Nothing wrecks a person’s day like a flat tire. It’s inconvenient, time-consuming, and if you don’t know how to change a tire, you’re doomed to learning how to do it as you go, which can be stressful, or you have to wait for roadside assistance, which may not be punctual. While many drivers knew how to change a tire in the 20th century, it’s a less common skill today among drivers. In case you’ve never had to change a tire or could use a recap, here are the steps you should take to ensure you know how to change a tire quickly and safely.
Planning ahead. It’s a good idea to have the necessary tools in your trunk. While your car should have a properly inflated spare tire and a carjack (double check that it does), you can also include wheel chocks, flares, tire sealant, a tire gauge, gloves, a waterproof flashlight, paper towels, and hand cleaner. A collapsible shovel may be a good idea in case the flat occurs during winter.
Watching Traffic. Be wise about where you change your tire—you’ll want to be as far from the flow of traffic as possible, and the white line between your car and traffic is very narrow. The tire-changing spot also needs to be level so you can safely jack the car up, so the car cannot be parked uphill or leaning. Also, turn your car’s four-way flashers on, and beware that the air from rushing traffic could knock you off your feet. Set the parking brake before you begin.
Removing Hub Cap and Lug Nuts. Follow your car’s owner’s manual, as it will have specific instructions and show where everything is. Remove the car jack and the lug wrench from your trunk and pry off the tire’s hub cap with the lug wrench and place it on the ground upside down. There may be a lug nut with a key adapter – insert the key lock adapter, loosen the lug, and remove it. Place the lock on the hub cap, which should be upside down to serve as a tray, and then loosen the lug nuts accordingly.
Lifting the Car. Find the pinch flange under the car, as it is the strongest part for lifting. There should be a notch under the car that fits the car jack, but check the manual to be sure. Set the jack up under the pinch flange and raise the car up by turning the jack’s handle clockwise—turn until the car is just high enough for you to install the inflated spare.
Installing the Spare Tire. Take off the loosened lug nuts and pull the flat tire off – it will be heavy. Then, take the spare tire from your trunk or rear panel, depending on your car. For most SUVs and trucks, the spare tire is under the rear of the SUV/truck. A center nut holds the tire up, which should be loosened by turning counter-clockwise. Consult your manual for direction.
To install your spare, align the wheel studs with the holes and slip the tire on, and then thread on the lug nuts by finger-tightening until the lug is snug. Turn the jack’s handle counter-clockwise to lower the vehicle. Once the vehicle is on solid ground, tighten the lug nuts with the lug wrench in a clockwise, crisscross pattern. Double check the owner’s manual to be sure this is done properly. Remember, the lug nuts not being tightened properly is unsafe.
Remove the jack and store it in the trunk. Pick up the flat tire, tools, emergency kit, hubcap, and anything else you used and store them in the trunk as well.
Driving with a Spare. The spare tire is temporary, and you should not drive faster than 50 mph on it. Repair or replace the old tire immediately because the spare will not last long and is not meant to.
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