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By law, vehicles in the UK do not have to carry a spare tyre, so not all models will include one, instead, some carry a tyre repair kit. Spare tyres are designed to get you home or to your nearest garage following a puncture or tyre damage. Continental claim that spare tyres are only effective 70% of the time because they are not maintained properly or due to the fact that motorists are unable to use them when necessary due to a lack of knowledge or tools*. If you have a spare tyre, it is important that you know how to care for it and use it, so it is fully effective if you do find yourself stranded with a flat tyre.
Where is my Spare Tyre?
If there is a spare tyre in your vehicle, it will usually be located underneath the floor panel in the boot. This is also where tyre repair equipment will be stored if provided by the vehicle manufacturer, however, you should check your vehicle handbook for further information.
If you do have a spare tyre but no equipment, it might be worthwhile investing in a small car jack and wrench. In addition, useful items to have on hand include a torch, a pair of gloves and wheel wedges.
How to Maintain Spare Tyres
It is easy to overlook, but you should remember to include your spare tyre when checking all your other tyres to ensure that it is in roadworthy condition when you come to use it.
First, you should check that your spare tyre has a sufficient level of tyre tread. You can do this easily at home and this task will only need to be performed once, as tread will not wear down if you are not using the tyre.
Next, you should check the condition of your spare tyre and ensure that it is free from damage such as cuts, bulges and lumps. As this tyre is not driven on, it is important that you regularly inspect it for signs of aging.
In addition, you should check the tyre pressure of your spare tyre regularly, to ensure that it is not flat when you come to use it. If your spare tyre is a space saver, bear in mind that it may require a higher pressure. Be sure to find this information out by using your vehicle handbook or consulting the vehicle manufacturer before adjusting your pressure.
As spare tyres take up a large amount of room and tend to be quite heavy, some vehicle manufacturers choose instead to supply space saver tyres. These are narrow tyres, which take up about half the room of a regular tyre, and tend to be lighter.
Space savers are only intended to take you safely to a garage or home, so they are limited as to how far they can travel. They cannot be driven at high speeds and carry a sticker on the tyre recommending how fast you can drive with the tyre fitted.
How to Change a Spare Tyre
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to change your tyre, you should first find a safe location to do so, preferably somewhere on level ground. If on the side of a road, make sure you are on a straight section of road where other motorists can see you and turn on your hazard warning lights.
Put your handbrake on and place the wheel wedges you are carrying behind your tyres to ensure that they will not roll. Then, remove the hubcap, or alloy nuts using your key if you have alloy wheels fitted, and loosen the lug nuts, which you can do using your wrench.
Place your tyre underneath the frame of your car by the tyre you wish to change. Ensure that the jack is in contact with the jacking point of your car frame, which you can find in your vehicle handbook. Failure to use the correct jacking point could result in damage to the bodywork. If you are positive that you are using the specific jacking point for your vehicle, you will then need to raise the vehicle until the flat tyre is 6 inches from the ground.
Next, remove the lug nuts all the way, which you can probably do by hand, and remove the flat tyre. You can then mount your spare or space saver tyre and tighten the lug nuts by hand. Lower your vehicle, but without applying the full vehicle weight on the tyre and tighten the lug nuts and replace the hubcap.
It is always recommended that you tighten the lug nuts in a specific sequence, so as to ensure proper alignment of wheel to hub. This image displays the correct way to tighten lug nuts on wheels that have four, five or six bolts.
To replace alloy wheels, you will need to follow the instructions in your vehicle manufacturer handbook.
Put your equipment back securely and take your flat tyre to a tyre specialist as soon as possible. They will be able to tell you if your tyre can be repaired or if you need to purchase a new one. They will then either repair your flat tyre or replace it for a new one, returning your spare tyre to its storage location.
Remember that these are generic tips and you should always consult your vehicle handbook before undertaking a tyre replacement.
What If I Don’t Have a Spare Tyre?
If you don’t have a spare tyre, you will probably have a tyre repair kit located within your vehicle. Tyre repair kits differ in content and instruction so you should follow the advice on the packet or in you manufacturer handbook.
In general, these kits usually consist of a tyre sealant and tyre inflator pack. The sealant plugs the puncture whilst the inflator refills air and prevents tyre pressure from dropping. Dependent on the type or size of damage, this may not always work. If the damage is larger than 4mm, you should call for breakdown assistance.
It is important to bear in mind that tyres that have been temporarily repaired using these kits usually cannot then be permanently repaired by tyre specialists.