Flat tyres can happen anywhere – in the middle of rush-hour city traffic, especially those Lagos traffic, in your own driveway or while road-tripping in an isolated part of the country.
Knowing how to change a tyre is one of those basic life skills that everyone should have – like changing a baby’s nappy or making noodles – but sadly, many Nigerian drivers especially the ladies(correct me if wrong.. hehehe) have never had to change a tyre or always get a good Samaritan to stop by to help and so never learnt how to accomplish this task properly.
Naturally, one of the best ways to cut down on flat tyres is to take steps to avoid them in the first place. Check your tyre pressure regularly – punctures often happen because your pressure is too low, which makes it easier for sharp objects on the road to get into the sidewall.
If you’re not sure what the correct pressure is for your vehicle, check your car manual or the inside of the driver’s door – it’ll be there.
Electronic tyre gauges have been shown to be a bit more accurate than the old-school mechanical version and they’re a minor investment.
Check your tyres for wear occasionally – you could have a nail or other sharp object buried in one right now that you don’t even know about – and if left there, it could lead to a blowout at the most inconvenient of times. Keep an eye on your spare tyre too: there’s not much point in having a spare that’s flat or balder than Ajirebi.
If you experience a sudden flat tyre while driving, you’ll immediately notice that the steering starts pulling one way. Indicate, slow down and pull off the road as far as you’re safely able.
Avoid parking near a bend or anywhere that limits your visibility to approaching traffic. If you can, find a flat spot with plenty of space between the flat tyre and the road. You need a flat, stable surface in order to jack your car up safely.
Turn on your hazard lights. If you have a high-visibility vest (and you should), put it on before you start to change the tyre.
A bit of forward planning can make tyre changing a lot easier. Always have your phone charged when you drive anywhere so you can call for help if you need it. You should already have an emergency kit in your car which contains basic requirement like a torch, multi-tool, rags, disposable raincoat, etc.
To change a tyre, you’ll need:
- Heavy duty gloves – To protect your hands; changing a tyre can be dirty and dangerous work
- Spare tyre – Ideally, the one that comes with your car
- Tyre iron/lug wrench – This should be in the wheel well with your spare; this is used to get the lug nuts off so you can remove the wheel
- Car jack – This lifts the car high enough off the ground so you can get the wheel off
- Torch – Yes, tyres go flat at night, too
A lightweight raincoat will keep you a lot more comfortable if you’re forced to deal with a puncture in the rain. You might also want to consider keeping a can of WD-40(image) handy in case anything needs ‘un-sticking’. If you’re really prepared, you’ll even have some hand cleaner and paper towels in your glove-box so you can tidy up afterwards.
How to change a flat tyre
Learning to change a tyre is like any other skill – you just need to get in some practice. Naturally, the best place to learn is on your level driveway at home on a quiet Saturday or Sunday morning – not on a steep hill during rain or in the middle of the night in a strange neighbourhood!
Step 1 – Choose your tyre changing spot carefully
People have been killed by oncoming traffic in the act of changing a tyre, so it’s important to look for the safest spot to do the job, well out of the traffic flow. Use your hazard lights to warn other drivers; this is especially important in rainy, foggy or other low-visibility conditions. Put your park brake on and, if possible, put a chock under the diagonally opposite wheel to prevent rolling. Give yourself plenty of room to work and be aware of the traffic. Consult your car manual if necessary.
Step 2 – Loosen the flat tyre’s lug nuts
Remove the hub cap. You may need to pry it off with the sharp end of the lug wrench. Using the wrench, loosen all lug nuts but don’t take them off completely yet. If they won’t budge, you should (a) swear under your breath at whoever tightened them so tight before and then (b) spray a bit of WD-40 on them to loosen them up.
Step 3 – Raise the car with the jack
Your owner’s manual will tell you exactly where you should securely place the jack. This is important: if you jack up a car in the wrong spot, it can come crashing down and injure (or kill) you. Extend the jack until it reaches the car’s underside and move it into the recommended position. Using the jack, slowly raise the vehicle until it’s at least 6cm off the ground – this allows enough room to get the wheel off. This is a crucial time in tyre-changing: keep your body parts away from danger and stay alert for signs of impending topple-trouble.
Step 4 – Take off the flat tyre and replace it with the spare
Remove the loosened lug nuts. Put them in your upturned hub cap for safe storage – you don’t want to lose them. Firmly grip the wheel by the outer edges, pull it toward you to remove it and lay it flat on the ground. Grab your spare, lift it up and slide it on the hub. Use a knee to take some of the weight if necessary. Replace the lug nuts and finger-tighten them.
Step 5 – Lower the car back down to the ground
Lower the car slowly to the ground, using the jack. Once all of the weight is off the jack, remove it from underneath the car.
Step 6 – Tighten lug nuts on the new tyre
Use your lug wrench to tighten the lugs the rest of the way. They should be fully secure but not over-tightened. Replace and secure the hub cap.
Step 7 – Put away all tools and stow the flat tyre
Place your flat tyre back in the wheel well (or wherever it belongs) and stow away the lug wrench, jack and any other stray items. Wash up as best you can, pat yourself on the back and drive away – you’re done!
Just make sure you get that flat tyre repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
Important points to note:
- Changing a flat tyre is easy – it just takes practice; your own driveway may be the best place to learn
- Many flat tyres could be prevented by the simple practice of checking tyre pressure and inspecting tyres regularly
- The two most dangerous aspects of tyre changing are the location (safe from oncoming traffic) and the act of jacking up the car (beware of topples)
- Where possible, find a flat, stable area to change the tyre and turn on your hazard lights to warn oncoming traffic; if you have a high-visibility vest available, put it on
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