For anyone who drives, knowing how to change a flat tire is a necessary skill. However, it’s also one that many people don’t know how to perform. It can be confusing, overwhelming, and scary. Nowadays, many of us have roadside emergency assistance to rely on, but there may come a time when your only option is to change that flat yourself. The following steps will teach you how to do just that.
To ensure you know what you’re doing, it’s a wise move to spend some time practicing how to change a tire. Find an empty parking lot or set it up in your driveway, and practice the following steps so if the time comes, you’ll have that experience and can be confident in your abilities.
Tools & Equipment
In order to fix a flat tire, you’ll need a few essential items, specificallya lug wrench, jack and a fully inflated spare tire. All three of these items should come included with your vehicle; however, if you buy or have a used vehicle, it may not be equipped with those items, so you’ll want to double-check to make sure it is, and that they’re all in proper working condition.
There are several other items you may want to consider having on hand should you need to change a flat. A flashlight (always carry extra batteries) is a useful tool for any emergency road kit, but especially so for changing a flat in the dark.
A small piece of wood can help secure the jack, while wheel wedges help prevent your vehicle from accidentally rolling. Heavy-duty work gloves can be worn to help prevent cuts, scrapes and other injuries, while a rain poncho and ski mask can help keep you dry and warm if you have to change a flat in inclement weather conditions.
How to Change a Tire
Steps may vary depending on the type of vehicle, and as always, it’s best to check your owner’s manual for specific instructions for your car. However, let’s outline the basic steps of how to change a flat tire.
Being stranded on the side of the road is a dangerous and scary situation, so safety should be the first priority. When you get a flat, do not brake harshly or swerve. Instead,gradually slow down and find the safest location you can to safely pull over and park. The best spot, if possible, is a parking lot.If pulling over along a road, look for a long, straight section so that other motorists can see you.
Turn on your hazard lights and apply the parking brake.
If you have wheel wedges, apply them now so that the vehicle remains stationary and doesn’t roll. Because of the way the jack works, if you’re changing a rear flat tire, place the wheel wedges in front of the front tires. And conversely, if changing a front flat tire, place the wheel wedges behind the rear tires.
If you don’t have wheel wedges, you can also use a brick or larger stone to accomplish the same goal.
If your vehicle has a hubcap, remove it now by taking the flat end of your lug wrench and prying it off gently so that it doesn’t crack.
Now take your lug wrench and turn the lug nuts counterclockwise until you feel them loosen.This is often the hardest step because it usually takes a lot of force to loosen those stubborn lug nuts. So in order to release them, you may actually have to use as much of your body weight and force as you safely can.
Once you feel the resistance break,loosen the lug nuts about ¼ to ½ of a turn, but don’t remove them completely. We’ll do that only when we’re ready to take off the tire from the vehicle.
Place the jack beneath the vehicle frame near the flat tire. You’ll find that many vehicles have an exposed piece of metal near the tire specifically for the jack. Check your owner’s manual to see if your vehicle has this.
It’s now time to raise the vehicle with the jack. But first,take that piece of wood we talked about earlier and place it beneath the jack to help keep the jack from sliding around. Use the jack and raise the vehicle so that the tire is about six inches off the ground.
This is very important—never put any part of you underneath the vehicle, either while using the jack or when the vehicle is raised. There’s no guarantee the vehicle won’t fall and cause injury to you. Remember, safety first.
Go ahead and remove the lug nuts the rest of the way. This should be easy to do now that they’re loose, and you can do it by hand.
You’ll now remove the tire. To do so, carefully grip it by the treads and pull it, gently, toward you until it’s free from the hub behind it.
Place it on its side near you so that it doesn’t roll away.
In order to put the spare tire on, line the rim up with the lug bolts and place it on the hub, gently pushing it until the lug bolts show through. Then place the lug nuts back on the lug bolts and use your hand to tighten them as much as you can. Once the vehicle is back on the ground, you’ll use the lug wrench to tighten them completely.
Using the jack, lower the vehicle back to the ground so that the spare tire is resting gently on the ground.Before lowering it the full way, tighten the lug nuts the rest of the way on by turning them clockwise. Use your body weight and really tighten those lug nuts up.
Then lower the vehicle all the way back on the ground and use the lug wrench to give a final pull on those lug nuts to secure them fully.
Place all of your equipment, including the hubcap if there is one, back in the trunk of your vehicle.
Use your tire pressure gauge and check the pressure in the spare tire to ensure it’s safe to drive on.Remember that a spare tire is designed to drive at slower speeds and short distances, so drive cautiously and proceed to the nearest location where a technician can inspect your flat and see whether it can be repaired or if you need to new tire.
If done properly and without any unforeseen issues, this process should take between 15-30 minutes.