A Driving Instructor's Blog

I was surprised to hear that some ADIs have never changed a wheel before. How times have changed.Flat tyre

When I first started driving on my own after I passed my test, I couldn’t wait for an excuse to get the jack out and have a go. Mind you, this was back when just about everyone (who was male) did their own brake pads and stuff on the banger they’d managed to scrape enough money together for in order to save it from the knacker’s yard! Nowadays, I drive a leased car which includes all maintenance and “breakdown recovery”, so it’s really only punctures I have to worry about.

I have to confess that for the first few years of being an ADI I used that free recovery option whenever I did get a flat tyre. The reasons for this were that I didn’t want to get dirty, I hate scissor jacks (my dad was once nearly crushed when one gave way when he was under a car), and… well, if you have a dog you don’t do all the barking yourself.

What made me start doing it myself again was the reliability of the recovery company. I am supposed to have priority service, but if that was the case then I’d hate to have been a pleb who didn’t! On the occasions I have actually broken down, they have turned up in less than an hour once. All the other breakdowns have seen me waiting for between 90 minutes and several hours – and we’re talking about breakdowns in the city of Nottingham here, not the middle of the Sahara. Several waits have been in the dark, and one involved a pupil for whom I had to pay for a taxi to get her home as the wait was over two hours. Yet another situation saw a passing breakdown truck from the same company stop and see if he could help as he was just parking up, but who was then refused permission, whereupon I had to wait for at least another hour – only for a third party contractor to arrive! When you call them, you always got that absolutely bullshit recorded message “we are experiencing high call volumes at the moment”. Every time without fail you hear that, and it doesn’t give you any hope at all that they will turn up within a reasonable time frame.Clarke trolley jack

The last straw came when I called them for a flat tyre about 8pm one summer evening about three years ago and no one was answering, even after repeated calls. So I got the jack out and did it myself. Apart from skinning my knuckles a few times on the tarmac (bloody scissor jacks), and losing about 10lbs in sweat, I changed the tyre in less than 30 minutes.

Next day, I went straight to Machine Mart and bought a Clarke trolley jack (shown above) for about £20. It easily fits in my tool chest in the boot, and I can change a tyre in not much more than 15 minutes without breaking sweat now. I have a torque wrench but my spare tyre is a space saver, so this is academic since I have to get the tyre fixed before I can do further lessons anyway.

I don’t waste time showing pupils how to change a wheel (except when a puncture occurs on a lesson). They’re not paying me to teach them how to do that, and in most cases they have no inclination whatsoever to try it. I would demonstrate it if anyone ever requested it, but no one ever has. However, I do tell them how easy it is, and explain the basics. I also advise them to buy a trolley jack!

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