Have you ever gotten stuck on the side of the road with a flat, or do you dread someday getting trapped in that kind of scenario? Do you want to be able to change a tire without having to ask for help? Fortunately, changing a tire is a pretty simple task, if you don’t mind a little bit of elbow grease!
1. Find a stable and safe place to work. You need a solid, level surface. Avoid soft ground and hills. If you are near a road, park as far from traffic as possible and turn on your emergency flashers (hazard lights).
2. Make sure that the car cannot roll. Apply the parking brake and put car in “Park” position or in first or reverse if using a standard transmission. If possible, it is a good idea to place a heavy object (such as a brick) in front of the front tire (if changing a rear tire), and vice-versa.
- Many cars have molded plastic along the bottom, and if you don’t place the jack in the right spot, it will crack the plastic when you start lifting. If you’re not sure about the right place to put the jack, read your owner’s manual.
- For most modern unibody cars, there is a small notch or mark just behind the front wheel wells or in front of the rear wheel wells where the jack is intended to be placed.
- For most trucks or older cars that have a frame, look to place the jack on one of the beams of the frame just behind the front tire or in front of the rear tire.
4. Raise the jack until it is supporting, but not lifting the car. The jack should be firmly in place against the underside of the vehicle. Make sure that it is lifting straight up and down.
5. Remove the hub cap and loosen the nuts by turning counterclockwise. Don’t take them all the way off. Just break the resistance. Having the wheel on the ground means that you’re turning the nuts instead of the wheel.
- Use the wrench that came with your car or a standard cross wrench. Your wrench may have different sizes of openings on different ends. Place the right size of the wrench on the lug nut. The right size is the one that slips easily over the nut but does not rattle.
- It can take quite a lot of force to break your lug nuts free. If all else fails, you can use your body weight or stomp on the wrench (be absolutely certain you are turning it the right way).
6. Pump or crank the jack to lift the tire off the ground. You need to lift it high enough to remove the flat tire and to put the spare on it. As you lift, make sure that the car is stable. If you notice any instability, lower the jack and fix the problem before full lifting the car.
- If you notice the jack lifting at an angle or leaning, lower and reposition it so that it can lift straight up.
- Chock the tires if you notice the car starting to roll. You can use logs, large stones or other heavy, solid objects to help keep the car in place.
7. Remove the nuts the rest of the way. Turn them counter clockwise until they are loose. Repeat with all lug nuts, then remove the nuts completely.
8. Remove the tire. Place the flat tire under the vehicle so in event of jack failure the vehicle will fall on the old wheel, hopefully preventing injury. If the jack is placed on a flat, solid base, you shouldn’t have any problems.
9. Place the spare tire on the hub. Take care to align the rim of the spare tire with the wheel bolts, then put on the lug nuts.
- Tighten the nuts by hand until they are all snug. They should turn easily at first.
- Using the wrench, tighten the nuts as much as possible. To ensure the tire is balanced, don’t completely tighten the nuts one at a time. Going in a star pattern around the tire, one nut across from another, give each one a full turn until they are equally tight.
- Avoid using so much force that you risk upsetting the jack. You will tighten the lug nuts again once the car is down and there is no risk of it falling.
10. Lower the car to the ground. Do not put full weight on it yet. Finish tightening the nuts as much as possible.
11.Lower the car to the ground fully and remove the jack. Tighten the nuts again. Replace the hubcap.
12. Put the old tire in your trunk and take it to a mechanic. Small punctures can usually be repaired for less than $10. If the tire is not repairable, they can dispose of it properly and sell you a replacement.
Tips – Always put the car in Park and apply the emergency brake.
- Do not use the lug wrench to start off the lug nuts when putting them back on. Use your hands, to avoid cross-threading the nut.
- If your wheels have locking lug nuts, be sure to keep the key-lug where you can easily find it. You will need it to change the tire.
- Most spare tires (the undersized “donut” tires) are not rated for more than 50 MPH or for long distances. Exceeding this speed can cause problems, including failure of the spare tire. Instead, drive slowly and carefully to a shop and have your tire repaired or replaced.
- When loosening and tightening the nuts, arrange the cross wrench so that you are pressing down (with gravity). This will remove risk of injury to your back and also allow you to use your body weight rather than just your arm strength. Press on the end of the wrench for the best leverage. You can even use your foot, but make sure to keep your balance and steady yourself against the car.
- When replacing nuts, be sure that the tapered side goes into the wheel. This centers the wheels and locks them in place.
- Familiarize yourself with this procedure and with the particulars for your car before you get a flat tire, so that you don’t have to learn by the side of the road, in the dark, in the rain.
- Check occasionally to make sure that your spare tire has sufficient air in it.
- Rotating your tires at manufacturers recommended intervals can prevent a common problem when changing a flat. Sometimes the wheels will seize to the hub resulting in great difficulty in removal of the flat tire. If this happens, you will need a sledge hammer and a 2 by 4 or other piece of wood to remove a seized wheel rim. Rotating your tires will prevent this from happening to you when you do have to change a tire.
Be aware of your surroundings. If you’re on a busy road, be particularly wary of vehicles driving by that might get too close. There are hundreds of people killed each year while changing a tire on the side of the road – don’t do it unless you must.