How to fix a flat tyre
Learning how to fix a flat tyre is one of those things we all know we should learn but always end up saying, "I'll do it tomorrow." And then tomorrow comes, you drive off in your car and your tyre gets a puncture. You stand there, waiting for assistance, wishing you'd taken the time to learn how to fix it.
Despite what you might think, it's very easy to learn how to fix a flat tyre and there are checks you can do to reduce the risk of a puncture happening.
So, save yourself the annoyance of being stranded at the side of the road, and read on to learn how to fix a flat tyre.
Tyres are a common cause of breakdowns
Damaged or flat tyres are one of the most common causes of car breakdowns. While there are some hazards (such as potholes, glass or rocks) that are unavoidable, there are some causes of tyre issues that can be avoided. Here are some of the most common reasons for tyre failure and the measures you can take to ensure longer tyre life.
Under or over inflation
Under or over inflating your tyres can impact tyre life and traction, braking and driving comfort. Under inflating can cause overheating as it generates excessive flexing of the tyre casing. Over inflation can also lead to premature wear and it reduces the grip of your tyres. Make sure you're inflating your tyres correctly by checking the recommended tyre pressure in your car's user manual.
The legal limit for car tyre tread depth is 1.6mm across 75% of the tyre. Regularly check the tread depth of your car to make sure you're within the legal limit. If you're below this limit, not only is it illegal, but it increases your chance of tyre damage. Low tread depth also lowers your car's grip, and this can increase your chances of aquaplaning in wet weather conditions.
If you have uneven tyre wear, your wheels could be misaligned. There are a number of factors that can affect wheel alignment so check your tyres regularly. Luckily, wheel alignment can be a straightforward issue to fix, so have it sorted as soon as possible to save you time and money in the long run.
The tools you'll need
Even if you carry out regular checks on your tyres, you can't always avoid getting a flat tyre. Before we get on to how to fix a flat tyre, here's a list of tools you'll need:
- A spare wheel with adequate tread and correct inflation.
- A wheel nut wrench and you may need a locking wheel nut adaptor.
- A vehicle jack.
Some additional tools you should make sure are carried in your car include:
- A wheel chock
- Something soft to kneel on
- A knife as you may need to cut any cable ties that are securing wheel trims.
- A torch and reflective jacket in case you have to change your wheel in poor light.
- Strong shoes or boots as a wheel can do a lot of damage if you drop it on your foot.
How to change the tyre
Now you know the causes and preventions and what tools you'll need, here's a 13-step guide on how to fix a flat tyre.
- Pull over to a safe place that has a flat, even section of ground. Apply the handbrake and engage first gear or 'P' if you drive an automatic.
- Put your hazard lights on, set out your warning triangle and put on a reflective jacket to make yourself visible to other road users.
- Put your wheel chock under the wheel diagonally opposite the one you're replacing.
- Locate and remove your spare wheel along with your tool kit. Lay your spare on the ground in a spot that will be convenient for fitting.
- Remove your wheel trim. If this is fitted you may need to cut cable ties.
- Place the car jack in the correct position closest to the wheel you're changing. Ensure the jack head engages properly (as per your handbook) and extend the jack until it just starts to lift the vehicle on its springs. Don't lift it any higher yet.
- Use the wheel wrench, and if needed, your wheel-nut adapter, to loosen the wheel nuts — most turn anticlockwise. Don't take them off completely.
- Raise the jack so the wheel is just off the ground.
- Use your knee or foot to keep the wheel in position and remove the wheel nuts, leaving the top one until last so you can use your hands to lift the wheel away.
- Secure the spare by loosely refitting the top wheel nut first. Tighten all the nuts by hand and work in a diagonal sequence.
- Once tightened, carefully lower the jack until the wheel just touches the ground.
- Tighten the wheel nuts with the wheel wrench, again working in a diagonal sequence.
- Stow the damaged wheel where the spare was kept. Make sure the spare is inflated correctly and check for any restrictions. Replace the spare and the damaged wheel as soon as you can.
If you want to watch someone fixing a spare tyre, this video can help.
Fixing a tyre on the roadside can be hazardous so follow these tips to ensure your safety when changing a tyre:
- Never change a tyre on the hard shoulder of a motorway or at the side of the road. If you're unable to get to a safe place, pull over as far from traffic as possible and call for assistance.
- Don't try to change a wheel on loose, soft or uneven ground.
- Don't carry out work under your vehicle when the jack is raised.
- Only use your jack at the correct jacking points, which can be found in your handbook.
- Never try changing a wheel with passengers in the car. Whatever the weather, make sure passengers are in a safe place, away from the road and the vehicle.
- Having a flat tyre can be quite stressful, so if you're unsure about anything, call your breakdown cover provider. It's better to wait for assistance than to have a go and put yourself in danger.