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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Flat tyre - where is the stepney in Toyota Innova

In a Tamil Cinema, comedian Vaidvelu will be ruing the low attendance / low sale in his petrol bunk and will be chiding his employees. In enthusiasm overrun, one of his employees would scout for and bring a  person with a scooter for filling up.  The vehicle would not start – and when the side shield is removed, there would be ‘no engine’ at all and it would transpire that it was a stolen vehicle !

A few decades earlier, Scooters sold more than Motor bikes – one distinct advantage that Scooters had ‘stepney’ – the spare wheel either fixed in the rear or under the side-shield in some vehicles.  Some accounts have it that ‘Stepney’  is actually the name of a street in Llanelli, Wales.  The Stepney Spare Wheel was invented by Thomas Morris Davies in Llanelli in 1904. At that time, early motor cars were made without spare wheels, so a puncture was an event dreaded by all drivers. Mr. Davies's brilliant idea was to make a spokeless wheel rim fitted with an inflated tyre.  Their 1909 catalogue proudly claimed that Stepney Spare Wheels were fitted to all London taxis.

Have you ever cared to open the bonnet of your car and when opened up – do you know what to look for among the myriads of wires – perhaps you can identify the Engine, radiator, battery and some more parts – to know your automobile is not easy [for those of us with no knowledge of automobiles] though we drive cars !  On the rear side, upon opening the dickey, you sure would have seen the spare wheel lying !!

From the day mechanized vehicles started plying on roads, the problem of breakdowns also began. Many of us have personally experienced troubles by vehicles not starting, or stopping suddenly and refusing to move or some other mechanical problem – making you curse your stars. The problem would be more acute when it is dead of night or the problem occurring in an area poorly lit and no assistance in vicinity.

‘flat tyre’ – tyres getting punctured is nothing new… one would have experienced wheel or rather the tyre getting punctured whilst driving cycle, two-wheeler and cars.  The tyre suddenly blowing out can be a potential cause of accident for the rider.  A flat tyre is nothing but pneumatic tyre getting deflated, causing the rim of the wheel to ride on the tyre tread or the ground and result in loss of control of the vehicle besides causing damage to tyre, wheel and the vehicle. This frequently happens due to puncturing by a sharp object such as nail. These objects pierce and deflate the tube containing the air. Some other possible causes are failure of or damage to the valve, act of vandalism, collision, excessive wear etc.,

There are some notorious areas where miscreants intentionally put sharp objects on road, cause wheel puncture and try to gain something out of your misfortune.  Most modern day cars have Tubeless tires - pneumatic tires that do not require a separate inner tube. Unlike traditional pneumatic tires which use a separate inner tube, tubeless tires have continuous ribs molded integrally into the bead of the tire so that they are forced by the pressure of the air inside the tire to seal with the flanges of the metal rim of the wheel.

When there is a puncture / flat-tyre, the simplest of the solutions would be to replace the damaged one with the stepney wheel, proceed to a nearby garage where assistance is available.  Generally, one opens the dickey – take out the stepney and the jack, block the tyres, keep some warning sign before you proceed with changing of the wheel.   Loosen the nuts on the flat tire, do not remove them just loosen them so they are easy to open once you have the car jacked up.  Put the jack and lift the car up to a point where you can remove the wheel and replace with stepney.  Use the wheel wrench and tighten the new one.  Tighten all nuts accordingly, and move the wheel around to make sure you put it on right. Then  lower the jack and remove it.

Changing a wheel may be easy or hard depending on your skill level. You have to do things right and safely. You have to protect yourself and your car and its passengers.  Sounds so simple !!! – the other day, when we were travelling minutes to mid night, our Toyota Innova had a flat tyre on a highway – it was very dark and a bit scary too…. Very fortunately some kind-hearted persons came for assistance.

With the sound theoretical knowledge and doubt in our capabilities, we opened the rear – remember Innova has seats at the rear and to my dismay, the stepney was not there in the usual position where we find them in Maruti or Santro vehicles.  Later came to know that it is placed under the chassis.  When we look under, the wheel is visible, but not knowing how to get that out, we were at a fix searching for some bolt / nut to be loosened.   With some assistance found that the 3 folded rod gets in to a groove nearer the rear fender and when rotated, the spare wheel descends from its position – then a lock holding the tyre will have to be opened to have the tyre out.  After that changing tyre was lot easier.

That night with the help from some kind-hearted gentlemen we were able to have the tyre changed and proceed to our destination – a basic lesson learnt, know your vehicle and anticipate trouble at any time.  Forewarned is fore-armed.

the tyre being removed from the rim 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
31st August 2012.


  1. Good photo depiction ; we enjoyed it- Shrieen

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