Punctures - how to change a car wheel
Flats or punctures never happen on a warm sunny day, next to a parking bay or when you’re wearing old clothes, feeling strong and have heaps of time to spare. They always happen when you’re in your best clothes, are late for your date and find
yourself on a high-speed busy road. If you don't belong to an automobile association who will help you just might have to do it yourself!
It’s easy to change a wheel and it is a good idea to practise it on a warm, sunny day on your driveway, well before the need arises.
Park your car in a level place, engage first gear and apply the handbrake or set automatic transmission to PARK. Take out all the wheel-changing bits — jack, jack handle, wheel brace (spanner thing) and spare wheel. You might need to use the wheel brace to detach the spare wheel from its mount.
Take off the wheel trim (the fancy plastic hubcap). The wheel brace will often have a screwdriver-like end that can be slipped under the trim to prise it off. Some trims have plastic cable ties fitted, to stop theft. You’ll need to carry some snips or side cutters to cut these off. Some cars have alloy wheels (shiny grey-coloured metal) and usually don’t have wheel trims.
Loosen the wheel nuts with the wheel brace. Turn the nuts anticlockwise to loosen them, but don’t unscrew them completely at this stage. If they won’t move, you can gain more leverage by sliding a length of steel pipe (40–60 cm long) over the end of the wheel brace to extend it (with the wheel brace attached to a nut so the handle is on the left-hand side of the wheel). Press down on the outer end of the pipe.
Chock the wheel diagonally opposite the punctured tyre by placing two pieces of wood, or rocks you find on the roadside, on the ground against the tyre — one in front of it and one behind.
Jack up the car. Check again that your handbrake is on, or the transmission is in PARK. Place the jack under the car's frame nearest the wheel to be jacked up. Your owner's manual will have a picture of the safest place to put the jack, but generally there's a thin lip that runs along underneath the side of your car where the jack should go. Some cars have special jacks and special slots on the side of the car for the jack (most notably Volvos and BMWs).
When the jack is in place, insert the handle according to the directions on the jack, and turn or ratchet the handle to make the jack rise. If it lowers or can’t turn, rotate the handle the other way.
Raise the car high enough for clearance under the flat tyre, about 10 cm (remember that the new tyre will be full of air).
Remove the wheel nuts and put them in a safe place. They have a habit of rolling into nearby drains.
Remove the wheel with care. The tyre might have a sharp object imbedded in it, which could ruin your manicure.
Put on the spare wheel. This can be tricky! It is hard to line up the holes with the wheel studs because of the weight of the wheel. Be patient, because you don’t want to damage the threads on the wheel studs. Use any available timber (or your foot, if you’re feeling stable!) to help balance the wheel as you place the first hole over a stud. Still holding the wheel firmly, line up all the holes and put the wheel in place.
Refit the nuts. If they have a bevelled edge, this goes on the inside, with the flat edge to the outside. Tighten them by hand until they hold the wheel evenly.
Lower the car to the ground. Use the wheel brace to tighten the nuts as firmly as you can.
Replace the wheel trim. Fit one side and then give the other side a sharp thump! Of course you do not need to replace the wheel trim in a real puncture situation as you would drive as soon as possible to a tyre shop to get a repair and replace the spare ... thinking poetry all the way.
If you’re unsure about how well you did, get someone to check that your wheel is fitted properly.
If you get a flat tyre while driving, think safety first. Drive to a safe place away from speeding traffic. Driving on a totally flat tyre can damage your wheel rim, but a speeding car veering into you while you’re changing the tyre can do a lot more damage! Weigh up the situation well.
Be aware of other traffic. Use hazard lights or a warning triangle on the road.
Find as level a position as possible. Jacking a car on a slope can be dangerous.
If the spare you’ve just fitted is a skinny ‘space saver’ wheel, keep your
speed down to 80 km/h. Get your puncture repaired as soon as possible.
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