I did something, and it worked!

On Sunday, I got a puncture. Or maybe I didn’t. I was driving along, could smell rubber, stopped and the tyre looked flat. I moved about 20 metres to somewhere sensible, and it no longer looked flat. I searched through my car to find the details for my breakdown cover, and discovered that it ran out the day before. What a bit of bad luck (is NOT what I said at the time).

After I’d spent a couple of minutes swearing, I decided that this gave me two basic options:

  1. Admit defeat, and admit that I’d never before changed a wheel, and phone a breakdown company without being a member, and incur their charge to help me; or
  2. Maybe I should just change it myself?

As soon as I thought it, I thought “this could be a terrible idea.. “, followed by a list of ‘what if?’s:

“What if you take the old one off, and can’t get the new one on?”
“What if you attach the new one, and as you drive away, it just falls off and rolls away on its own?”
“What if it falls off, rolls away, and hits something? Or someone?”
“What if, after you get the new one on, it’s not quite straight.. you damage your spare too, so then you have no backup, and you’d have to pay for a breakdown truck to get it to the garage?”
“Just imagine how fast these wheels spin at 70mph…what if the nuts undo themselves on the motorway?”

Unfortunately I was changing it on the (flattest bit at the) top of a hill, as that’s where I’d noticed the burning smell, which made me more nervous of the ‘rolling off and killing something’ scenario.

I consulted Mr Google. I didn’t ask it “should I really attempt to change this tyre?” but instead – I looked for general guides. I found the rather awkwardly named “Bookshelf Boyfriend” website, described as the “girls guides to everything”. From these instructions, it sounds pretty easy. Even a girl can do it? Well, in that case…man make wheel good. Ug. *Beats chest in a masculine way*

I went to the back of my car, and opened the boot. Oh yeah. Shite. The tailgate things that lift up your boot when you open it. Yeah, well that’s another thing that has failed on my car in the last year. I’ve not had the money to get it fixed (about £80, if I do it myself (it’s apparently very easy)), so when you unlock my boot, you have to lift the full weight of the metal and glass, through your own sheer strength. It’s not really that heavy once you get used to it, assuming you can use both hands, while someone else loads/unloads the boot. Thankfully it wasn’t raining/icy, as either of those makes it hard to get a proper grip on it to lift it up.

Sadly, I was on my own, which meant that I had to hold that one handed, and lift out all the stuff in the boot, followed by the spare wheel, with just one hand. I broke a lot of manual handling guidelines that day.

With all my car’s worldly possessions now on full view in Henleaze, I started unlocking the wheel nuts, jacking up, sticking spare underneath, etc. as per the guide. I actually started jacking the car up before I undid the nuts, which is quite a stupid thing to do, as through the force of the unlocking, apparently you can move the car enough to cause problems (jack slips, or car falls, or whatever). Still, nobody died.

I undid two with brute force (and pain, and an awful lot of swearing), then realised that you can stand on the tyre-bolt-undoer-thing (which probably has a better actual name), and use your full weight (which in my case still isn’t very much) to undo them. Much easier.

My car is a twat, so it has locking wheel nuts too for extra fiddly…ness. One on each wheel. After finding the adapter-key-thing, and getting it all slotted together with the tyre-bolt-undoer, I took the last nut off. Hooray. And off the wheel came. Now I was really shitting myself. My car has only three wheels! I had visions of it just rolling off, or the jack suddenly collapsing, and damaging the spare (currently propped under the car, remember) and the bit that the wheel attaches to, getting buckled. Thankfully, none of this happened.

I had to jack the car up a bit more to get the new wheel on, but that was it. The replacement wheel went back on, easily. I attached 3 of the nuts, tightened them all (again using my weight for extra tightness), and then the locking one. Then the adapter for the locking wheel nut refused to come back out of the tyre-bolt-undoer/redoer. After a lot of banging and swearing, I got it out, and back in the box it came from. It all looked ok.. I thought?

After fighting with my boot one handed all over again, putting everything back in using knees and various other items in the boot to hold the back up while everything went back in again, that would appear to be it. I was pretty nervous at this point. If it wasn’t attached properly, I might drive off, it spins wrongly and damages itself. Or what if it loosens itself on the way home? What if the wheels – literally – come off? No choice but to try it really. I drove home (a couple of miles). It was fine!

However, Monday I had to go somewhere. Half way there, I could smell burning rubber. No! Not again! Why did I attempt something so stupid as to change a wheel. I don’t know anything about fixing cars. Fuck it. I pulled over immediately, but saw no damage. Odd. I checked for a good few minutes, before driving on to my destination. Coming back the same way, I smelt burning rubber at the same bit of road, again. Damn you Filton/Southmead boarder. It’s you being smelly. It’s not my car on fire.

Then I worried about this for another few days before going to Brunel Tyres to get some professionals to look at this mess I was sure I’d made…..where they checked my wheel and said “it looks like you’ve done a pretty good job there”. They even tested the nuts and it would seem I reattached them properly. I did something with no prior experience, and it actually worked! Success! (Don’t worry – I’m still definitely renewing that breakdown cover.)

Note: During the process of all this, I probably used up my entire month’s quota of high, medium, AND low offending swear words (right from “bugger” all the way to the C-bomb-used-in-conjunction-with-other-swear-words), and showed several years worth of arse-crack to the nice people of Henleaze. For that, I can only apologise. I have no idea how people who work with cars manage to hold back in these areas.

  • Alex B

    Something that article doesn’t mention is that it’s best to tighten nuts in opposite pairs for a secure fit:

    “To ensure the nuts are snug and applying even pressure across the wheel, tighten them in a pattern where one nut is tightened, then move to the opposite nut. For a five-stud hub this equates to a star pattern. For four- and six-stud hubs this means tightened in opposite pairs, then moving the wrench one stud to the left or right and tightening that opposite pair until all the nuts are tight.”

    http://auto.howstuffworks.com/under-the-hood/vehicle-maintenance/change-tire4.htm

    • Ah thanks for that.
      Sounds like that would make sense. I was quite worried about getting one of them on at a funny angle so it didn’t spin quite straight, and that sounds like it would help to prevent that.