power source – what used to be called the ‘cigarette lighter’ – and pumps the tyre up while the sealant plugs the puncture. It’s important to remember it’s a temporary fix, and should allow drivers to continue to a tyre retailer, home, or a services where they can sort out a safer and more permanent solution.

Changing a wheel: Is your spare tyre up to the job?
Research by one tyre maker found that when there is a spare wheel in the boot, only around 70 per cent are actually in a road-worthy condition. When checking your tyres’ air pressure, make sure you include the spare. Over time, tyres lose pressure whether they’re used or not so there’s every chance you could put a spare on and find that it’s nearly as flat as the tyre it’s replacing.

Changing a wheel: Have you got all the kit?
If you’re going to change a tyre, you need to have a jack, a wheel brace and the key for the locking wheel nut if your car has these. Garages will frequently use a locking wheel nut key and put it back where they thought it was rather than where you know it was. It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re familiar with the jack and wheel brace. It’s better to find out where all this lives and how it works at home during good weather. When you need to do it for real, the chances are it will be dark and raining!

Changing a wheel: Extra kit to consider
Even if your car has all the kit above, I’d also make sure you’ve got a reflective jacket to wear, a torch of some description and a pair of disposable gloves. It’s also worth having a waterproof jacket. If it’s raining it’ll keep you dry, if it’s dry it’ll keep you clean.

Expert advice: Recognising common car problems

Changing a wheel: How to do it
First of all make sure the car is parked safely on flat, firm ground. The engine must be switched off and the parking brake applied. Initially just loosen off the wheel nuts using the wheel brace. Then find the jacking points under the car (the vehicle’s handbook will show you where these are) and jack the car up. Remove the wheel nuts from the top first. Before you remove the bottom nut, put your foot against the wheel to stop it falling off the hub.

Lift the spare wheel on to the hub; it’s best for your back to do this on your knees, rather than bending down. Then do the nuts up, first to be finger tight, then using the wheel brace. Don’t tighten them up too much at this point. Let the car down off the jack and give the nuts a final tighten. Remember, if you’re using a skinny space saver tyre, the vehicle’s speed will be limited; check the handbook or the wheel itself to find out what maximum speed is permitted.

Changing a wheel: Common problems
One of the most frequent things we get called out for is when wheels get stuck on. This frequently happens with alloy wheels because hot temperatures can cause them to weld themselves to the hubs they’re mounted on. All Green Flag technicians are equipped with the right kind of hammer and jack to ensure even the most stubbornly stuck wheel can be removed safely. Equally, you might be beside a motorway or in another dangerous location. If you are concerned for your safety, call your breakdown company. That’s what we’re here for.

Expert advice: What to do if your car breaks down

Changing a wheel* Nick Reid is a fellow of the Institute of the Motor Industry and head of transformation at Green Flag

2 comments on “Expert advice: Changing a wheel after a puncture

  1. Annie Marks December 14, 2015 1:46 pm

    I have unfortunately had to change a flat tire many times. It is always nice to know that there are resources available out there to help you, if you ever need them. I am glad that you pointed out that there are many things you can change yourself and not just a flat tire. Thank you for sharing!

  2. mike monaghan July 24, 2016 6:47 pm

    The wheel lock nut on my Toyota Avensis 2004 is impossible to remove with the standard hand tool equipment and wheel lock attachment supplied with the car as it slips off when attempting to slacken to remove wheel to replace with my spare wheel Any advice please as I will need to drive to garage with a flat tyre with possible aluminium wheel damage to get wheel removed presumably using pneumatic tools before getting a new tyre Problem seems that garages use these tools and over tighten the nuts rendering them impossible to slacken using hand tools provided and the poor design of the Toyota lock nuts giving sufficient grip of the ell shaped lever

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