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Drivers should always be prepared for the unexpected. Knowing what to do in the event of an accident, emergency, or even a flat tire can save you time and money as well as protect you against more serious problems. Do you know how to change a tire if you get stranded? What happens if you don’t have a car jack? Luckily, there’s a solution to every problem.

The supplies you need

Being prepared is one of the first duties of owning a car. Your vehicle should always have supplies in the event of an issue. In order to change a flat tire, a car jack is ideal because it easily lifts the tire up and away. But according to It Still Runs, if a jack is unavailable, there are things you’ll need to get the job done:

  • An open area to work
  • A tool to dig with (shovel, gardening tool, stick, hands)
  • Something to use for blocking material (wood, cement)
  • A tire iron
  • Spare tire
  • Two large rocks

Other things that can help include gloves, a flashlight, blankets, towels, and rags, and even a tire ramp. Lubrication (light machine oil), a tire pressure gauge, and roadside safety equipment like flares and reflectors are also useful.

How to successfully change a flat tire without a jack

If you realize you have a flat, do your best to slowly move your vehicle to a place where the flat tire can be over open soil or earth, with plenty of room to work. Sometimes this is easier said than done. But without a jack, it’s best to do the work somewhere pliable and soft. Turn your car off and engage your emergency brake fully. 

First, find something you can use as a blocking tool to slide under the side of the axle closest to the flat tire. This can be a wooden block, large log, tree stump, or something else. Stack these materials up until it makes contact with the axle. Once your blocking materials are in place, start digging away at the soil beneath the flat tire with a tool or your hands. Keep digging until the axle rests solidly on the blocking materials.

Once you’re sure your axle is supported, start digging at the soil beneath the flat tire. Shovel out at least a few inches on all four sides of the tire, wide and deep enough to remove the tire and install a new one. With enough room to work, remove the nuts on the tire with a tire iron. According to Jack and Jill of All Tires, using a lug wrench and tire iron make it easier, but lug nuts can be resistant and take time to remove. Pull the rim off the threaded studs and remove the flat tire.

Now it’s time to place your spare tire in the hole you dug. Lift it up onto the studs until each one is poking through the rim. Next, begin threading every nut you removed back onto the studs by hand. Now you can tighten them with the tire iron. As Popular Mechanics explains, it’s important to tighten lug nuts in a crisscross pattern, going across instead of around in a circle. Repeat this process to ensure your lug nuts are secure.

Once your spare tire is securely in place, it’s time to get out of the hole you dug. Try placing two large rocks in front and behind the tire and fill the hole back up with dirt. Disengage your emergency brake, start the car, and put it in forward drive. Slowly try to make your way out of the hole and lift the axle up off the blocking materials. After climbing from the small hole, remember to pick up your supplies and clean up.

Safety first

Safety should always come first. As Bridgestone Tire points out, you should always try to change your tire in a safe place. Never change it on a narrow shoulder, near oncoming traffic, or on any area of road where you’re not clearly visible to other drivers. Turn on your four-way flashers or caution lights, and use other safety measures like cones and flares when necessary.