At some point or another, if you are a driver you will need to change a tire. This can be a disaster for those that are unprepared especially when they have to wait for roadside assistance services to get to them and fix the issue for them.
We believe that it is always a smart idea to learn how to change a tire yourself as it really is not that difficult and we are going to show you just how easy it really is.
What You Need
The following items should be in your vehicle at all times:
- Spare tire – This will usually be located under the floor mat in the trunk of the vehicle.
- Lug wrench
- Flashlight with working batteries
- Flares and reflective triangles
- Wheel wedges
The spare tire, jack, and lug wrench should come with your vehicle when you purchase it. If any of these three are missing, replace them immediately. Always keep your vehicle owner’s manual in your car, as it will include details on where you can find your spare and steps for changing your tire.
Pull Over Somewhere Safe
If your tire blows out while you are driving you should slow down, put your hazard lights on, and find a safe place to change your tire. If you are driving on a freeway or busy city street, it’s best to get as far away from traffic as possible. If you can, try to pull over on a flat road, not an incline. Also, changing a tire on a paved road is ideal.
How to Change a Tire
Once you have got your car to a safe and stable location and parked with the parking brake engaged, follow these steps to change your flat tire.
- Remove your spare tire and the tools you’ll need from the trunk of the vehicle
- Place flares or reflective triangles behind your vehicle for safety. This is especially important if you’re changing the flat tire on the road
- Place wheel wedges against the tires that are on the opposite side of the flat. This will help keep your vehicle secure while it’s on the jack
- Remove the hubcap or wheel cover. If your lug nuts are exposed, skip this step. Use the flat end of the lug wrench to pry the cover off
- Loosen (but DON’T REMOVE) the lug nuts using the lug wrench
- Move the jack underneath the car. Reference your vehicle owner’s manual for the proper location and how to work your jack. Ideally, it will be as easy as turning a crank. Raise it up to connect with your car’s frame
- Expand the jack until the flat is around 6 inches off the ground
- Unscrew and remove the lug nuts. Place them somewhere safe so you don’t lose them as they will be needed on the spare
- Grab the flat securely with both hands and pull toward you to remove it from the vehicle and set it aside
- Align the spare tire with the exposed lug bolts and push it in to place
- Replace the lug nuts and tighten by hand. Do NOT use the wrench until you have lowered the vehicle back to the ground
- Lower the jack carefully until the spare touches the ground and remove the jack from the vehicle
- Tighten the lug nuts with the wrench. Put your weight into it—these should be really tight. To ensure even alignment, tighten your lug nuts in a star pattern, so you’re never tightening lug nuts that are immediately adjacent to one another
- Replace the hubcap or wheel cover, if you have one
- Check the pressure on your spare. If you don’t have a tire gauge, try to drive to a gas station to check and make sure it’s safe
- Congratulations you have just learned how to change a tire!
The flat tire should be taken to a repair shop or replaced as spare tires are not meant for long distance travel, they are only meant to be used to get you to a garage.
Calling for Backup
Although changing your own tire can certainly be a cost effective option if you don’t have emergency roadside assistance coverage, there may be times when you really need to use your head to determine if it is safe to do so. Keep the following in mind when deciding whether to DIY or call for help.
Road & Traffic Conditions
Consider whether you can pull your car over in a safe location, away from oncoming traffic and onto a smooth, flat surface. If you’re on a busy freeway, a narrow shoulder, a dirt road, an incline, or a slick surface, think carefully before pulling out the jack.
If it’s dumping rain or snow, if the wind is howling and you might lose your grip on any of your equipment, or if the blazing heat could put your health or safety at risk, consider calling for a tow.
If you’re traveling with your family, friends, or even pets, take stock of your environment and their safety. If the conditions are not ideal, don’t take unnecessary risks just to save a few bucks.
In order to be properly prepared, make sure your spare is inflated and in good condition. If you’re missing any other equipment, if your jack is rusty, even if your flashlight batteries are dead, don’t try to be a hero—call a tow truck and get the help you need.