A flat tire can happen anytime, anywhere, and being able to change one is an essential skill for all drivers. Yes, even if you plan to have your cell phone with you always and even if you have your AAA card in your wallet, the occasion may still arise when you will be in a bind and on the spot to change a flat. It’s relatively easy – we promise! – and you’ll only need to keep a few items on hand in your car.
Inflated spare tire
Your vehicle owner’s manual
Brick or wooden wedge (2)
1. Safety First, Get Your Car Parked Someplace Secure: As soon as you are aware that something has gone awry with one of your tires, turn your hazard lights on to warn other drivers. Drive slowly until you can pull off onto a wide shoulder, or ideally an open lot. You want a patch of road that is level, and that oncoming traffic will clearly see to avoid. Keep those lights flashing.
2. Secure the Car from Rolling: It’s crucial to ensure that your car is stable and will not roll as you’re changing the tire. First, use your parking brake. Then, get a brick, wooden wedge, or whatever you have on hand to keep the car in place. They’ll go either in front of or behind the tires, opposite end of the car from the one you are changing.
3. Remove the Wheel Cover: If the lug nuts are covered, you’ll need to pop off the hubcap or wheel cover. You can use either a flat screwdriver or the end of the lug wrench. Check your manual to see if there are any particulars you should keep in mind.
4. Loosen the Lug Nuts: This is where your strength comes in. Literally, you may need all your weight behind it. Secure the wrench in place and start turning counterclockwise. You just want to loosen them; we’ll remove them completely later on.
5. Raise with Car with your Jack: Again, you’ll want to reference your manual to see where the jack should align. It will go under the frame of the car, next to the flat tire. When it’s in place, raise the car until the tire is about a half a foot off of the ground. Important reminder! Do NOT have your body under the car at any time during this process, just in case.
6. Remove the Flat: Unscrew the lug nuts by hand, minding where you place them for safekeeping. Then, remove the flat by pulling it gently forward.
7. Lift the Spare into Place: Be careful, it may be heavier than you are anticipating. Place it according to the location of the lug bolts and slide it on. Then, tighten the lug nuts back on, by hand for now. It helps to work on a diagonal, that is to tighten lug nuts across from each other, rather than immediately next to it, so that the wheel is being secured evenly.
8. Lower the Car: Drop it down so that it’s touching the ground, still supported by the jack. Tighten the lug bolts firmly with the lug wrench. Then, lower completely so the tire has the full weight of the vehicle, and remove the jack. Check the lug nuts once more for secureness.
9. Replace the Wheel Cover: Make sure it matches your spare tire. If it does, then carefully fit it back. Use your body strength to push it into place. Note, that hammering it in with a tool is likely to dent it.
Double check that you’ve stowed away all the equipment you’ve used, before driving off. And, it would be smart to both check the air pressure of the spare, as well as to take your car in to a mechanic as soon as possible, if it is a temporary spare. You’ll want to understand how long that tire will last, and if you need to replace it with a permanent tire right away.
Maintain Your Tires:
Getting a flat is never fun but knowing how to change it will help you feel more confident and prepared as a driver. In the meantime, continue to keep your tires properly inflated, including your spare. You should also regularly put an eye to how your tires are wearing down, checking if they are in need of being replaced. These precautions will keep you ready and on top of your tires!