How to change (and prevent) flat tyres
Pretreat. Protect. Prolong
Knowing how to change a tyre quickly is a good skill to have in South Africa. Travellers stuck in dangerous areas need to get on the road again as soon as possible and waiting for roadside services isn’t always an option.
Fortunately, changing a tyre is easy, and after this guide, you’ll know how to confidently get your vehicle back on the road.
Table of Contents
What you need:
- A spare wheel
- Vehicles are always required by law to carry a spare wheel. Remember to occasionally check that your spare is fully inflated and ready to be used.
- A jack
- To lift your car off the ground.
- Your car should have come with a jack, so just make sure that you know where it is. If you don’t have one, speak to an assistant while you’re purchasing it to make sure it’s right for your car.
- Wrench or wheel brace
- To help you remove the wheel nuts or bolts. Make sure that these items are sized appropriately!
- Locking wheel nut key
- Some cars have locking nuts/bolts. If this is your case, you’ll need a key to unlock them.
- Alignment tool
- If your car uses wheel bolts, it will usually come with an alignment tool to help you change your tyres.
- Wheel chocks, wedges, or bricks
- Use sturdy objects to stop the car from rolling backwards while jacked up.
- Car handbook
- Your vehicles handbook can give useful information, such as jacking points.
- Warning Triangle
- It’s important to alert other drivers of your position.
- Changing a tyre is a dirty job, so if you don’t have any means of hand washing, consider keeping some gloves packed for emergencies.
- Reflective jacket
- Improving the visibility of your person is safety 101.
- If you get a flat at night, a torch is an obvious necessity.
- You don’t want to be stuck changing a flat in the pouring rain without any protection.
Change your flat tyre in 7 easy steps
Step 1: Position and prepare your car
When you notice a flat tyre, pull as far off the road as you safely can. If you’re in a sticky spot (like a narrow road), it’s worth driving a little further and risking your wheel rim. Safety first.
Once you’re safely off the road, your next steps are to:
- Apply the handbrake, put the vehicle into first gear, and switch off the engine.
- Turn on your hazard lights.
- Read your vehicle’s manual for pointers.
- Position your warning triangle if you have one.
- Make sure that all passengers have left the vehicle and are safely away from the road.
- Take all the required tools and spare wheel out of your car.
- Secure your vehicle by placing wedges in front of and behind the wheel diagonally opposite the one being replaced.
Step 2: Loosen the wheel nuts
It’s easier to loosen your car’s wheel nuts while it’s still on the ground. Grab your wrench and turn it anti-clockwise to loosen the nuts to the point where you can turn them by hand. Do not remove them completely.
You’ll need to call out roadside assistance if your wheel’s nuts or bolts are too tight, so you should figure that out before you start jacking up your car.
Step 3: Jack your car up
Your vehicle’s handbook will show you where all the various jacking points are. They’re usually marked by an arrow or reinforcing pad.
- Place the jack towards the side of the car (near the punctured wheel) and wind it out to stabilise it between the ground and the jacking point.
- Continue to wind the jack and make sure that it stays straight and parallel. If it doesn’t, lower it and start again.
- Raise the car high enough to replace the tyre (usually 10-15cm)
Step 4: Remove the flat tyre
When your car is safely jacked up, completely loosen the wheel nuts and remove the punctured wheel. You may need to apply some force to get the wheel out, but if it doesn’t come off fairly easily, call roadside assistance and tighten up your wheel again.
Step 5: Fit the spare wheel
After removing your flat tyre, you can start positioning the spare wheel:
- Simply slide your wheel on if it uses nuts and studs.
- If your tyre needs bolts, use the alignment tool to line up the holes.
- Screwing the tool into the top hole allows it to act as a guide for all the holes.
- After placing all the other bolts, remove the tool and place the final bolt.
- Use your wheel brace to gently tighten all the nuts or bolts.
Step 6: Lower your vehicle
- Use your jack to bring the car fully down to the ground.
- Completely tighten the nuts or bolts. Move diagonally around the tyre.
- Remove the jack.
- Put the flat tyre and various tools back in the appropriate places in your car.
Keep in mind that if you’re using a temporary skinny spare tyre, you need to check its restrictions. You’ll usually need to travel below 80km/h and replace the wheel with a regular one as soon as possible.
Check that the spare wheel is appropriately inflated if you have a tyre pressure gauge on hand. You can find out what the recommended pressure is in your vehicle’s handbook if necessary.
Step 7: Drive to a service station
Take your car to the nearest garage or tyre fitter immediately and give them the punctured wheel so they can advise you on whether to repair or replace it. Space-saver tyres are only intended for emergencies, so you shouldn’t use them for any longer than necessary.
Getting immediate professional assistance ensures that you made no errors in the wheel replacement and keeps you safer on the road.
How to prevent flat tyres
The most effective flat tyre prevention is a high-quality nano polymer coating. 2-3mm evenly sprayed around the inner wall of your tyres will ensure that punctures are immediately sealed right as they occur.
This cutting-edge technology also guarantees that you will be protected against punctures for the full legal thread life of your tyres.
Other measures you can take to prevent a flat tyre include:
- Making sure that your tyre pressure is correct.
It’s recommended to check your tyre pressure at least once a month (spare included). There will usually be a label on the edge of the door or on the doorjamb of the driver’s side that states the ideal pressure.
Don’t rely on warning lights or visual inspections to gauge tyre pressure. Your tyre will have lost around half of its air before beginning to appear flat.
- Avoid road hazards
Try to steer clear of construction zones or badly maintained roads that are more likely to have sharp rocks, nails, glass, and other dangerous debris laying around.
Having properly inflated tyres reduces the chances of puncturing your wheels, although not nearly as much as a reliable internal coating.
- Rotate your tyres
You can increase the longevity of your tyres by regularly rotating them to prevent uneven wear and tear. You generally want to rotate your wheels every 8000-16000km, but your owner’s manual will give you a more precise range.
- Don’t overload your vehicle
The label that states your recommended tyre pressure also tells you what the maximum weight your vehicle can carry is.
If you’re transporting a heavy load, you should maximise your tyre pressure (as indicated on the label) to help carry the weight and not ruin your tyres. Remember that even at full inflation they still have a weight limit that you should be prudent to exceed.
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