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Changing a Flat Tire: The Beginner’s Guide

woman changing her car's tire

April 5, 2017 Topic: Safety Tips

A flat tire never comes at an opportune time. But luckily, with forums, blogs and how-to videos, simple instructions to changing your flat are just a click away!

STEP 1: BE PREPARED

Planning ahead will save you a lot of frustration; it’s not a bad idea to keep an emergency kit in your trunk. Be sure to keep a spare tire in your vehicle. Additional equipment needed to change your tire includes a jack, a lug wrench and a flat tire repair kit. Wheel wedges, gloves, a flashlight and flares or reflective triangles will also make changing your tire easier.

STEP 2: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

It’s important to choose a safe location to change your tire. Pull over to the shoulder and drive slowly to where you have enough space needed to stay away from the flow of traffic. You will need a level, solid surface to safely jack up your car. Using your flashers, flares or reflective triangles will help give safe warning of your disabled vehicle ahead. This is especially important at night or in the rain. Always be aware of heavy or rushing traffic. Give yourself plenty of room surrounding your flat to work safely.

STEP 3: PREP YOUR VEHICLE

Setting your parking brake will help to prevent your car from rolling once the flat tire has been jacked up in the air. Your owner’s manual will have all the instructions needed for your specific vehicle. This will be one of your most valuable tools during your tire change.

STEP 4: PRY OFF THE HUBCAP

Use the sharp end of the lug wrench to pry off your hubcap. It’s a good idea to become familiar with your type of wheel fasteners before you are in an emergency situation; some cars have hubcaps with false lugs. Remove the hub cap and set it on the ground upside-down. It can then be used as a tray for the lug nuts.

STEP 5: LOOSEN LUGS

The lug nuts will need to be loosened prior to lifting your vehicle. Place lug nuts in the hub cap to keep them clean and in sight.

STEP 6: LOCATE THE PINCH FLANGE

Oftentimes, the pinch flange is the strongest part of the car for lifting purposes. Most cars have a notch that fits the factory jack. Your owner’s manual will help you determine lifting locations. Lifting a car at the wrong spot can damage the car and endanger you if it’s unstable.

STEP 7: RAISE THE VEHICLE

Position the jack under jacking location. Slowly raise your vehicle by turning the jack’s handle in a clockwise motion. You’ll need to lift the car enough to not only remove the flat or damaged tire but to also install the fully-inflated spare.

STEP 8: REMOVE THE TIRE

Remove the remaining, already loosened lug nuts and take off the flat tire by simply pulling. Remove the spare from its stored location. In smaller cars, the spare is often found in the trunk. Many trucks and SUVs house the spare tire under the rear. If that is the case, the center nut usually holds the spare in place. Consult your owner’s manual for details on removal.

STEP 9: INSTALL THE SPARE

Line up the wheel studs with the holes. Using your foot to hold the spare tire in place, tighten the lugs with your fingers until snug. Tightening the lug nuts with your lug wrench while your vehicle is still in the air could cause your car to fall off of the jack.

STEP 10: LOWER THE CAR & TIGHTEN THE LUGS

Carefully lower the car by turning the jack handle counterclockwise. Once the car is back on the ground, continue to tighten the lug nuts with your wrench in a crisscross pattern. You can find the correct sequences in your owner’s manual.

STEP 11: FINAL STEPS

Be sure to remember to remove your jack and stow it in the trunk. Look around and pick up your tools, hubcap, emergency kit, and everything else. Place your flat in the trunk as well.