Introduction: How to Fix a Flat Tire

Picture of How to Fix a Flat Tire

One day, you'll get a puncture. And I guarantee, it will be at the worst time possible. Here's how to install a spare tire.

NOTE: Some cars have locking wheel bolts. If yours does, check your glove box for a special key. If you don't have this key, and have a lock -- you will not be able to remove your wheel.

If you are uncomfortable with changing your tire on the side of the road. Call for assistance - do not drive with a spare tire or punctured tire unless you have run flat tires.

Never raise a vehicle with people inside.

It is beneficial to practice this operation in your driveway so you can complete the task quickly and comfortable on the side of the road.

Check the pressure of your spare tire frequently (at least once a month) and before long trips. There's nothing worse than finding all you have to replace your flat tire with is... a flat tire.

Avoid products like "Fix-A-Flat" and alike. These make tire repair, if not impossible, much more difficult. Only use these as a last resort.

Step 1: Get to a Safe Location

Picture of Get to a Safe Location

Once you've determined you have a flat or a puncture -- turn on your hazard lights and pull off the road. Ideally, you want to park on a hard, level surface that is visible to other drivers.

Once you've come to a stop, make sure that you can safely open your door.

Step 2: Preparation

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First, open your hood - leave your hazard lights on. An open hood on the side of the road indicates distress and makes your car more visible.

Now, open your trunk (or wherever your spare tire is located).

Step 3: The Road Side Kit

Picture of The Road Side Kit

Here we have a few items - but we only need three.

1. Screwdriver and plastic lug wrench (to unscrew once they have been freed)
2. Jack -- this one is known as "The widow maker" among the VW community
3. Lug Wrench

If you thought ahead, you might have also included gloves, to keep your hands clean.

Other good things to have

1. Flashlight (preferably a human powered one)
2. Road Marker
3. Road Flare
4. Jumper Cables (that's another instructable)

Step 4: Clear Trunk Space Remove Spare

Picture of Clear Trunk Space Remove Spare
My trunk was full of stuff -- I was off to a party! So, all if had to come out.

Once the trunk space is clear:

  • Lift the trunk floor
  • Remove Road Side Kit
  • Unscrew Spare Tire Tie Down (this keeps the tire from rattling)
  • Remove Spare Tire

You'll notice, I have a full sized spare. This means, I can put replace any tire of my car with it. For those with a "donut" spare - you can only replace a wheel that is not driven. That is, if your car is front wheel drive, AND you have a puncture on your front wheel -- you'll need to replace a rear wheel with the spare, and then replace the flat/punctured wheel with your fill sized rear wheel.

This is to prevent excessive wear on your transmission (specifically, differential). Additionally, driving with an undersized tire on a driven wheel can be dangerous.

Step 5: Secure Your Vehicle

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When you lift a car with an emergency, the wheels need to be able to roll a tiny bit. Otherwise, you'll find out why this VW jack is known as the widow maker. If the wheels are not able to roll, a moment force is applied to the jack which will cause it to twist off. Not good my friends. Luckily, we can secure either the front or rear without problems ;)

For Flat Ground (that is, the car doesn't roll on it's own):
If you're replacing a front wheel -- engage the parking brake OR chock the opposite rear wheel (if possible) -- leave your transmission in neutral.

If replacing a rear wheel -- put your car in first gear (for manual transmission) OR chock the opposite front wheel -- leave the parking brake off.

Step 6: Free Wheel Bolts/Lugs

Picture of Free Wheel Bolts/Lugs

Remove any wheel center caps to reveal your lugs/bolts. Using your lug wrench, loosen each lug to break it free. DO NOT continue removing them at this point.

DO NOT raise the vehicle off the ground at this time.

Step 7: Place Jack and Raise

Picture of Place Jack and Raise

My jack uses my car's unibody to lift the car. There is a bit of metal that comes down vertically that the jack settles into. NOT ALL VEHICLES are like this. Check your owner's manual for the proper lift points

Place the jack down so it's "feet" are even on the ground and level. Begin raising the jack and make sure the jack cup fits into the proper portion of the frame.

Once the cup is in place, begin to lift the car slowly. Check that the jack is not twisting and that it's base is level on the ground. Should the jack start twisting or go off center -- immediatly lower the jack and try again.

Raise your vehicle so that there is a little space under your wheel.

DO NOT place your jack on soft ground such as dirt, soil or grass.

Step 8: Remove Lugs/Bolts and Wheel

Picture of Remove Lugs/Bolts and Wheel

Now, unscrew the lugs and remove them. Place them in a pocket or anywhere that they won't get lost.

At this time, you should be able to remove the wheel. Remove the wheel and place it under your car as shown. In the even that your jack fails, your car will not fall on to an unprotected wheel hub.

Yes, I've had a jack fail on me while rotating my tires. No, my wheels were not destroyed.

Step 9: Attach Spare

Picture of Attach Spare

Place your spare onto your wheel hub. You may need to lift your vehicle a little more as the spare may be larger compared to a flat tire.

In my case, the wheel sits on a hub (not the bolts). So I have to place the wheel on the circular ring (pictured) - then bolt on.

Screw in all of your bolts/Lugs - until hand tight (do not use lug wrench to apply a great amount of force).

Step 10: Partially Lower Your Vehicle - Tighten Lugs

Picture of Partially Lower Your Vehicle - Tighten Lugs

Now, remove your flat tire from under your car and lower your car so that some of the vehicles weight is place on the spare.

At this time, use your lug wrench to tighten all lugs in a star shaped criss cross pattern. This ensures the wheel tightens evenly. Look at image notes for order...

After doing one pass with your lug wrench, do a second and third.

Now Lower your vehicle completely.

Step 11: Finish Tightening and Clean Up

Picture of Finish Tightening and Clean Up

With the car lowered completely, tighten the lugs/bolts as hard as you can with your wrench.

Put your flat tire in your trunk (in the spare tire well if applicable) and put away your road side kit.


menahunie (author)2011-05-29

Jacks can and do fail; especially the junk ones that come with your car.
My girlfriends Lexus RX300 did just that. Just as I had removed the loosened lug nuts on the front tire the jack BENT ( it was in the proper lift point and straight up and not at any angle; nor did the car move ) and car dropped down... I had slid the spare tire under where you show and it stopped the car from landing on me. I use a mini FLOOR jack I bought instead and way stronger with rubber wheel chocks. You can find these in any auto or Walwart Store..

PlayPatterns (author)2009-04-23

The most important part is to have the proper tools and be prepared BEFORE you get the flat...I stopped by the side of the road today to try to help some guys with a flat and couldnt because they didnt have the right size wrench...and neither did I

abadfart (author)PlayPatterns2009-11-20

ya and one of the X shaped tire irons goes along way 

Derin (author)2009-01-13

Is that car a Golf?

trebuchet03 (author)Derin2009-01-13

Negative. It's the golf's notchback counterpart - Jetta

robz40 (author)2008-12-20

There's a far easier way. Pump it up and run to the nearest garage.

HamO (author)2007-06-18

Extremely well done, as usual. Good job. Nice space spacing jack the VW has.

Derin (author)HamO2008-08-25

my van also hides it in a convenient place,although i cant say the same with the spare wheel,the spare is under the car

Derin (author)2008-06-20

here instead of opening the hood you need to place a reflective triangle 5 meters from your car (and possibly cones if you have them) be careful with car regulations

Derin (author)Derin2008-08-25

oops,seems the min distance is 50m ps vw rocks

Lithium Rain (author)2008-06-14

LOL! I was going through all my old comments/replies, and only just now found out you actually made this! A rather belated thank you and 5/5 stars.

JerryMopar (author)2008-05-20

This instructable should be actually called CHANGING a flat tire, NOT Fixing it. Fixing it would be putting a plug in it, would be totally different. IMHO

trebuchet03 (author)JerryMopar2008-05-20

Semantics. Putting a plug in a tire is totally different than fixing it - you just can't see what sort of damage was done inside.


bdl (author)2007-06-19

One extremely useful tip I once had was to keep your hands at the "four" and "eight" clock positions on the wheel when removing or replacing. Should the car topple, this will throw your hands clear of the arch. The person who told me this had a hand on the "twelve" position of a wheel when the draft from a passing vehicle tipped his car off of the jack and his hand was trapped (and badly broken) for about 15 minutes until a patrol car arrived by chance. Nice instructable though. Here in the UK, I am amazed that this is not taught during driver training.

killerjackalope (author)bdl2008-03-14

It's now being added to the test next year in both mainland and northern Ireland, along with some other stuff.

trebuchet03 (author)bdl2007-06-19

That's a very good point that I forgot to mention.

killerjackalope (author)2008-03-13

A couple of little additions for you, the locknut key may also be in the space saver kit somewhere (where you find the tyre) and sometimes in a little compartment behind a door in the side of the boot (trunk) why there are so many places I don't know. The only tyre sealant i have ever seen work is an industrial brand one, it's not a thin gel like most and actually resembles tar, you pump that stuff in and it will seal a large hole up to about 30psi, also great for sealing tyres on to the rim, also it can be cleaned off for patching. I will remember the trade name I can only remember calling it the black stuff and black magic. Most older european cars have a scissor type jack that is 99% of the time painted black, the trick to using the crank here is to turn the handle at the bend, it's just easier. Also your fears about the jack are a sensible point to make, I actually know an owner who got a rather large chip in his shin bone when the jack pinged out. If the jacking point allows you putting the jack diagonally minimizes risk to you and still gives you good access for the actual jacking... Last point is carrying an extra piece of sturdy steel bar in the space saver is generally considered sensible, idiots at places like kwik fit alway use the air gun and even if you weigh 300lbs those nuts wont move with that little leverage, just slide the bar over the handle and it saves you alot of effort... By the way I was a tyrefitter for three years so... meh Which reminds me, if you have anything heavier than a normal saloon car I suggest finding somewhere for a cheap trolley or bottle jack, a pickup truck is best with a bottle jack, the extra lift makes life easier when you get stuck on a curb or the jungle...

All good points... For those not aware or don't watch Top Gear :p Saloon is the same thing as a sedan...

I thought saloon was known in both, that's why I used it...

heyzuphowsitgoin (author)2007-06-19

that canned fix-a-flat or whatever its called works if u hav an air compressor in your car...

I never said it doesn't work --- and you shouldn't need a compressor. Using products like that will likely make repairing your tire impossible. Sure, that may be fine this time -- but get another puncture... You can't keep adding that stuff in there. The best thing to do is replace the tire with the spare -- then have your tire patched using a two part repair where the tire is taken off the wheel and repaired from the inside. I've used the type where you push in an RTV stick type of thing from the outside. And I've never had problems. But the safest way is to have the tire dismounted and repaired from the inside.

bleachworthy (author)trebuchet032007-10-18

"You can't keep adding that stuff in there." BS, I want my tire to be made of it before I finally buy a new one!!

hondagofast (author)2007-07-28

Is that fabric in your trunk, or frilly dresses?

Visitor (author)2007-06-19

The statement "Call for assistance - do not drive with a spare tire" is pretty confusing considering your topic. I assume you mean "fix the punctured tire as soon as possible, do not drive around on a spare tire?" Also note that the jack that comes with the car is meant for emergency road side work only and is pretty much unsafe. For planned maintenance you need to get a proper jack.

trebuchet03 (author)Visitor2007-06-19

Here's the whole sentence ;)

If you are uncomfortable with changing your tire on the side of the road. Call for assistance - do not drive with a spare tire or punctured tire unless you have run flat tires.

I mean, if you're uncomfortable swapping the tire... Don't -- and don't drive with the flat/punctured tire either. Changing a wheel that you're not very sure of can lead to some very dangerous situations.

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