It happens to the best of us. And when it does, you can do one of two things. You can call your friendly roadside assistance truck (or a mechanically-inclined friend). Or you can try to change the tire yourself.
While the first option keeps your hands clean and is less intimidating to the average driver, changing a tire is not all that hard if you have the right equipment.
So next time you get a flat and you don’t have the option of calling for roadside assistance, you can follow these easy steps to replace your own tire and get back on the road.
Before You Start, Make Sure You Have What You Need
In order to change your own tire, you are going to need the following:
- Spare tire – most cars come equipped with a spare tire that you can drive on for short distances until you can get to a tire shop or auto repair shop.
- Jack – for lifting your car’s frame off of the flat tire.
- Lug wrench – for loosening and removing the lug nuts that hold your tire in place.
- Screwdriver – for prying off the hubcap.
- Owner’s manual for your car – it can tell you the best spot to place your jack so that you can lift the car without damaging it.
- Safety equipment – safety vest, warning lights or flares.
Often, changing a tire happens by the side of a busy road. This is not the safest of locations in which to do any work. So if you are changing your own tire, make sure to exercise a few safety precautions:
- Move to a safe location, if possible. If you are on a busy road, try to move your car as far from traffic as you can before starting work.
- Make sure your car is on a flat surface. The last thing you want to have happen is for your car to roll while you are in the middle of a tire change.
- Wedge your tires. You may want to put bricks, large rocks or wedges behind your tires to ensure the car doesn’t roll while you work.
- Make yourself visible. Use brightly-colored safety vest, if you have it, and use lights (the blinkers on your car, flares, or any other warning lights you may be carrying) to let passing cars know to steer around you.
Step-By-Step Tire Change
Now that you’ve made sure you have the proper tools and you have made yourself as safe and visible as you can, it’s time to actually change that tire.
- Put your car in park
- Remove the hubcap. Remove the hubcap from your tire to reveal the lug nuts holding your tire in place. You should be able to pry it off with a screwdriver.
- Loosen the lug nuts but don’t remove yet. Use your lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts. Make sure to turn counter-clockwise when loosening the nuts. Don’t remove them yet, just loosen them enough to twist them off by hand once you have jacked up the car.
- Place the jack. Place the jack against the frame of your car closest to the flat tire you need to change. Check your vehicle’s user manual for the best spot to place your jack to avoid damaging the car.
- Use the jack to lift your car. Use the jack to lift the car frame so that the vehicle’s weight is not on the flat tire (about 6 inches off the ground). Make sure your jack is straight and stable at all times. If it is leaning or unstable, lower the jack and try again.
- Remove the lug nuts. Once the car is lifted and the lug nuts have been loosened all around, remove the lug nuts.
- Remove the flat tire. With lug nuts removed, the tire should come straight off of the bolts.
- Install your spare tire. Install your spare tire onto the bolts.
- Tighten the lug nuts. Tighten the nuts by hand to hold the spare tire in place.
- Lower the car to the ground. Then use the wrench to complete the job of tightening the lug nuts.
- Remove the jack.
- Replace the hubcap.
Congratulations! You’ve changed your flat tire. Now you should be able to drive to your nearest mechanic or tire shop for a repair or replacement of your flat tire.