Getting a flat tyre is never convenient and can, in some circumstances, be unsafe. Knowing how to change a tyre is a handy life skill to have, so we’ve invited an expert to talk us through the process.
Mark Cividin is Regional Manager for Digicall Assist, which provides roadside assistance for some Youi car insurance holders.1 Before we get started, Cividin has something to clarify: “When we say ‘change a tyre’ what we really mean is ‘change a wheel’.”
He goes on to explain that changing a tyre means removing the rubber tyre from the wheel rim and replacing it with a new one – this is not something you can do by the roadside, nor is it something your roadside assistance provider is likely to offer. Changing a wheel is taking the whole wheel (with its tyre) off the car and replacing it with a spare. All clear? Great, let’s move on.
What you will need to change a flat tyre
If you’re road-tripping long distances, it might be a good idea having a roadworthy spare wheel and the right tools. It will help you deal with a flat tyre if it happens.
“It’s important to make sure your spare wheel is fit-for-purpose,” says Cividin. “For example, a car may have modified wheels – larger than standard – but your spare wheel may not be compatible with the wheels on the car.”
It’s worth noting that the traditional practice of having a spare wheel and tyre in the boot is changing, as most electric vehicles don’t carry one and some new cars come only with a puncture repair kit.2 However, if your car does have a standard spare in the boot, check that it’s fully inflated, and that you have the following:
- a car jack (to raise the car)
- a wheel brace or lug wrench (to undo the wheel nuts)
- a lock-nut adaptor
- the owner’s manual for guidance
The tools should be in the boot with the spare, and the owner’s manual should tell you where to find them if it’s not obvious.
“It’s important that changing the wheel – not just the tyre – must be approached in a methodical way,” says Cividin, who recommends following the eight steps below:
1. Find a safe place to change the tyre
If you’re driving and suspect you have a flat car tyre, find a safe place to stop as soon as you can. Pull over somewhere that’s out of the way of passing traffic, and flat and firm enough to support the car jack. Turn your hazard lights on and leave them on while you are changing the tyre. Put your reflective warning triangle on the road, if you have one. (The Queensland Government offers a downloadable breakdown safety guide that can be printed out and stored in your glovebox.3)
“If you’re in an area with safety concerns – such as a freeway or other high-speed traffic areas – remain in your car and call roadside assistance as your vehicle might need to be towed to safety before changing the tyre,” says Cividin.
Once you’re in a safe location, turn the engine off, engage the handbrake, and put the car into neutral or park. Make sure any passengers are out of the car but safely away from traffic. Put a chock – a brick or stone – behind the diagonally opposite wheel to the flat one to stop the car from rolling while jacked up. For example, if the back-right tyre is flat, put a chock behind the front-left wheel.
Never change a tyre with your back to the oncoming traffic.
2. Get the spare wheel organised
Remove the spare wheel from the vehicle. Remove the hubcap of the tyre you need to change (if it has one) and, using the wheel brace, loosen each of the wheel nuts by just one turn.
3. Raise the car using the jack
Find the correct jacking points (you can check your owner’s manual for guidance). The jacking points are strong enough to hold up the car and usually marked with small grooves under the car.
Place the spare wheel under the car as an extra safety precaution; it will help support the vehicle if the car jack gives way.
“Make sure the face of the spare wheel, where the hubcap goes, is uppermost so the rim doesn’t get damaged,” warns Cividin.
Turn the jack handle clockwise to raise the car until it’s 5-10cm off the ground, taking the weight off the flat tyre. Never get under the car or place any part of your body under the car while it’s supported by the jack.
4. Remove the wheel
Now that the wheel is off the ground, use the wheel brace to loosen the wheel nuts. Apply force in an anticlockwise direction to slightly loosen each wheel nut in turn. If the nuts are too tight for you to remove, then stop – uncontrolled force from stepping on tools such as a tyre lever may cause injury or damage. Instead, you may need to call for help – if you have Comprehensive car insurance with Youi, you may be able to call Youi’s roadside assistance team on 131 117.1
When the wheel nuts are loose, remove the wheel and swap it for the spare, placing the wheel with the flat tyre under the car for added support in case the jack fails.
5. Put the spare tyre and wheel in position
Lift the spare wheel onto the wheel hub, fitting it properly against the wheel nut bolt holes. Screw the wheel nuts in by hand as far as you can, starting with the bottom nut.
6. Lower the car jack
Remove the flat tyre from under the car, and turn the jack handle until the car has fully lowered and the new wheel and tyre take the weight of the car. Remove the jack from under the car.
7. Tighten the wheel nuts
Use the wheel brace to tighten the wheel nuts on the new wheel. If your hubcap fits the spare wheel, place it on now.
8. Repack your equipment
Stow the damaged tyre and wheel, as well as all tools, back in the boot.
And there you have it – our expert’s tips on how to change a car tyre. But you’re not quite done.
“Remember to get your faulty tyre repaired and back on your vehicle as soon as possible, so you don’t get caught out next time you have a flat,” says Cividin.
It could be useful to note whether the spare you’re carrying is a spacesaver tyre or a full-size tyre. Spacesavers are smaller than full-size tyres and could get you out of a bind, though these are only designed to travel short distances and should be replaced as soon as possible.4
What if you’re on that outback road-trip-of-a-lifetime and are far from help? No dramas, says Cividin.
“There’s almost nowhere we don’t go, as long as it’s accessible by 2WD. We try our utmost to reach everyone.”
1 Youi Roadside Assist included with Comprehensive cover only. Exclusions, limits and additional fees may apply. Cover not available within first 24 hours of taking out, or upgrading to, Comprehensive cover. See the T&Cs and PDS for full details.
2 Source: carsales – Whatever happened to the spare wheel? - carsales.com.au, 2018
3 Source: Qld Government – Breakdown safety on motorways and freeways
4 Source: carsales – What you need to know – Spacesaver spare tyre, 2018