Before you start
If you haven't changed a tyre before, consider a training run. Choose a dry day, a flat surface and when you've got plenty of time.
- Keep a small plastic sheet, a pair of gloves to protect your hands and a torch in your car.
- Always make sure the spare is inflated - check it regularly - the jack is in the right place and that you read the car manual.
Instructions for changing a car tyre
Check out the gear in your car: make sure that your spare tyre and tools are in good condition. Do not attempt to change the tyre if they're not. Make sure that your personal safety will not be compromised. Be seen: safety clothing (if you have any) and turn on your hazard lights!
Right, here's how to change your car tyre:
- Block the wheels on the side not being lifted. Make sure no one's inside. Apply handbrake and put the vehicle in park (if automatic) or in gear (if it's a manual).
- Take off the wheel cover.
- Loosen the wheel nuts while the vehicle is on the ground. You may have to stomp on the wheel brace to get some movement.
- Put the jack together and place it on firm ground, as flat as possible. Every car is different and you can do a bit of damage if you put this in the wrong location - it needs to go in the reinforced area of the sill (if it's a sill jack). The sill is the body section below the base of the door openings.
- Slowly raise the vehicle.
- Remove the nuts and remove the wheel, pulling towards you with both hands.
- Lift the new wheel. Read the manufacturer's instructions if using a space saver. These are a temporary measure and are not meant to be driven long distances or at speed.
- Replace the wheel nuts, making sure these go on the right way, taper towards the wheel. Tighten snugly.
- Lower the car, then tighten them properly - standing on the wrench handle to give a light bounce, if you had to stand on it to loosen them. If you over-tighten the nuts you can warp the brake components, but not to tighten them enough is dangerous.
- Replace the wheel cover or hubcap.
- Take the wheel to a service agent for repair or replacement.
When you've finished kneeling on your plastic sheet, use it to protect your boot from the dirty tyre. If you have a space saver, do not travel faster than 80 km/h and get the tyre fixed as soon as possible.
Changing tyres on tricky car models
Some models, such as Alfa Romeo and Fiat, do not have studs extending from the hub to hang the wheel on. Instead their wheels have centring flanges with small pins. The tool kit includes a longer pin which screws into a bolt hole. Lifting the wheel onto this lines it up perfectly.
To prevent theft, alloy wheels have locking nuts, which won't fit a standard socket. When buying a car with alloys, check for a locking nut and the correct socket.
To fit a heavy wheel
- Roll it close to the hub.
- Tuck your left foot under its left side and insert the thin end of the wrench under the right.
- Balancing the top with one hand, use the wrench as a lever to lift the tyre slightly.
- When close enough, use the wrench to lever the tyre up. It'll help if you haven't jacked the car up too far.
Should you fit new tyres on the front or rear axle?
Every time we encounter questions on this subject it causes heated debates. Opinions differ for various reasons and most of these explanations, for or against, have some merit.
The tyre industry states when replacing two tyres on your vehicle to fit them on the rear axle. Their reasoning is fitting new tyres to the front can result in oversteer and loss of control especially when braking or swerving sharply.
In the past we mechanics used to believe fitting newer tyres to the driving wheels was the right thing to do. Front wheel drive cars had new tyres fitted to the front and rear wheel drive vehicles had them fitted to the rear. It sounds logical as most of the wear will occur on the drive axle. Most people also believed a front wheel driver had better handling with new tyres on the front.
If your tyres are in such poor condition that this is a big cause for concern, then you probably should be replacing all four tyres.