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Puncture, how to change a wheel and get back on the road

Undoing wheel nuts on a punctured wheel

Around 55% of motorists don’t know how to change a wheel. These days, less than half of new cars come with a standard spare tyre. In fact, many just have a puncture repair kit instead. But what happens if you get a puncture and cannot call out a breakdown recovery service? Perhaps you need to get back on the road quicker than they can to you.

Spare wheel or puncture repair kit?

It sounds obvious, but check whether you have a spare wheel or puncture repair kit. If you just have a kit, then familiarise yourself with it and know what you need to do with it. But if you do have a spare wheel, you should get to know how to change it. You’ll never know when you’ll get a puncture. While many of us have never done it ourselves, it’s actually a lot more straightforward than people imagine.

Safety first

Even if you feel confident with changing a tyre, you must always do so safely, and never take risks.

  • Before you do anything, read your vehicle’s handbook. It’s important that you always follow what it says.

  • Don’t change the wheel on the side of the road or on a motorway’s hard shoulder. Instead, you should pull over well away from the traffic if you can, and call your breakdown recovery service.

  • Don’t Change your wheel on loose, uneven or soft ground.

  • Never do anything under your vehicle when you’ve raised it on a jack.

  • Always use the jack at the correct jacking points, which you’ll find listed in your handbook. Attaching the jack incorrectly, can damage your vehicle and risk it collapsing.

Things you will need

You will need a few things to help you repair or change a punctured tyre. It’s worth making sure you always have these items in your car, just in case.

Wheel with a puncture

  • Your vehicle’s handbook.

  • The spare wheel, adequately inflated and with enough tread.

  • The jack.

  • An extendable wheel wrench with locking wheel-nut adaptor.

  • At least one wheel block or wedge, to stop your car rolling when up on the jack.

  • Gloves, as wheels and tyres are often very dirty.

  • An old towel or something to kneel on.

  • Cutters or a sharp knife to cut cable ties holding the wheel trims in place.

  • A torch.

Before you start

Take your time to plan what you need to do. You don’t want the vehicle raised longer than necessary. Hopefully, common sense will tell you to turn off your engine. You must also turn on your hazard lights to warn other road users. Make sure you’ve put your handbrake on and the vehicle into first gear, or P if an automatic. You then need to:

  • Put the block or wedge under the wheel that’s diagonally opposite to the wheel you want to replace.

  • Get out the spare wheel and put it on the ground, near to the damaged one.

  • Remove the wheel trim, by either cutting cable ties or levering it off.

  • Position the jack nearest to the wheel needing changing, in the lifting position.

  • Ensure the head of the jack engages properly and extend it until it just starts to lift the vehicle. You shouldn’t lift your vehicle any further at this stage.

  • Loosen the wheel nuts, which probably need twisting anticlockwise. You may have to remove protective covers over the wheel nuts.

  • Even spread your body weight on both feet and keep your back straight. Apply effort downwards in a controlled way, so you don’t end up losing your balance.

Puncture repair kit with spare wheel

Lifting the vehicle

  • Raise the jack until the wheel just lifts off the ground

  • Remove the loose wheel nuts while keeping the wheel in position with your knee or foot

  • Leave the top one until last, so you can use both hands to lift the wheel away from the hub

Putting on the spare

  • You will need to follow the removal process, but in reverse.

  • Loosely fit the top wheel nut first, to secure the wheel.

  • Tighten the remaining wheel nuts with your hand in a diagonal order.

  • Lower the jack slowly until the wheel just touches the ground and won’t turn.

  • Use the wrench to fully tighten the wheel nuts in a diagonal sequence.

Remember once you have replaced the puncture

If you have a temporary, smaller spare, make sure you check for any restrictions. Generally, you can only travel up to 50mph on a smaller spare. But you must replace it with a normal wheel as soon as possible. When you get to the garage, ask them to replace or repair the damaged tyre and tighten your wheel nuts.