Knowing how to jack up a car and change tyres safely is a basic skill that every driver must possess. No one ever wants to get stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tyre and without expert help nearby. It is a situation that every driver must be prepared to face at some point. With the right tools and correct information, changing a tyre can be a fairly simple task. Here is a guide for changing your car tyres safely.
What do you need?
To change your tyre safely, you need the right tools. You should have a jack kit specifically designed for your car by its manufacturer. If you don’t, you can purchase one from wrecking yards for about fifty dollars. Jack kits usually consist of the following tools:
- Jack and handle
- Lug wrench or tyre iron
- Fully-inflated spare tyre or space saver
- Wheel chocks
You should always have the owner’s manual in the car in case you need to refer to it during emergency repairs and tyre change. These items typically come with your car if you bought it brand new from a dealership. However, they easily get lost due to their small size and storage location (glove box). The tools that come with your car are specific to its make and model and, if lost, can be purchased brand new from your local dealership. If you’re lucky, your local wrecking yards may have one in stock. It usually costs around $45.
You will need to park your car on a hard, flat surface for a safe tyre change. If you need to change your tyre on the road, look for a solid flat surface where you can park. Ensure that your vehicle is as far away from traffic as possible.
Concrete driveways, garages, and parking lots are some of the safest places to perform this task. A level and sturdy ground to work on will lend stability to your jack and prevent it from slipping under the car’s weight. However, if your last resort is a soft surface, you can reinforce it by placing your flat tyre underneath the vehicle. A crushed rim would be easier to deal with than a crushed arm or leg. The tyre will provide some level of resistance should the car slip off the jack, but it’s not by any means a failsafe method.
The next step is to chock your car’s wheels to keep them from rolling. Place the wheel chocks in front of each wheel in the opposite direction of the lift point. You can also use solid bricks, rocks, or any other solid object as a chock. Another option is to turn your car tyres into the curb if there is nothing to chock the wheels with.
Before you proceed, make sure the car is in park and the hand brake is on. You should select P (PARK) for automatic transmission or the lowest gear for manual gearbox.
It is recommended that you take your car off the road before you attempt to change your tyres. However, if you’re left with no other choice, you should use flares, pylons or fluorescent cones to direct incoming vehicles away from you. If it’s after dark, you should use lights at the front, back, and sides of your vehicle.
Before you jack up your vehicle, you should loosen the wheel nuts using the tyre iron. You don’t need to take off the nuts completely—just break the resistance before jacking up your car. If your tyre has a hubcap, you will have to remove it first to get to the nuts. Using as much force as possible, turn the wheel nuts in a counterclockwise direction until the resistance loosens.
The next step is to place the jack under the car. Many car owners have trouble with this part especially at finding the correct jack point. In most cars, there are several possible jack points along the body of the car. Be sure to find the correct jack point. Placing your jack elsewhere can possibly cause the car to slip off the jack or damage the body frame. Here’s where the owner’s manual comes in handy. It will show you how to find your vehicle’s jack points.
Jacking up your car
Once you have located the jack point, slide your jack directly underneath it and begin to raise the jack. The exact way to do this depends on the type of jack you are using. The most common types of jack are the scissor jack and hydraulic jack.
To use a scissor jack, slip the rod tool into the hole which is connected to the jack’s main screw drive. Turn the rod tool to push the jack apart and lift the car up.
Hydraulic jacks, on the other hand, have a slot where you can slip the rod tool on the side. Crank this tool up and down with steady strokes to pump the fluid of the jack into the cylinder which raises the jack and, consequently, the vehicle.
In either case, you will have to apply more force as the jack comes into contact with your vehicle. Continue to work the jack this way until you get enough clearance to do your work. A clearance of a few inches off the ground is typically enough for a tyre change.
Changing the flat tyre
With the tyre raised off the ground, you can proceed to turn the wheel nuts the rest of the way to remove them. You will be able to remove the old tyre once all the wheel nuts are removed from the wheel hub. Grip the tyre firmly by the treads and pull it towards you gently to free it from the hub.
The next step is to mount the replacement tyre onto the wheel hub. Align the rim so that the wheel studs line up. You can then attach the wheel nuts with your hand and then turn them firmly in a clockwise direction. With this done, you can lower the vehicle slightly but not all the way down.
You should proceed to fully tighten the wheel nuts at this point. After tightening the nuts, lower the car completely and remove the jack. You can then replace the hubcap, and you’re ready to go. If you encounter some difficulty refitting the hubcap, it’s alright to leave it off. Just don’t forget to stow it away in your car along with all the tools before driving off.
Be sure to get the spare tyre repaired or replaced ASAP! You can usually get a new tyre supplied and fitted at your local tyre store for around $90. If you’re working on a tight budget, most spare steel rims with a tyre will set you back between $25 and $55 at your local wrecking yard. The general rule of thumb is, the bigger the rim the more it costs. If your spare is an alloy that’s mounted on the back of your tail gate, be prepared to spend around $200 for a good-quality secondhand. It’s not uncommon for some spares to reach the $440 mark if it’s off a late model Jeep, European or Italian manufacturers.
Please remember that this is only a guide. If not done properly, changing a tyre can cause serious harm and even death in some cases. If you are not confident about your skills or have some doubts whatsoever, the safest option would be to contact an auto professional, like the RACV. The cost of their services varies depending on your location and the extent of work needed, but it’s generally very reasonable.