Got a flat tyre? You could phone your breakdown service - if you're covered - but they may take well over an hour to reach you. What if you have somewhere to be? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here is what you need to do.
Spare Tyre Health and Preparation
The spare tyre is one of those things we only ever remember when we need it. As such, we tend to ignore it most of the time. Don’t do that.
Where’s my spare wheel?
For most of us, the spare tyre lurks in the boot. However, for you 4x4 drivers, it’s on the back. For others, it might be suspended under the boot floor in a steel cage. If this is you, be sure to check the bolts securing it. Keep them lubricated so they don’t rust solid. The last thing you want is a trapped spare.
Check the condition
Is the tyre still inflated, and if so, is it at the right pressure? Furthermore, what about the condition of the wheel? If it's under the car has it succumbed to corrosion? Finally, check the condition of the tyre – are the sidewalls still good or are they cracking? Is the tyre still of a serviceable age? You may be surprised to know that a tyre should be renewed when it's five years old.
Prepare your tools
Make sure your jack, your locking wheel nut key, the little tool for prying off the centre cap and the wheel brace are all present and correct. Do you really want to be stranded on the side of the A14, in the rain, without a clue as to the whereabouts of your locking wheel nut key? Also keep a head torch in the glovebox. Punctures have an annoying habit of occurring after dark, and the last thing you want to be doing is trying to get the spare wheel onto the hub with one arm while holding your smartphone or torch in the other.
How to change the wheel
1 Flat on flat
In most circumstances you'll be able to drive the car at a low speed to a piece of flat, level ground. You should never, ever jack a car up on a gradient, as this will dramatically increase the risk of the car falling off the jack, and that’s the last thing you want. Not only can it cause injury, but it will also completely strand the car.
2 Puncture on a ‘smart’ motorway
Everyone's worst nightmare. As mentioned above, you should still be able to drive your vehicle at low speeds. It'll feel awful - bumpy and hard to steer, especially if it's a front tyre that's gone - but you must get to one of the emergency rescue bays rather than leave the car in a live lane. Put on your hazard warning lights and sidelights (and rear fog lamps) and concentrate on getting to the bay in a controlled manner. If all else fails and the car cannot be driven, immediately get everyone out of the car on the passenger side, get behind the crash barrier, dial 999 and ask for the police.
3 Chock and lock
Are one of the rear wheels punctured? If so, turn the front wheels to the left, so they're pointing at the side of the road, and then put chocks in front of them. This will reduce the likelihood of the car falling or rolling into a live road. If the puncture is at the front, chock the rear wheels securely but keep the front wheels pointing straight ahead.
4 Time to swap wheels
First, use the wheelbrace to loosen all of the wheel bolts - but don't remove them yet. Position the jack under the load-bearing points - your car's manual will show you where they are. When you jack the car up, place the spare wheel under the car (when you take the flat wheel off, swap it for the spare under the car). Now you can remove the wheel and replace it with the spare. Tighten the wheel bolts by hand, remove the flat-tyred wheel from the beneath the car and lower the jack. Now securely tighten the wheel bolts with the wheel brace. Make sure you put all of the tools back in the car (including the punctured wheel) and continue your journey - but get the puncture seen to by a repair shop as soon as you can.
5 Space saver speed limits
If you've fitted a slim, space-saver wheel, take note of the warnings on the wheel. Many of them are speed-limited, so be sure to follow what the warning states. If you work a space-saver too hard, it can break up and fail. Leaving you stranded once more.
I don’t have a spare wheel!
If you've only just discovered that there's no spare wheel in your car, and you're too far away from a garage, your only option is to call the rescue service. But prepare for the next puncture by either buying a spare wheel or space saver (make sure it'll fit in the boot), or buy a can of 'gunk'. There'll be instructions on the side of the can, but essentially you attach the nozzle to the punctured tyre's valve, the gunk is forced in and you then drive off at a low speed until the puncture has been sealed. However, it doesn't always work and if you've had a blowout there's no chance that the gunk will be able to help.