Your Easy Emergency Guide: How to Change a Tire on Your Own
Changing a flat tire is a crucial skill that every driver should have. Contrary to what most people believe, fixing a flat tire isn’t complicated; you only need to have the necessary tools and know the right steps to replace it properly. Of course, some extra effort will also come in handy.
How to Change a Flat Tire- All You Need to Do
1. Identify a safe, level, and stable surface
A tire can blow anywhere and at any time. When this happens, remain calm and brake slowly as you survey the road for a perfect spot for changing the tire safely. Ideally, you want a level ground, wide enough to let you move around the vehicle without risking being run over by other motorists. A wide shoulder or a parking lot are excellent options.
2. Throw on your hazard lights
When changing a flat tire along the road, your safety and that of other motorists is critical. Putting on your hazard lights will alert other drivers from afar, so they are cautious when driving by you. To avoid an accident, it’s vital that you turn your emergency lights as soon as you realize that you need to pull over.
3. Engage the parking brake
Even if the terrain is flat, your vehicle is still at the risk of rolling. This could be disastrous to your safety and that of others around you. For that reason, ensure that you apply the parking brake. If your car has an automatic transmission, put the gear at P (parking). For manual transmission, leave the gear at First or Reverse.
4. Position your wheel wedges
To further minimize the car rolling risk, apply wedges on the rear or front tire, depending on where the flat is. If it’s on the rear tire, then you should place the wedges on the front wheel. If you don’t have actual wheel wedges, any solid and heavy object, such as concrete, rock, or a large stick, will work just fine.
5. Remove the wheel cover
If your wheel has a hubcap, this will be the right time to remove it. Otherwise, jump to step 6. Removing the wheel cover should be easy using a flat-head screwdriver. Slip the screwdriver underneath the hubcap and push it forward to loosen it. Move to several different places around the cover and do the same until it loosens from the wheel.
6. Loosen the lug nuts
With the wheel cover out of the way, it’s time to grab the lug wrench and loosen the nuts by turning them counterclockwise. Remember, you only need to break the resistance, not to remove the nuts out completely. Loosening the lug nuts while the wheel is still on the ground ensures that only the nuts turn, not the entire wheel.
7. Position the jack in place
The ideal place to position the jack when changing a flat tire is on a metallic surface close to the tire. Most vehicles with plastic molded underneath the body have a small gap that’s meant to accommodate the jack. If your vehicle doesn’t have this gap, place a small piece of wood between the jack and the molded plastic to prevent the latter from breaking.
Note 1: Jack placement is a critical and delicate stage. If there’s anything that isn’t clear, please refer to your car’s manual on where or how to safely position the carjack.
Note 2: To prevent the jack from digging into the ground under your vehicle’s weight, position it on a small piece of wood.
8. Jack up the vehicle
With the jack safely in position, it’s time to crank or pump it to lift the wheel. Lift the vehicle high enough to create a clearance of around 6 inches between the flat tire and the ground. Importantly, ensure that the jack is lifting the vehicle straight up. If you realize that it’s lifting the vehicle at an angle, lower the jack and reposition it before cranking it up again.
9. Remove the loose lug nuts
Since you had already loosened the lug nuts, removing them using the wrench or even your hands should be easy peasy.
10. Take off the wheel
After you’ve removed all the lug nuts and placed them in a safe place, grab the entire flat wheel by the threads and slowly pull it out of the hub. Lie it on the ground so it doesn’t roll off.
11. Install the spare tire
Having removed the flat tire, grab your spare tire and slide it nicely over the wheel bolts. Be sure to mount the wheel correctly and not backward.
12. Put the lug nuts back on
Next, replace the lug nuts and roll them clockwise until they are snug using your hand. Take care to place the nuts correctly if your wheel uses conical-tapered/acorn-style nuts. When using an acorn lug nut, the tapered side should face the wheel.
13. Partially lower the vehicle
Ease the jack partially to lower the vehicle so that the wheel is firmly on the ground. Don’t lower the jack completely just yet. Now take the wrench and tighten the lug nuts all the way. Importantly, tighten the nuts in a criss-cross or star style to prevent the wheel from wobbling. For instance, after tightening the nut at the top, you should consider the one almost directly opposite.
14. Lower the vehicle all the way down
After tightening all the lug nuts, lower the jack completely and remove it.
15. Replace the hubcap
You can replace the cover if it fits on the replacement wheel. If it doesn’t fit, then store it.
16. Store your tools
At this point, you’re ready to pack your equipment and hit the road again. Ensure that you pack the flat tire, jack, lug wrench, wheel wedges, and the hubcap if it didn’t fit.
17. Take the flat tire to a mechanic
After changing a tire, you probably don’t have another spare tire in case of another flat. So, it only makes sense that you have the flat tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible. If you replaced the tire with a donut, remember not to drive more than 70 miles before replacing it with a new tire. Also, keep your speed below 50mph to protect it from projectiles and other road hazards.
Can you drive with a flat tire?
Driving your car on a flat tire is a bad idea. However, if you have to drive to a repair shop or a safer area, you should do so very slowly. Importantly, you shouldn’t drive more than a hundred yards with a flat tire. Doing so could damage the tire as well as the rim leading to expensive, mandatory repairs and replacements.
How long will it take to change a tire?
If you know how to fix a flat tire, then the entire process should take around 30 minutes.
What tools do I need to fix a flat tire?
Here are the tools necessary to change a tire:
- Spare tire
- Lug wrench (in most of the newest cars, you’ll find the lug wrench in the jack’s handle)
- Wheel wedges
- A flathead screwdriver for the wheel cover
- Protective gloves
- Reflective triangles
- Tire repair kit if you plan to fix the flat tire yourself
If you drive a vehicle, you should know how to put on a spare tire and safely. While there’s an option to pay someone to do it, you don’t want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire and nonexistent cellular service.