Knowing how to change a flat tire is a necessary skill for all drivers. These days we rely on our cell phones for many things. However, there’s always the chance that you left your phone at home, your phone’s battery is dead, or the flat occurs while you’re in a dead zone with no cell service. Be prepared for these possibilities! Changing a flat tire is actually quite simple, and by learning this skill now, you’ll be ready for anything on the road.
First off, make sure you have the proper tools. Some of these tools should come with your vehicle, and others are additional tools you can keep in your trunk that will make changing a flat tire a breeze.
TOOLS YOU NEED TO FIX A FLAT TIRE
These tools should have come with your vehicle
- Lug Wrench
- Fully inflated spare tire
- Vehicle Owner’s manual
Check the tools you have on hand in your car to make sure you’re prepared. If you’ve misplaced any of the tools listed above or your car didn’t come with any of them, purchase new ones right away. Check the tire pressure of your spare tire to make sure it’s inflated to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended PSI. You should check this tire pressure every time you check the tire pressure of your other tires. Ideally, this should be every month and before a long road trip or before carrying a heavy load.
These tools don’t come with your vehicle, but you should store in the trunk or glove box for added precaution:
- Flashlight with working batteries
- Rain poncho
- Small piece of 2”x6” wood to secure the jack
- Wheel wedges
HOW TO CHANGE A FLAT TIRE
- Find a safe location – The moment you realize you have a flat tire, don’t abruptly brake or turn. Gradually slow your speed and search for a level, straight stretch of road with a wide shoulder, or ideally an empty parking lot. You want to stop on level ground so your car is less likely to roll. Straight stretches of road are preferable as well so oncoming traffic can see you from further off. Don’t attempt to change your tire on a narrow shoulder. Keep slowly moving until you find a safer spot. While driving on a flat risk ruining your tire rim, It’s better to ruin a rim than risk getting hit by a driver who’s not paying attention.
- Turn on your hazard lights – Hazard lights will help other drivers realize that you are slowing down or alert them to your presence on the side of the road so that they can give you space. Your hazard lights should be turned on as soon as you realize the tire is flat and before you begin slowing down.
- Apply the parking brake – Once you’ve found a safe location and stopped, apply the parking brake to minimize the possibility of your vehicle rolling.
- Apply wheel wedges – Place wheel wedges either in front of or behind the tires to further ensure that your vehicle won’t roll while you’re fixing the flat tire. If changing a rear tire, place wedges in front of the front tires. If changing a front tire, place wedges behind rear tires. If you don’t have wheel wedges on hand, bricks or large stones can work just as well, provided they’re large enough to prevent the vehicle from rolling.
- Remove the hubcap or wheel cover – Read through the instructions in your owner’s manual before going through the rest of these steps. Your particular vehicle might have additional steps you’ll need to take to safely and successfully change the tire. If your wheel has a hubcap covering the lug nuts, it’s easiest to remove this hubcap before you lift the vehicle with the jack. If you don’t have a hubcap or wheel cover and your lug nuts are exposed, skip to step 6. Use the flat end of your lug wrench to remove the hubcap. This will work good for most vehicles, but some hubcaps need a different tool to remove them. Check with your vehicle owner’s manual for proper instructions on how to remove your particular vehicle’s hubcap.
- Loosen lug nuts – Using the lug wrench, turn lug nuts counterclockwise to loosen them ¼ to ½ of a turn (don’t remove them completely yet). While loosening, make sure you work in a star-shaped pattern as depicted in the photo. You may need to use your foot or all of your body weight if necessary to break the initial resistance, and that’s okay.
- Set up jack under your vehicle – The correct placement of the jack is usually right beneath the vehicle frame alongside the flat tire. Many vehicles have molded plastic on the bottom and a cleared area of exposed metal specifically for jack placement. Be sure to review the jack placement instructions in your owner’s manual to avoid causing damage to the vehicle.
- Raise vehicle using the jack – To prevent the jack from settling and coming off balance under the weight of your vehicle, place a 2x6 piece of wood beneath the jack before attempting to raise the vehicle. With your jack positioned properly, raise your vehicle until the flat tire is about 6 inches off the ground. Make sure you avoid putting any part of your body under the vehicle during or after raising vehicle with the jack.
- Unscrew lug nuts completely – It’s now time to completely remove the lug nuts. Since you’ve already loosened the lug nuts, you can probably remove them the rest of the way by hand.
- Remove flat tire – Grip the flat tire by the treads and pull it gently towards you until it’s completely free. Place flat tire on its side so it doesn’t roll.
- Mount spare tire on the lug bolts – Place your spare tire on the hub by lining up the rim with the lug bolts. Push gently on your spare until the lug bolts appear through the rim.
- Tighten lug nuts by hand – Put the lug nuts back on the lug bolts and tighten them all the way by hand. Once they’re on, check each one again, tightening as much as you can by hand. You’ll tighten them further with the wrench once tire is back on the ground.
- Lower vehicle and tighten lug nuts again – Use your jack to lower the vehicle so that spare tire is resting on the ground but the weight of your vehicle isn’t yet fully on the tire. This will help keep the tire from spinning while you tighten it the rest of the way. Use the lug wrench and turn the bolts clockwise, working in a star-shaped pattern again. Do one last round in a star-shaped pattern, and use your full body weight this time to tighten them as much as possible.
- Lower vehicle completely – Lower your vehicle the rest of the way and remove the jack. Work in a star-shaped pattern and tighten the lug nuts one last time to ensure they’re as tight as possible.
- Stow all equipment – If the hubcap you took from the flat tire will fit on your spare tire, put it in place the same way you originally moved it. If the hubcap doesn’t fit, stow it away with the tire. Don’t forget to also stow your jack, lug wrench, wheel wedges, flat tire, and any additional tools you used back in your vehicle before driving away.
- Check spare tire pressure – Check the tire pressure in your spare tire to make sure it’s safe to drive on. Tire pressure in mini spares, or “T-Type” temporary spares, require 60 PSI. If your tire pressure is low, drive to the nearest service station immediately.
- Bring your car to a professional ASAP – spare tires aren’t meant to drive for long distances or at high speeds, so drive with caution until you can bring it in to have a technician look at it.
Knowing how to change a flat tire is an important skill to have, but regular tire maintenance is also important. Sometimes, just properly caring for your tires will prevent a flat. Many flats occur because of worn tread. In addition to reviewing this guide, remember to do the following:
- Keep your tires properly inflated
- Rotate your tires according to the manufacturer’s recommendation
- Monitor tires for tread wear
Following these preventive measures will help you extend the life of your tires and possibly prevent a flat on the road.
A flat tire is never convenient. That’s where we come in. Here at Longview Auto & Tire, we’ll give you a loaner vehicle to use while we work on your car so your day can continue to go on as planned. In the meantime, your flat will be fixed properly, and you’ll be back on the road in your own vehicle in no time.
We often have deals and special offers running on popular tire brands, so don’t forget to check out our Coupons page, or call us to learn more!