Thursday 07/01/16

Welcome to the New Year, and welcome back to my blog. I hope you have had a rest and are ready to face the New Year with a renewed sense of purpose, and a determination to make the most of the opportunities life presents to you. Tonight, I’m going to teach you how to deal with one of those opportunities; one that most drivers dread..... changing a tyre.

It doesn’t matter what sort of car you drive, or what part of the world you drive in, there is a very good chance that you will eventually have to change a tyre. It doesn’t matter if you belong to an Auto Club, knowing how to change a tyre is an essential skill to learn (especially if your flat tyre happens when you are several hours away from civilisation). Anyway, why would you want to wait for an hour or two for the Auto Club to arrive when you can fix the problem yourself in only a few minutes?

To replace a tyre you are going to need a few basic items to get the job done:

  • Spare tyre (make sure you check this tyre’s pressure every time you inspect you other tyres)
  • Car jack
  • 4-Way wheel brace (it looks like an X with a socket at the end of each arm)
  • Tyre iron
  • Hi-Visibility safety vest
  • Free-standing torch (if you have to change a tyre at night you don’t want to hold a torch in your mouth while you are trying to work)

A word of advice: just like your household tools, DO NOT take the cheap option when you are buying tools for your car. I learned this the hard way when I was a teenager. My job didn’t pay much money, so I purchased the cheapest wheel brace I could from the auto shop. Anyway, my car got a flat and I had to change the tyre. The wheel nuts on my second-hand car hadn’t been removed in many years, and they refused to budge. The only way I could get the nuts to move was by doing a palm-heel strike onto the wheel brace (very similar to the way karate black belts break bricks). After three nuts were loosened my luck ran out. The fourth strike snapped the sub-standard weld holding the wheel brace together, and I slammed my knuckles into the tarmac. Lesson learned

Ok, back to changing your tyre. You’re driving along and you hear the dreaded thub-thub-thub coming from under your car (or your car suddenly starts to handle like a shopping trolley), what do you do?

  1. First thing is don’t panic. Calmly pull over to the side of the road to the first available FLAT surface, where there is sufficient room for you to work safely. Do not park on a slope, and do not just stop in the middle of the road. Park your car in gear and put on the handbrake; this will reduce the chance of your car rolling away while you are working on it. Put your hazard lights on, you want to draw attention to your car and the fact there is a person working in close proximity to the road. Next, put on your safety vest. This gives other road users the best chance of seeing you before it’s too late.
  2. Use your tyre iron to remove the hubcap. You will use the hubcap (or your pocket) to keep the wheel nuts in. DO NOT just put them on the ground. Even losing one wheel nut would be a disaster.
  3. Use the wheel brace to loosen the wheel nuts (by turning them anti-clockwise). Notice I said loosen, not remove them. It doesn’t matter which nut you start with, the next nut you loosen must be on the opposite side of the wheel (think of when you were a kid and you tried to draw a 5 pointed star with one continuous line). This allows the rim to be removed from the axle without creating uneven pressure on the rim by loosening one side first. If your tyres were put on in an auto shop, the wheel nuts will done up very tight.
  4. Put the jack on solid ground under the car. Make sure the jack will make contact with a structurally sound part of the chassis; the owner’s manual will specify these locations for your car. Pump the jack handle until the jack touches the bottom of your car. Once the chassis is sitting stable on the jack, pump the handle another two or three times. You only need the wheel to be an inch or two from the ground to remove it from the car.
  5. Carefully remove the wheel nuts and put them in a safe place (as described above). Try not to shake the car too much, you don’t want to unbalance the jack. When you remove the wheel immediately lay it on its side, you don’t want it to roll away (it’s not as funny as it sounds).
  6. Put spare tyre in place and finger-tighten the wheel nuts.
  7. Lower the car to the ground and remove the jack.
  8. Use the wheel brace to tighten the wheel nuts (turn them clockwise and use the same star-type pattern you used to loosen them). Make sure you really tighten the wheel nuts; you don’t want the wheel to fly off as you drive away.
  9. Pack your gear away and resume your trip. Don’t forget to get your tyre fixed or replaced ASAP; you don’t know when your next flat tyre will happen.
  10. Even though you have your hazard lights on, and you’re wearing a Hi-Vis vest, you must always keep an eye on the traffic. Your safety is your responsibility; you can’t simply hope everyone else will be looking out for you.

If you found the information in tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media. Information is only useful if it is shared. The better educated people are, the less likely they are to suffer a tragic mishap when dealing with something as simple as a flat tyre.