How to Change a Tire

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Here's what you need to know...
  • One of the scariest parts of driving a car is dealing with a flat tire.
  • Help is usually just a phone call away, but there are situations where you must change the tire yourself.
  • Perhaps you don’t have time to wait for help, or you do not have free roadside assistance coverage and cannot afford the cost associated with someone else changing your tire.
  • Learning how to change a tire is easy–just continue reading!

With the instructions in this article, you will have the confidence and ability to change your tire. By doing it yourself, you can save money and time as well as gain the confidence to do it again should you need to.

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What do I need to change a tire?

Man changing a tire, making car repair.

The most important part of changing a tire is the preparation even before you have a flat. This means making sure your car is properly stocked with the necessary tools and equipment to allow you to change the tire.

A flat tire is bad enough – you do not want to find out after you have a flat that you aren’t able to change it yourself because you don’t have the tools.

Luckily most cars have detailed descriptions on how to change the tire in their user manual. Whether you have access to this information or not, you should always have a fully-inflated spare tire, a jack to lift the car, and a lug wrench to take the bolts off of the tire.

If possible, try to have a pair of gloves and a working flashlight as well as something to prevent the car from rolling such as a brick.

What should I do when I realize I have a flat tire?

The most important decision you can make if you have a flat tire is to pull over at a part of the road that is safe from other traffic and vehicles.

  • Even if you can’t get completely off the road onto a shoulder, try to stop the car in an area of the road that is straight so others can see you.
  • Do not slam on the brakes when you realize you have a flat. Allow the car to slowly reduce its speed and come to a safe and controlled stop.
  • Do not worry if you have to drive a short distance with a flat tire. It is more important to be a safe spot than to be concerned over potential damage to your car.
  • Do not stop the car on an incline or decline, as a jack cannot properly support a car that is parked at an angle.
  • Be sure to engage your car’s four-way flashers to notify others that you are stopped.

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How do I take the tire off?

The first thing that you should do is remove all of the tools that you need and place them near the tire you are changing. Once you start changing the tire, you do not want to have to leave the area to get other tools.

If you have other passengers in the car, especially children, the safest place for them to stay is in the vehicle.

If you have gloves and a block, put the gloves on and place the block under the tire that is opposite and diagonal from the tire you have changing. For example, if your front right tire is flat, place the block behind the rear left tire.

To remove the lug nuts, first take off any hubcaps. Using the lug wrench, turn the nuts counterclockwise until they loosen.

Do not take the nuts off of the tire; just make sure they are all loose.

If you are having difficulty loosening the lug nuts, try stepping on the lug wrench to produce more force.

Once you have loosened the nuts, place the jack in the manufacturer’s recommended location. This can be found in the owner’s manual. Most times, there is a small metal plate under the car where the jack should be positioned.

Start raising the jack until it makes contact with the underside of the vehicle, and then keep raising it until it is at least six inches off the ground. Remember, your flat tire is less inflated than your spare so you are going to need extra space to put the spare back on.

Once the car is jacked, remove the lug nuts and set them in a secure location, such as inside the hubcap. Grab the tire with two hands, and pull it straight towards you until it is completely off the car and set it aside.

How do I put the spare tire on?

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Take the spare tire and line the holes up with the bolts that are on your vehicle. Push the tire onto the car and put the lug nuts back on the bolts. For now, only tighten by hand to prevent the tire from falling off.

Lower the jack until the four tires of the vehicle are making contact with the ground. Remove the jack from under the vehicle and begin to tighten each of the lug nuts.

Always tighten one lug nut and then tighten the one that is opposite, not next to, the tightened nut.

Finally, put all your tools, equipment, and flat tire away. You can usually put the flat tire in the same location that the spare tire was located. Secure the lug wrench and jack, and take one final look to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind.

Now take the car to a service center to get your flat repaired, as most spare tires are only rated for up to 50 miles of traveling distance and cannot exceed 50 mph.

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