How to fix a flat tyre
If you're not sure how to fix a flat tyre, then this guide is definitely for you. We'll help you spot the signs of a puncture, what tools you'll need if one does happen and – more importantly – a step by step guide on how to change a tyre.
Reducing your risk of flat tyres
While you might not be sure of what to do with a flat tyre, changing one is actually easier than you might think. So to avoid being left stranded at the roadside, there are simple three things you can do: make sure you look after your tyres, take out some breakdown cover and learn how to fix a flat so you're prepared if the worst does happen.
While you can't guard against punctures completely, the good news is you can reduce your risk of getting one. And with failure rates on the rise, it suggests drivers aren't doing all they can to help themselves.
Looking after your tyres
We'll start with tyre maintenance – because looking after your tyres not only reduces the chances of a puncture or blow-out, it helps to keep your tyres legal.
It's estimated that as many as 8.5 million motorists could be driving with illegal tyres, with one in four motorists potentially driving with a safety-critical tyre each day.
Here's what you need to do to help keep your tyres in tip-top condition:
Check the pressure regularly
Every driver should know the optimum pressure for their car's tyres – it should be easy to find the pressure in your vehicle's handbook or you can use TyreSafe's online search tool.
Having under or over-inflated tyres can increase fuel consumption and make them more susceptible to wear and tear. Even worse, it can hinder your car's handling or result in a dangerous blow-out.
You should check your tyre pressure monthly or before any long journey. You can do this at a petrol station or using your own pressure gauge, and then adjust your tyre pressure accordingly.
Check for damage
While you're at it, look closely at each tyre's condition. Search for any signs of unusual wear and tear, or damage such as cuts, bulges or any objects that have punctured the tyre like a nail or glass.
If anything gives you cause for concern, take it to a professional mechanic or tyre specialist – they'll advise you whether the tyre can be repaired or needs to be replaced.
Check the tread
Many drivers fail to check their tyre treads. Did you know that the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm? Once it goes below this limit, you must have the tyre replaced.
To check your tyre tread depth, you can buy a specific gauge which will give you an accurate reading. Alternatively, you can use a 20p piece, which has an approximate border of 1.6mm. If you can see the outer border of the coin when you place it into the tread of your tyres, you will need to get the tyre replaced.
Keep your wheels aligned
Potholes, speed bumps and clipping curbs can all throw off your wheel alignment. And misalignment can result in uneven wear, shortening a tyre's lifespan. If you suspect your tyres are out of line, please get them checked by a tyre specialist.
What tools do you need to fix a flat tyre?
Even drivers who do their best to look after their tyres can experience a puncture – you can't always avoid the potholes, glass or rocks that pose a threat to your wheels.
Here's a list of the tools you'll need when replacing a flat tyre with your spare wheel:
As well as the three essentials, it's sensible to store the following safety items somewhere in your car:
How to fix a flat tyre
Once you have the right tools, you're all ready to replace a flat tyre. Here's a simple step-by-step guide to help you:
- Firstly, safely bring your car to a stop on a flat, stable surface and apply the handbrake.
- Switch on your hazard lights and, if you have one, place your warning triangle approximately 45 metres (147 feet) from your vehicle.
- If you have a wheel chock, set it under the wheel diagonally opposite the one you're replacing.
- Take out your spare wheel and tool kit and place it next to the tyre you're replacing.
- Remove your wheel trim.
- Make sure to follow the jacking location specified in your car's handbook. Start by placing your jack in the designated point closest to the wheel you're changing – but don't extend the jack just yet.
- Now loosen the wheel nuts with the wheel nut wrench but don't take them off completely. You may also need a locking wheel nut key for this.
- You can now use your jack to raise the car.
- You can completely undo the wheel nuts, leaving the top one until last to make it easier for you to lift the wheel off.
- Now put the spare tyre in place. Starting with the top wheel nut, work in a diagonal sequence and secure the spare wheel to the vehicle. The nuts only have to be finger-tight for the time being.
- You can then lower the jack until the wheel makes soft contact with the road.
- Working in a diagonal sequence once again, tighten the nuts with the wheel nut wrench.
- Put the flat tyre back where the spare was kept. Please make sure you follow any speed restrictions for the spare tyre. And finally, replace the spare as soon as you can.
If you're still worried about a flat tyre and not being able to change it, make sure you've got some breakdown cover in place.
Tyre safety FAQs
How can you identify a flat tyre?
You'll feel more vibrations through the steering wheel and the handling and response of your car will also be impacted.
What does the tyre pressure warning light indicate?
Chances are you've got a flat tyre or are about to get one. Please don't ignore it – check your tyre pressures at the next petrol station you pass.
Can you drive on a flat tyre?
If you experience a puncture while driving, bring your car to a stop when it's safe to do so and change it immediately. It's not just unsafe to drive on a flat tyre, it could damage your wheels, too. The exception to this rule is run-flat tyres.
What are run-flat tyres?
Run-flat tyres have reinforced sidewalls, which mean you can continue driving on them even with a puncture (but for a limited period).
How do I know if I have run-flat tyres?
Look for your tyre manufacturer's unique run-flat symbol on the side of the tyre. For example, Dunlop tyres have either ROF (RunOnFlat) or DSST (Dunlop Self-Supporting Technology) printed on them.
Can run-flat tyres be repaired?
Most garages and tyre specialists won't recommend repairing a damaged run-flat tyre. Because of the strengthened nature of the tyre itself, it's hard to know whether there is any further damage invisible to the naked eye. The safest thing to do is replace it, either with a similar run-flat tyre or a standard tyre. Your garage can suggest the right fit for your vehicle.
We always want to make sure you get back on the road safely, and as soon as possible. Ask our team about adding breakdown cover to your car insurance policy when you get a quote.
You'll find lots more ways to stay safe on the roads with our handy guides.
All information is correct at the time of publication. Hastings Direct cannot be held responsible for any misinformation displayed.