• All motorists will face the unpleasantness of being stuck with a flat tyre.
• The following tips can help you change the tyre in a matter of minutes.
• Car owners are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the tools in their vehicles.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
That moment when you are cruising along the freeway, and you suddenly feel a jerk on the steering wheel, accompanied by a 'flutter-flutter' sound, is one that will always drop your heart right out of your socks.
A flat wheel always seems to manifest at the most inconvenient time. But if you are prepared to deal with it, you could be well on your way again in a couple of minutes.
Does your car have run flat tyres?
Check if your car is fitted with run-flat tyres. Adam Ford of A&K Motors in Jo'burg, who we consulted on this how-to-feature, says so many of his customers have been unaware that their cars have run-flat tyres fitted. These items enable you to drive slowly to the nearest service station and are quite safe to use at slow speeds ( 80km/h) for up to 100km. (Check your owner's manual for details.)
The down-side of run-flat tyres is that cars thus equipped don't carry a spare wheel. And if your flat occurs a few hundred km away from the nearest town, you are in for a good few hours of frustration.
Some high-performance sporty cars come with a temporary puncture fix solution kit and a small electric pump to re-inflate a tyre. Check this out with your dealer and familiarise yourself with the way these inflation kits work.
If your car has conventional tyres fitted, along with a spare wheel, take note of the following tips on how to change a tyre.
Step 1. Take the time out every month to ensure that your car's spare wheel is correctly inflated. This is something you really should do regularly.
Step 2. Check that the jack and wheel spanner are present and in good working order, and familiarise yourself with the way these work. Your owner's book should give you easy-to-understand details on this.
Step 3. Female motorist take note: Pack a pair of rugged running shoes or boots in the luggage area of your car. The reason for this is that you might well need to use leg-power to loosen the wheel nuts on your car. Your legs are far stronger than your arms, and if you are wearing high heels, your nut-loosening task will instantly be more difficult.
Step 4. Some workshops or tyre fitment centres make the wheel nuts on cars far too tight, using pneumatic power. To gain extra leverage for loosening over-tight wheel nuts, a sturdy hollow steel pipe, with an inside diameter big enough to slip over the handle-end of the wheel spanner, will supply you with extra leverage. This pipe should ideally be 1.0 to 1.5 metres in length. Again, it would be best if you stowed this in the luggage compartment securely, along with those sturdy boots.
What is the most inopportune time you had to change a tyre? Email us with your story or use the comment section below.
Doing the job
Step 1. Pull the car off the road and park the car on a level, even surface if possible. Leave the car in first gear or in Park - if it's automatic.
Step 2. It is a good idea to block the remaining wheels with bricks or stones, as an added precaution to prevent the car from rolling forwards or backwards. Once you have jacked up the corner where you need to change the wheel, but that jacking-up bit comes later.
Step 3. Remove the wheel-cap (if fitted) and apply the wheel spanner to the first nut. You must fit the wheel spanner in such a way that the socket is securely fitted to the nut, and the handle is pointing to the left side of each nut. The handle should be at an angle that is parallel to the road or slightly above the parallel line. The reason for this is that wheel nuts loosen in an anti-clockwise direction. If the handle points to the right, you won't get the required force to loosen the nut.
Step 4. With the handle pointing to the left, you now apply a strong downward force with your foot (encased in a sturdy shoe) to loosen the nut initially. You apply this same technique to loosen the other nuts, but only by a quarter of a turn on each, while the punctured wheel is still on the ground. If using your leg-power, by standing on the spanner handle, still fails to loosen the nut, this is the point at which that extra length of pipe can be fitted over the spanner handle. The extra metre's leverage will surely do the trick!
The reason to loosen the nuts while the car is grounded is that the car will be less stable once you jack it up, and you don't want to apply lots of force then to loosen fully-tight wheel nuts. Do not, at this stage, loosen the nut by more than half a turn. The idea is just to get the nuts easy to turn once you jack the car up.
Step 5. The next step is to locate the jacking point on the underside of the car. Generally, this will be on a ridge where the door sill joins the floor-pan. Consult your owner's manual to check for the appropriate jacking point.
Step 6. The jack should be adjusted at this stage so that it just slips under the car to the jack point, with its base firmly on the ground. Different cars are fitted with different jacks with a number of different cranking designs. Consult your owner's book if you are not sure how to operate it.
Step7. With the jack securely positioned, you can now jack the car up. Note that you should jack the car up high enough so that the fully-inflated spare wheel will have enough clearance to fit into the space vacated by the flat spare wheel. The flat spare wheel will have a smaller diameter, so allow for the extra clearance you will need to fit the inflated wheel.
Step 8. Now you can fully remove all the wheel nuts or bolts ( modern cars have both types fitted) using the wheel spanner. They should loosen easily in an anti-clockwise direction. Store them in a safe place close by for re-fitment. Make sure they are clean, so don't just drop them in the sand where they will pick up grit and damage the threads when you re-install them.
Step 9. Remove the wheel with the flat tyre. Sometimes, according to Adam Ford, the wheels can form a slight bond with the hub over time, even after the nuts have been removed. A sharp kick to the inside of the wheel will loosen this, enabling the flat wheel to be removed.
Step 10. Position the fully-inflated spare correctly on the wheel hub, so that the holes on the wheel line up with the holes on the hub. This is easy if a stud and nut system is used, but many modern cars use wheel bots, so aligning them is a bit more tricky.
Step 11. Insert the bolts by hand and screw each one home with your fingers, turning in a clockwise direction. Then apply the wheel spanner and lightly tighten each one.
Step 12. Lower the car back down so that the wheel is on the ground. Loosen the jack a few more turns so that it can be removed without snagging on the underside of the car.
Step 13. With the car standing firmly on its newly-inflated wheel and tyre, now you should tighten the wheel bolts securely. Do this in a cross pattern, so tighten the top one first, then the bottom, then the left, then the right. The point here is to ensure that the wheel is tightened evenly on the hub. The average person should be able to apply enough force using the arms to tighten the nuts sufficiently. Then replace the wheel cap, if fitted.
Step 14. Pack all the tools away, as well as the wheel with a flat. Drive directly to the nearest service station or tyre fitment centre and get the tyre repaired or replaced. Don't delay this. You never know when you might pick up a pesky puncture again!