The very first time you have a flat tyre, you may not recognize the thump. But you will most definitely feel the vibration, followed by a flapping sound, like a large deflated balloon dragging along. Simultaneously, the steering begins to have a mind of its own. Oh yes, most definitely a flat.

Now sure, there’s always roadside assistance that’s just a call away. But cell phones can run out of charge or be out of range. Bottom line, flat tyres can happen anywhere, so knowing how to change one is a necessary skill for all drivers.

Thankfully, changing a flat tyre isn’t all that hard. Just follow these guidelines and you will be back on the road in no time (with that smug satisfaction that goes with a DIY job!).

First things first

  • Find a safe location

    Do not abruptly brake or turn. To avoid an accident, turn on your hazard lights as soon as you realize you need to pull over. Slowly reduce your speed and look for a place to pull over. Then turn off the hazards and indicate as you keep moving (slowly) to a safer spot.

    Do not attempt to change a tyre on a narrow shoulder alongside oncoming traffic. A level, straight stretch of road with a wide shoulder or an empty parking lot is an ideal place to pull over.

  • Turn on your hazard lights

    Once you’ve pulled over, your hazard lights will help other drivers see you on the side of the road.

  • Apply the parking brake

    Once stopped, you can now prepare to replace the flat tyre. Begin by using the parking brake. This will lessen the chances of your vehicle rolling.

Items you'll need to fix a flat tyre

These items should have come with your vehicle:

  • Jack
  • Lug wrench
  • Fully inflated spare tyre
  • Vehicle owner’s manual

If your car did not come with these items/the items are misplaced/your spare tyre also looks worrying, it’s time to call for roadside assistance or flag down a passing car!

Some additional handy items in the trunk:

  • Flashlight with working batteries
  • Small cut of 2″x6” wood to secure the jack
  • Gloves
  • Wheel wedges

Let’s get to work

  • The warning triangle should be placed on the road at least 50 metre behind the broken down car
  • Remove the spare tyre from the trunk and place it to the right of the flat tyre

1. Apply wheel wedges

Wheel wedges ensure the vehicle doesn’t roll while you fix the flat tyre. For changing a rear tyre, place them in front of the front tyres. If changing a front tyre, put the wheel wedges behind the rear tyres. Bricks or large stones will work just as well – just be sure they’re large enough to stop the car from rolling.

2. Remove the hubcap or wheel cover

If the tyre has a hubcap covering the lug nuts, remove it before lifting the vehicle with the jack. If the lug nuts are exposed, skip ahead to Step 3.

For most vehicles, the flat end of a lug wrench works to remove the hubcap. However, some hubcaps may need a different tool – consult your owner’s manual for proper removal procedures.

3. Loosen the lug nuts

Using the lug wrench (and your foot or body weight if necessary) turn the lug nuts counterclockwise to loosen them. Don’t remove them completely yet.

4. Place the jack under the vehicle

The correct spot for the jack is usually under the vehicle frame alongside the flat tyre. Follow the instructions in your vehicle owner’s manual.

Place a small cut of 2×6” wood beneath the jack before attempting to raise your vehicle, to prevent it from settling under the weight of your vehicle and coming off balance (especially on asphalt).

5. Raise the vehicle

6. With the jack properly positioned, raise the vehicle until the flat tyre is about six inches above the ground. Do not let any part of your body slide under the vehicle during or after you have raised the vehicle with the jack.

7. Unscrew the lug nuts

Since you’ve already loosened the lug nuts, you should be able to unscrew them all the way, mostly by hand.

8. Remove the flat tyre

Gripping the tyre by the treads, pull it gently toward you until it’s completely free from the hub behind it, and set it on its side.

9. Mount the spare tyre

Now line up the rim of the spare with the lug bolts on the hub. Push until the lug bolts appear through the rim.

10. Tighten the lug nuts by hand

Put the lug nuts back on the lug bolts and tighten them by hand. Once they are all on, tighten as much as possible by hand.

11. Lower the vehicle and tighten the lug nuts with the wrench

Use the jack to lower the vehicle until the spare tyre rests on the ground but the full weight of the vehicle isn’t on the tyre. Now tighten the lug nuts to the maximum with the wrench, turning clockwise.

12. Lower the vehicle completely

Lower the vehicle completely and remove the jack. Use the wrench once more to ensure the lug nuts are as tight as possible.

13. Replace the hubcap

If the hubcap of your flat tyre fits your spare, replace it the same way you removed it. If not, stow it away with the tyre.

14. Stow all equipment

Don’t forget to put all of your equipment in your vehicle before driving away.

15. Check the pressure in the spare tyre

If possible, check the tyre pressure of the spare to make sure that it is safe to drive on. If the tyre appears to need pressure, drive (slowly) to the nearest service station.

16. Take your flat tyre to a technician

Temporary spare tyres aren’t made for long distances or high speeds so drive cautiously until you get to a technician. A professional will gauge whether your tyre needs repair or replacement.

How long does it usually take to fix a flat tyre?

The above procedure shouldn’t take more than 20 to 30 minutes.