Do you know how to change a wheel on your car? Would you try to fit the spare if you had a flat tyre? Do you even know whether your car has a spare wheel?
According to a new survey by Halfords Autocentres, the answer to all three of these questions is more likely to be ‘no’ than ‘yes’. The independent garage and tyre retailer found that 56% of car owners did not know whether their vehicle had a full-size spare tyre, 65% felt unable to change a wheel and 73% had never read their car handbook to check vital information such as tyre pressures.
Whereas changing a wheel was once something most drivers took for granted, it’s increasingly becoming a no-go area for most drivers, with one-in-ten breakdown calls now relating to tyre problems. The RAC received 80,000 calls last year relating to tyre problems, and Green Flag reported a 20% increase in people stranded by tyre problems — so what’s going on?
We don’t get enough punctures
I think the problem is that we don’t get enough punctures any more! Industry figures show that the average driver suffers a puncture fairly infrequently – every 44,000 miles or five years – which along with manufacturers’ desire to save weight, increase fuel efficiency, maximise boot space and cut costs has effectively made the spare wheel all but extinct.
For those drivers with older cars that do have a spare wheel, they are needed so rarely that they simply aren’t prepared when it does happen — many younger drivers will never have had a puncture and will simply not know where to start. Many spare wheels are not fit for use when they are needed, either — according to Rory Carlin from Halfords Autocentres:
“MOT failure rates show that one in ten spare tyres are unusable, this lack of care and maintenance, coupled with a deteriorating road surface could well see the average frequency of punctures increase.
Emergency roadside services now report that one in ten calls are now for tyre problems and that they are now the third most common cause of a breakdown.
Call me old fashioned…
…but I like to have a spare wheel and I know how to use it. In my driving career, I have needed to change a wheel four times (I think). It’s not difficult, although wheels are quite heavy and you need to know (or check in the manual) how to place the jack correctly.
Undoing wheel nuts that have been fastened with an air gun can also be difficult, as can undoing the fastenings on spare wheel carriers that are mounted underneath the car and exposed to the weather. Spare wheels that are in the boot, underneath the floor, are much easier to use.
If you’d like to know how to change a wheel, we’ve got a quick guide to wheel changing here, while if you are interested in learning more about puncture repair kits — which are increasingly common and are quite easy to use — then we’ve got a guide for that, too!
The reality is that changing a wheel requires a certain amount of strength, knowledge and dirty hands — and given how rarely most people need those skills these days, I suspect the decline of DIY wheel changing is likely to continue.