Changing a Tire

Roadside emergencies can happen to anyone, at any time. In a situation like this, you might be required to change a tire on your own. Give yourself a leg up by practicing how to change a tire ahead of time. First, you will need to know where to find your jack, lug wrench, wheel chocks, and spare tire. Then, you should get familiar with how to use these tools to complete the process. This practice will reduce the stress of an emergency and give you more confidence about the situation.

If you are to ever encounter a difficult situation where your tire deflates or fails while driving, do not panic. Instead, focus on finding a safe place to pull over. You may need to briefly drive on a blown tire to ensure your safety. Once you find a secure area to park, you can start changing the tire like you practiced.

How to Change a Flat Tire

The essential tools you will need to change a tire likely came with your vehicle. Consult your owner’s manual to find the location of your jack, lug wrench, and spare tire. You should become familiar with these tools in a controlled setting. Learning to change a tire at home is better than learning during a potentially dangerous roadside situation.

If a tire does fail during driving, follow these steps to ensure your safety:

First, park or pull over to a safe location. Turn on your hazard lights and pull as far off the road as possible. This may not be possible if you are on the freeway, so do not be afraid to continue driving to the next exit ramp.

Attempt to find a gas station, parking lot, or any well-paved level surface to change the tire. Unlike dirt or grass, pavement’s firmness will prevent the jack and car from sinking into the ground. Never change your tire on a hill, or around a curve where other vehicles can not see you.

Once parked, stabilize your vehicle by activating the emergency brake. Leave manual transmission vehicles in gear; set automatics in park. Next, place wheel chocks or rocks behind the tires opposite the one being changed. These heavy objects will further secure the vehicle as you perform the tire change. With the vehicle secure, ready your lug wrench, jack, and spare tire.

Remove your vehicle’s hubcap, if equipped, before beginning the tire change. If your hubcap is held on by the lug nuts, you can leave it on. If not, you can pry it off using a hubcap tool, screwdriver, or the flat end of the jack handle or lug wrench. You can do this carefully by gently prying in a few places, as if you were removing a paint can lid. Skip this step if your wheel does not have a hubcap.

Before you use the jack to lift the tire, you will need to loosen the lug nuts that keep the wheel attached to the assembly. Loosen the first lug nut by rotating the wrench one turn counterclockwise. Then loosen the lug nut directly opposite the first one, and then the one opposite that. You will end up moving in a star-shaped pattern. If the lug nuts are tight, you can push down with your body weight.

After loosening all the wheel’s lug nuts, use the jack to lift the vehicle until the tire is fully raised off of the ground. Refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for instructions on the best place to position the jack and how to operate it. Immediately lower the jack if at any point your vehicle seems unstable. You may need to reposition the jack or move the vehicle to a flatter location. Never position yourself to where the car can land on your feet, hands or body while the car is lifted.

Use the wrench to fully remove the loose lug nuts and place them in a secure location. You can use the hubcap as a bowl to hold them, or place them somewhere inside the car. These methods will prevent the lug nuts from getting scattered on the pavement.

With the lug nuts removed, you can pull the wheel and flat tire off the hub. Grasp the flat tire with two hands and pull it back straight toward your chest. After removing the flat tire, place it under the car near the jack. This way, the tire can possibly catch the vehicle if the jack slips. Drivers with aftermarket wheels should remember to remove any wheel accessories from the hub, such as hub rings.

Now that the flat has been removed, you can attach your spare tire. Hold the spare up, align it with the wheel bolts, and push it securely onto the assembly. Install and hand tighten the lug nuts in the same star-shaped pattern that was used to remove them. Keep tightening each lug nut until each nut is as tight as it can be done by hand. Be sure to not apply so much force that may cause the vehicle to rock or sway that might knock it off the jack.

Next, turn the jack handle to lower the vehicle until the tire touches the ground and can no longer spin freely. Now you can fully tighten the lug nuts using your wrench, moving in the appropriate star-shaped pattern to properly secure each lug nut in place. After the lug nuts have been fully tightened, you can now remove the jack and chocks. Remember to gather and place your tools and your flat tire in the trunk.

Remember that many spare tires are smaller and less capable than regular tires, and thus will not serve as a permanent replacement for your flat. These tires should only be used for short distance driving. You should not delay in finding a replacement tire.