Changing a wheel is not complex and should take no more than 30 minutes depending on the conditions. Typically in good conditions it should only take 10 minutes.
Before starting to change the wheel ensure that you have followed the safety precautions above to ensure that you and your passengers are safe and that the conditions and location are safe in which to carry out the following procedure.
Below is a detailed wheel change procedure which breaks the process down into its individual steps and explains each in detail providing useful tips and warnings.
1. Ensure the car is on a flat solid surface
Do not try to jack a car on a sloping or soft surface. In most cases it is possible to move a car a short distance at walking pace in order to get onto a good surface. If there is no other option a car could be jacked on a very slight sloping surface of no more than a few degrees, but adequate chocks must be used. This is to prevent the car from rolling when it is lifted on the jack. Chocks should be placed under the downhill side of the tyre in the opposite corner of the car from the wheel being changed. If a chock is not available then a house brick, large rock or block of wood could be used as an alternative. Never jack a car on a soft surface as the jack will sink into the ground making it unstable. Do not place anything under the jack to spread the load on soft ground as this may also make the jack unstable if the load is not spread evenly. Be safe at all times. If in any doubt call for professional assistance.
2. Apply the car’s parking brake and put it in gear
If it is an automatic place the gear shift in “Park” and apply the parking brake.
3. All passengers must exit the car and stand in a safe place
All passengers should be out of danger from oncoming traffic. Pets must be left in the car or kept on a leash if removed from the car.
4. Be visible
If available put on a high visibility vest and place a warning triangle behind the car. NEVER place a warning triangle or other warning device on the freeway itself\. The danger of injury when placing and retrieving the warning device is too great. Always call for assistance on a freeway.
5.Get your equipment organised
6. Position the jack under the car
If a manufactures jack is being used it will be designed to fit securely at specific points under the car. Typically these will be cut-outs or indentations just behind the front wheels and just in front of the rear wheels. Consult the car hand book if in doubt as this will show the jacking locations. If a different type of jack is being used then a secure jacking point will need to be found. Consult the car hand book for the manufacturers recommended jacking points.
7. Jack the car slightly to take some of the weight off the wheel
Do not jack the car up so the wheel is off the ground. (Tip: Lay the spare wheel on the ground next the jack half under the car. If the car falls then it will land on the wheel, preventing injury to you and damage to the steering, braking, suspension and possibly engine).
8. Using the wheel nut wrench loosen each of the nuts slightly
If the car was jacked up so the wheel was off the ground at this stage the wheel may turn instead of loosening the wheel nuts. Having the tyre on the ground prevents it from rotating when the nuts are being loosened initially.
9. Jack the car to the correct height
The car can now be jacked so that the wheel is fully off the ground. DO NOT jack the car any higher than is necessary.
10. Remove the wheel nuts
Remove the wheel nuts and put them in a safe place. (Tip: In the event that the wheel nuts are lost. Remove 1 nut from each of the other wheels and use them to secure the wheel. This will allow the car to be driven at low speed to a repair centre or motor factor where new wheel nuts can be purchased. DO NOT attempt to drive for a sustained period or distance with missing wheel nuts).
11. Swap the wheel
Remove the flat tyre and immediately swap it for the spare new tyre. The time that the wheel is off the car and is fully supported on the jack should be kept to a bare minimum to reduce the possibility of injury or damage should the jack fail or the car move. The draught from a passing car or strong wind could be sufficient to move the car and make the jack unstable.
12. Align the fixing holes
Align the fixing holes in the spare wheel with the bolt holes or wheel studs on the wheel hub. The jack may need to be raised slightly as an inflated tyre will have a greater diameter that a flat tyre.
13. Refit the wheel nuts
Once the wheel is located refit the wheel nuts, hand tightening each until the wheel is held flat against the wheel hub. The bottom of the wheel may need to be held in to allow the wheel to sit flat against the wheel hub. DO NOT over tighten the wheel nuts at this stage.
14. Provide an even distribution of force
To ensure there is no distortion when re-fitting the wheel the nuts must be tightened in order so as to provide an even distribution of force.
a. Using the wheel nut wrench tighten the uppermost wheel nuts slightly.
b. Move to the diagonally opposite nut and tighten it slightly.
c. Move to the nut counter clockwise of the first nut and tighten slightly.
d. Repeat the above process of tightening and moving to the diagonally opposite nut until all nuts have been tightened.
e. This should be repeated until all nuts are as tight as they can be without the wheel turning.
15. Lower the jack until the wheel touches the ground
Lower the jack until the wheel is touching the ground and some weight is on the tyre.
16. Tighten again
Repeat the above tightening process to get the nuts as tight as you can manage.
17. Lower the jack fully
Lower the jack slowly until all of the car weight is back on the wheel. Then continue to lower the jack until it can be removed from under the car. Care should be taken if using a hydraulic jack as the car may drop quickly if the release mechanism is opened too far. The lowering for the car must always be under control to prevent injury and damage.
18. Stow the equipment
Stow the equipment remembering to retrieve the warning triangle and wheel chocks if used.
19. Get ready to go!
Get yourself and passengers back into the car and underway as soon as possible.
Congratulations, you have now successfully changed a wheel at the roadside. It is recommended that after driving 50 miles the wheel nuts should be checked to ensure they are still tight. With the wheel nut wrench go round the wheel nuts again as detailed in step 13 to check they are all still tight. Alternatively take your car to a mechanic and have them tighten the nuts to the manufactures specified torque setting.
Clark Smith is a part-time mechanic from Sydney, Australia. He recommends that you check out various videos on how to take care of your are tyres.