Have you ever been stuck on the side of the road, unsure of how to change a tire? Many drivers rely on roadside assistance when they get a flat. But auto service providers sometimes take hours to arrive, and waiting for help can be excruciating if you’re in a hurry. Changing a tire isn’t difficult if you know what to do. These nine simple steps will get you back on the road fast and give you the confidence to take care of a flat tire.
1. Gather all the necessary items before attempting to change a tire
To be prepared for the unexpected, ensure your car has the equipment required to change a tire. For starters, you need a spare tire that’s inflated and in good condition. RepairPal suggests checking the tire pressure of your spare every time you put air in your regular car tires.
Pack an emergency car tool kit containing reflective triangles, flares, a rain poncho, a screwdriver, a wrench, and a flashlight. Check that the jack works, and keep a tire chock and a small piece of wood on hand for proper stabilization when lifting the vehicle. Keep the owner’s manual in your car’s glove compartment for easy access.
If you get a flat tire, pull over so you’re out of harm’s way before working on the vehicle. Then put on the parking brake and place reflectors or flares approximately 50 to 100 feet behind your car to alert other motorists. Place the wheel chock on the tire that is diagonal from the one that is flat to keep the vehicle from rolling when you jack it up.
2. Remove the hubcap
Next, remove the hubcap. Carefully loosen it using a screwdriver or the flat end of a lug wrench. Most vehicles have prongs holding the plastic hubcap in place, so it should be easy to take off. Some hubcaps are attached to the lug nuts or need to be unscrewed. Familiarizing yourself with the type of hubcap on your car before hitting the road will make changing the tire easier.
3. Loosen the lug nuts
The wheel is attached to the vehicle with lug nuts, so you will have to loosen them to remove the tire. Using the lug wrench that comes with your jack, attach the socket to the lug nuts, and turn it counterclockwise. Sometimes they are hard to remove, and you might have to use your foot to exert enough pressure. Only loosen the lug nuts slightly, and do not remove them until the car is lifted.
4. Safely place the jack
This step is probably the most crucial because you don’t want to damage your vehicle or hurt yourself. Take your time, and check the owner’s manual for proper jack placement. Be careful not to place the jack on an axle or any part of the suspension system because that can cause substantial damage when lifting the car. Most vehicles have a designated metal plate next to each wheel; that’s where you should place the jack. When you find the correct spot, lift the car approximately six inches off the ground by turning the lug wrench handle clockwise.
5. Remove the lug nuts and flat tire
Because you have loosened the lug nuts, you should be able to remove them easily by hand. Place them in the removed hubcap so you don’t lose them when changing the tire. Pull the tire toward you to remove it from the vehicle.
6. Replace the damaged tire
Once you’ve removed the tire, line up the screws on the wheel with the openings on the spare tire. Slide the new tire on, replace the lug nuts, and turn clockwise to tighten by hand. Do not fully tighten the lug nuts until the car is back on solid ground.
7. Lower the jack
Turn the jack handle counterclockwise to lower the vehicle to the ground. Remove the jack from under the car, and return it to the trunk so you’ll have it the next time you need to change a tire.
8. Tighten the lug nuts
Finally, tighten the lug nuts in a crisscross pattern to distribute the stress evenly. The owner’s manual will provide directions for proper tightening. Be sure the lug nuts are tight before driving so the tire doesn’t come loose.
9. Put away your supplies for the next time you need to change a tire
Now that you know how to change a tire, you can be confident you have the skills to handle a roadside emergency. Return the flat tire and all the supplies to your trunk. Be aware that spare tires are not meant for extended driving, so do not go faster than 50 mph, and order a replacement tire as soon as possible.