Easy Way to Change a Flat Tire | Pro Tips for Beginners and Experts
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You're driving along the highway when all of a sudden you hear a loud noise, the steering feels heavy, and your vehicle slows down.
After pulling over, you step out of the car and see what nobody likes to experience, especially when you're away from home: a flat tire.
A flat tire can put a serious dent in your travels, and your insurance company probably won’t pay to repair it. Having the know-how to perform a tire change helps you get back on the road quicker.
But with flat tires being a rare occurrence, what are some pro tips for tire changing?
Here's a step-by-step guide to smooth tire changing.
Tire changing steps
1. Find a safe location
When you experience a flat tire, first things first: You need to stop in a safe place to keep yourself and your passengers safe from other motorists.
If you happen to be on a major highway, pulling over onto the side of the road as far as possible can help keep you out of harm's way.
Or, if you're driving on local roads and see a nearby parking lot, going a little further to reach it will give you a safe spot to perform the work.
Wherever you happen to be when you experience a blowout, taking extra care to park away from traffic increases safety and can make a tire change easier.
After you come to a stop, for additional safety, turn on your hazard lights and apply the parking brake. If you have wheel wedges or chocks, using them can further ensure your vehicle doesn't move.
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2. Locate the spare, tire iron, and jack
Once you realize you'll need to perform a tire change, it's time to locate the spare, tire iron, and car jack.
Typically, you can find these in the trunk, underneath the carpeting. But if you own an off-road capable vehicle like a truck or SUV, you may find the spare mounted on the back or somewhere underneath.
When you locate the spare tire, you'll have to remove it and set it down near the wheel with the flat tire. You may want to check its tire pressure to ensure it's ready for the road.
Next, with your car parked on a flat surface, it's time to unscrew the lug nuts. In some cases, you may need to remove a wheel cover before doing so. Using the tire iron (the large metal L-shaped tool), loosen each lug bolt one by one. The lug nuts will probably be very tight and need a lot of muscle to break free. But once you get them moving counterclockwise, it's much easier the rest of the way.
With the lug nuts loosened but not yet removed, locate the jack point on your vehicle and position the jack underneath it. Your car will probably have a scissor-style jack, requiring a rotating motion with the attached handle. As the jack raises, make sure it contacts the correct point on your vehicle before it lifts off of the ground.
3. Remove the flat tire
With the lug nuts already loosened, you can probably unscrew them by hand. Take care to count each one and place them in a secure spot for later installation.
Then, make sure to account for the weight of the flat tire, remove it and set it aside. Congrats! You’re halfway there.
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4. Install the spare tire
Now it's time to install the spare tire, taking you one step closer to getting back on the road.
The challenge of this step is aligning the holes on the wheel with the studs on the brake hub.
And before you place the spare tire on the hub, you may need to jack it up a little higher since the flat tire took up less space.
Once you have the new tire placed over the wheel stubs, tighten each lug nut by hand, ensuring not to cross-thread them as you go. When you've tightened them as much as you can by hand, use the lug wrench to go a little further but not fully locked down. You'll know it's time for the next step when the wheel is flush with the brake hub.
5. Lower your car and tighten the lug nuts
With the lug nuts firmly screwed on but not tightened, release the jack and let your car lower to the ground. After removing the jack, finish tightening the lug nuts for secure attachment.
Although you're supposed to torque lug nuts to a specific value, it isn't possible to do so away from home. So using your body weight and elbow grease while tightening as much as possible will ensure you'll make it to your destination safely. But be sure to visit a repair shop to torque the lug nuts entirely as soon as possible.
With the new wheel and tire firmly attached, now it's time to place the flat tire where the spare was, store the tire iron and jack, and get back on the road.
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April 15, 2022
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