Knowing how to change a flat tire is a basic skill that every car owner should have— but changing a tire for the first time can be a scary experience. In this article, we’ll walk you through the step by step process for changing a tire if you find yourself with a flat:
First, Pull Over In A Safe Place
Often times when you get a flat tire, your immediate instinct is to stop your car as quickly as possible. If possible, try to pull over in a safe place where you can assess the situation and change your tire. Be sure to turn on your hazard lights or flashers so other drivers can see you from a distance and slow down accordingly.
If you’re not in a safe place, turn on your hazard lights and call 911 right away so a police officer can help to alert other drivers and redirect traffic as needed.
Changing The Tire
Whether you’re swapping it out for a new tire or simply putting on the spare, here’s how to change a flat tire:
- If you haven’t already, put on your hazard lights and set your parking brake. Remove your spare tire and jack tools from your trunk, and set them beside the damaged tire.
- Remove the hubcap from the flat tire, and loosen the lug nuts with a tire iron or impact wrench. It’s important to loosen, or break, the lug nuts before you jack up the vehicle. This way the weight of the vehicle is still on the wheels which will prevent the wheels from spinning dangerously while you turn the lugs. Be sure to loosen the lug nuts in a star pattern to ensure the weight is balanced and all of the lug nuts can be easily removed.
- Once the lugs have been loosened, jack the car up so that the wheel can be removed. This should be done on level ground (or as close as you can get) so your jack doesn’t slip from underneath the vehicle while you’re working to remove the tire. You should always follow the instructions for jack placement in your vehicle owner’s manual—many vehicle frames have molded plastic on the bottom with a cleared area of exposed metal specifically for the jack. You’ll usually find this mold beneath the vehicle frame near the tire you’re removing but your service manual may recommend other jacking points.
- Once the jack is properly positioned, crank the jack and raise the vehicle until the flat tire is hovering a few inches off the ground. This will make it easier to take off. It’s important to note, you should never put any part of your body under the vehicle during or after raising the vehicle with the jack.
- Loosen the lug nuts the rest of the way, until they come completely off of the tire. Set them aside in a safe place like a pocket or your car’s cupholder so you can reattach them once the spare tire is on. Whatever you do, don’t put them on the ground— that’s a recipe for loosing them.
- Gripping the tire by the treads, pull it slowly toward you until it’s completely removed from the hub behind it and set it safely aside so it doesn’t roll away.
- Lift the new tire onto the hub and line up the rim with the lug bolts, pushing them through the rim. Put the lug nuts back on the lug bolts and tighten them as much as possible by hand..
- Use the jack to lower the vehicle so that the spare tire is just touching the ground but the full weight of the vehicle isn’t fully on the tire. Use the wrench to fasten them the rest of the way, turning clockwise until they are as tight as possible.
- Once the lug nuts are completely tightened, lower the vehicle all the way to the ground and carefully remove the jack. Give the lug nuts another pull with the wrench to ensure they really are as tight as possible.
- If the hubcap you took from the flat tire fits your spare, put it in place the same way you removed it initially. If it doesn’t fit, stow it away with the tire when you pack up your equipment.
- Put all of your equipment in your car before driving away. You should also check the tire pressure of the spare tire to make sure that it is safe to drive on. If the tire does need pressure, drive (slowly) to the nearest service station immediately.
After you swap out the spare, you should take your car and the tire to a technician immediately. Temporary spare tires aren’t made to drive long distances or at high speeds, so drive cautiously until you’re able to visit a professional. After a quick inspection, they should be able to determine if your tire just needs a repair or if it’s time to replace it.
Knowing how to change a flat tire is a great skill to have in a pinch. After you change your flat tire, you’ll need to get a new tire right away. A good set of tires is crucial to a vehicle’s overall health and performance; checking them frequently should be part of your preventative maintenance schedule. Your car’s manual will tell you how often to get your tires rotated and balanced, and your alignment checked. Treads should be visually inspected regularly and professionally checked about once a year for uneven or irregular wear, as well as cuts, punctures, and bruises along sidewalls. You should also monitor your tire pressure every few weeks. Tires should be replaced as soon as possible when worn or damaged, to avoid a costly blowout.
At V&F we offer:
- Tire Sales
- Tire Installations
- Tire Rotation
- Tire Balancing
- Tire Replacement
- Wheel Alignment
- Tire Air Pressure Checks
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Repair & Service
If your car needs maintenance, repair, or tire replacement before this winter season, call us today at (413)314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.
This article was originally published in November 2017 and has been updated regularly to reflect new developments in automotive technology, and changing safety practices.