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  How to change a wheel

With the Great British Pothole an increasing feature on our landscape, knowing how to change a wheel may just come in handy!

First, a little bit of background...

Changing a wheel is a fairly simple job but always a mucky one because the wheels get covered in road grime and brake dust. If you’re already confident at changing a wheel, remember it can be a bad idea to attempt it in certain circumstances, for instance at the side of a motorway or anywhere at night. It’s far better to call out the breakdown service than take a risk.

Many new cars no longer come with full size spare wheels. Instead a ‘space saver’ is provided, which is a thinner wheel designed as a temporary solution to get you home or to the nearest garage. These wheels are only intended to be used for short distances of around 50 miles and at a maximum speed of 50 mph. Some cars may not have a spare wheel at all and use ‘run flat’ tyres which are strong enough to carry the weight of the car even with a puncture. Like a space saver, ‘run flat’ tyres are only designed as a temporary fix to get you home or to a nearby garage and should only be used for a short distance and at a reduced speed.



To change a wheel you need a jack to raise the car and wheel brace to undo the wheel nuts. If your car has alloy wheels you may also have a security ‘locking wheel nut’ on each wheel, which makes it more difficult for someone to steal your wheels. A locking wheel nut key is needed to remove these type of wheel nuts.

Good quality jump lead set

Above right: Locking wheel nut and key

Your car should come with all the tools required to change a wheel, often packed inside the spare wheel itself. The locking wheel nut key may also be kept here. Pack some rubber gloves along with the tool kit in case you do ever need to change a wheel.


If you’ve never changed a wheel, practice at home to boost your confidence and make sure your first attempt isn’t at the roadside. Always make sure the car is on solid, flat ground and that passengers are out of the car. Finally, make sure the steering is straight, a low gear or ‘PARK’ is engaged and the hand brake is firmly applied.

TOP TIP: Don’t try changing a wheel at the side of a busy road, especially with your back into the road. Call for breakdown assistance instead.

Step-by-step guide: Click on the images to enlarge

Line up cars ready to jump start
Safety first
If you are by the road side turn on your hazard lights and use a warning triangle if you have one. Place the warning triangle at least 30 metres from the car.
Removewitch off both cars
Apply the handbrake:
Make sure the car is switched off and apply the hand brake securely. If the car is an automatic, place it in ‘Park’. Get the spare wheel, wheel brace and jack from the boot.
Connect both positve jump leads
Remove wheel cap:
If you have a hubcap on the wheel, remove it first. You can often use the end of the wheel brace to prise it off. If you have alloy wheels, you may need to remove the centre cap, as shown in the photo.
Connect negative jump lead good car
Find jacking point:
Locate the jacking point under the car. This is usually a reinforced metal area. Position the jack in the correct place but don’t raise the car yet. Refer to the car handbook if you’re unsure.
Loosen wheel nuts
Loosen wheel nuts:
Use the wheel brace to loosen the wheel nuts by half a turn. They can be very tight and you may need to apply pressure with your foot.
Loosen wheel nuts
Raise the car:
Raise the car up so the tyre is no longer in contact with the ground.Now remove the wheel nuts in a diagonal pattern leaving the top one for last. (Holding your foot against the bottom of the tyre may help.)

Loosen wheel nuts

Remove wheel:
Grip the wheel at either side and pull it away from the car. Occasionally road dirt may cause the wheel to stick. Wiggle the wheel from side to side to help release it.
Loosen wheel nuts
Place wheel under car:
Place the wheel you’ve just removed under the car. This will protect you and the car if it were to fall off the jack.
Loosen wheel nuts
Replace wheel:
Roughly line up the holes or studs on the car with the spare wheel. Once in the correct position lift it up and into place. Put all the wheel nuts back on hand tight, starting with the top one.
Loosen wheel nuts
Tighten wheel nuts:
Tighten the wheel nuts in a diagonal pattern using the wheel brace. Be careful not to use too much force that could pull the car off the jack. You can tighten them further when the car is lowered.
Loosen wheel nuts
Lower car:
Lower the car back down gently until you can remove the jack from under the car. (Remember to move the wheel you placed under the car first!)
Loosen wheel nuts
Recheck wheel nuts:
Re-tighten all the wheel nuts in a diagonal pattern, being careful not to overtighten them. Check the tyre pressure at the first opportunity if it hasn’t been done recently.


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