Can you change a wheel? Majority of British drivers say they can’t

55% of British drivers say they can't change a spare wheel

55% of British drivers say they can’t change a wheel

Complaining about the state of Britain’s roads is one of the most familiar grumbles amongst motorists. Whether it’s collapsing verges that can drag cars into hedgerows, potholes that will swallow a wheel whole or drains that seem to do a better job of acting like a plug than, well, a drain, there’s no shortage of hazards that can cause damage to cars.

So the results of a survey of 1000 British drivers paint an alarming picture. Despite our cars most vulnerable parts coming under daily assault, the majority of drivers admit they don’t know how to change a wheel.

It’s a concerning snapshot of the level of knowledge that drivers have when it comes to maintaining their car and staying safe on the road. And it tallies with Green Flag’s experience: in 2014, the breakdown company’s skilled technicians sailed – okay, drove their exactingly equipped vans and recovery trucks – to the rescue of nearly 200,000 members, and the second most common cause of the breakdown was to change a wheel with a flat tyre.

The survey was conduced on behalf of Leasing Options, and highlighted other worrying trends. Read on and ask yourself – honestly now – whether you’re a know-it-all, a know a bit or a know nothing?

79% of drivers can’t check their car’s brake fluid level

If you’re asking yourself why anyone would need to check their car’s brake fluid level, here’s a simple reason: without sufficient fluid, the braking system could fail. So, never ignore a red warning light if it shouts for attention from your car’s instrument display.

The vehicle handbook will explain where the filler for the brake system’s reservoir is situated (hint: it’s in the engine bay, not the glovebox) and it’s best, where practical, to check this when the engine is cool. The reservoir will be transparent plastic and have a minimum and maximum mark embossed on the side. The fluid level should be between these points; if you’re having trouble seeing clearly, shine a torch at it. If it’s below the minimum level, any local garage will be able to check the system and top it up.

55% of drivers can’t change a wheel

Given this is the second most common cause for Green Flag getting its members back on the roads, a lot of drivers could save themselves from a lot of inconvenience by knowing how to change a wheel when they get a puncture. Not all cars have a spare wheel, so check the handbook for instructions if a tyre-repair kit is fitted instead of a spare wheel and tyre.

The car should be safely parked off the road, on a flat, stable surface. Take the jack and wheel brace from the boot of the car, slightly loosen off the wheel nuts and then locate the jack at the car’s mounting point (check the handbook to locate these) and raise the car enough so the tyre isn’t touching the ground. Then undo the wheel nuts, carefully lift away the wheel, and replace with the spare wheel. (For more detail, see here.)

53% of drivers can’t adjust the steering wheel to get comfortable

How to adjust a steering wheel

Adjust a steering wheel’s position to stay comfortable and in control

Astonishing but true: the majority of drivers could be driving around in discomfort, as they don’t know how to move the steering wheel in and out or up and down, to help them be more comfortable and – more importantly – in control. If this sounds like you, the easiest thing to do is check the car’s handbook: there will be an explanation, and you’ll kick yourself once you realise just how easy it is. Typically, you release a lever, adjust the wheel, then close the lever. Hey presto!

34% of drivers don’t know how to check tyres’ air pressure

You just need one piece of equipment to keep your car’s tyres at the correct air pressure: a tyre inflation compressor. You can buy one for about £12, and can then carry out the check whether you’re at home or at an antique market loading up a back-breakingly heavy chest of drawers. The correct air pressure setting will be displayed either inside the fuel filler flap, the driver’s door or in the handbook.

Unscrew the dust caps from the tyres’ valves, attach the compressor and check they are inflated to the correct air pressure according the car maker’s instructions. Remember: a heavily laden car with the family aboard and a chest of drawers on the roof will need extra air in its tyres. You can then return this to the everyday setting later.

Expert advice: Everything you need to know to look after car tyres 

13 comments on “Can you change a wheel? Majority of British drivers say they can’t

  1. Jeremy 25/04/2016 9:05 AM

    The problem with a lot of car jack tools is that tool for undoing the wheel nuts is to short to enable most people to loosen the nuts. A good piece of advice is to buy an extendable tool from a car spares shop.

    • Mr R Brown 28/04/2016 8:58 AM

      I agree, so shouldn’t car tool kit include one of these?

  2. Mr R Brown 26/04/2016 5:43 PM

    Regarding wheel changing, I know of cases where even competent male drivers have been unable to loosen wheel nuts that were tightened at a garage, so I think your advice should explain a possible way for this problem could be overcome.

  3. Jim Molyneux 28/04/2016 6:55 PM

    How many new cars have spare wheels?? Mine doesnt

  4. mike 29/04/2016 1:33 PM

    My Audi has a plastic extender bar that is used to locate the wheel.Its a bit fragile so I have bought a strong steel one.essential to locate the wheel on the hub if they are big and heavy

  5. G W Colville 29/04/2016 2:04 PM

    I don’t have a spare tyre for my car. The manufacturer has ‘thoughtfully’ provided an aerosol can of an inflating gas so that I can then drive my car to the nearest garage or tyre shop to have the tyre replaced. So far I have not had do so but I’m dreading the time when I do have to do it as I have doubts about its efficacy.

  6. Brian Latham 29/04/2016 2:16 PM

    A lot of cars , incuding mine have no spare wheel or jack – just a tube of glue! Brian

  7. victor 29/04/2016 2:27 PM

    If you cannot undo wheel nuts by hand try by using body weight using your foot on wheel brace if works ask my know all son who spent two hours and bleeding fingers.came along stupid dad and bingo job done twenty years have passed and i still rib him.

  8. Duncan Greenyer 30/04/2016 2:19 PM

    If I’m changing a wheel or repairing my car at the side of the road, what am I paying Greenflag for?

    • Mike Shaw 16/06/2016 10:16 AM

      GreenFlag is there for the things you can’t handle yourself!

      Although I’m sure you’re a handyman extraordinaire, Duncan 🙂

  9. Mrs. Clark 01/05/2016 7:14 AM

    I was given an extended wheel nut lever. I am 60kilos and when standing on the wheel lever the wheel nut didn’t budge. Most new cars don’t have spare wheels.

  10. Nigel Carr 01/05/2016 9:29 PM

    Buy extending wheel brace. Wilkinson, Halfords, most motor factors have telescopic ones for less than a tenner. Invaluable. The reversING socket (supplied) fits popular sizes, but make sure you have the correct socket fitted before storing it.

  11. Ian Cooper 29/05/2016 4:00 AM

    Sometimes tyre repair depots use an air gun to put the wheel back on with it set to do up the wheel nuts on lorries. When I had to have 4 tyres replaced it took them over 4 hours to do it because it was off site. Another occasion I had to help them by using an adjustable kind of spanner that tightens up on the head of the nut and a scaffold pole about 5 feet long. The air gun they used was in use on their mobile repair unit. Another hazard is the car you recently bought hasn’t got a wheel nut brace with it. The dealer has put it in another car. On some cars the jacking points can come of when you go over a kerb to park on the pavement (MG.ZT’s and Rover 75’s)
    PS if you can’t stop the vehicle on the level you may be lucky that the manufacturer of your car has supplied you with a chock. The BL Princess had them as early as 1979 and the Rover 75 and MG ZT models came with them as well.

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