Introduction: How to Change a Flat Tire: Quick, Easy, Safe

Hi. I am Jerry Ruschmeier and I help people learn basic life skills that can keep them from frustrating and uncomfortable events. Today I am going to provide instructions for a skill that will help avoid being stuck on a lonely road in the middle of the night, waiting for tow truck. Studies show at least 40% of drivers do not know how to perform the simple task of changing a flat tire. Freedom from being stranded in this horror story scene can be accomplished in 10 steps in less than 10 minutes for a practiced individual. We will also cover some bonus tips to ensure a smooth tire exchange.

Step 1: Safely Come to a Stop

Let’s start by getting to the side of the road safely. When a flat tire is felt or seen the most important thing to is remain calm. The worst thing to do is freak out! Stay cool and signal to move to the side of the road, while simultaneously letting off of the gas. Then, apply the brakes gently pulling over onto the shoulder, ensuring that while braking the vehicle doesn’t pull hard to one side of the road or the other. If this does happen continue coasting until a safe speed is reached and then apply the brakes to come to a stop. Put the car in park and turn the hazard lights on. Tip: Call someone and let them know what has happened and where. This is just a safety precaution. Provide the person a time frame, maybe 20 minutes, to call back and check-in.

Step 2: Gathering Tools and the Spare Tire

Now to begin the tire exchange. The best part about this “how to” is that all of the needed equipment is already in the vehicle. Whew, relief right?! Tip: Ensure this equipment is in the vehicle before traveling to prevent the unfortunate event of being stuck on the roadside without it. Tools are stored in the rear of the vehicle, they can be found either under the seat, in a plastic interior side wall panel, or under the trunk mat. Also, the spare tire can be found underneath the vehicle, on the rear of the vehicle, or under the trunk mat. Tip: Before traveling make sure the spare tire is fully inflated. Now, gather the tools and get the spare out. To get the spare, find the release mechanism: for an in the trunk tire or tire on the back of a vehicle, the release mechanism is a simple turn handle that allows the tire to be released with by hand. For tires under the vehicle the release is in the bumper. Sometimes it is located behind a cover that requires a key to be remove. Then find one of the tools that has a square end on it, that tool is put into the hole and turned counter clockwise to lower the tire to the ground where the stop can be pulled out from the mounting hole. Now that equipment is gathered and it is time to remove the bad tire!

Step 3: Loosen the Nuts

Prior to getting the vehicle in the air right away there is one little step that is crucial to making the transition easier. Before setting up the jack, take the breaker bar, the bent tool that fits on the tire’s nuts, and break loose the lug nuts. All this means is to get them to turn, about a half a turn.

Step 4: Raising the Vehicle With the Jack.

After the lugs are loose the vehicle can be raised to take the pressure off of the tire. Placement is the most important part of setting up the jack. First, ensure the vehicle is sitting close to level. If the vehicle is on a slope it could cause the jack to collapse and the vehicle to fall. Make sure the jack itself is also sitting level to avoid the same issues. Next, place the jack under the frame of the vehicle close to a corner or as close to the tire needing changed as possible. After that start raising the jack. Tip: Jacks can be difficult to handle when on the ground, extend the jack as much as possible to allow it to fit under the vehicle, before placing it under the vehicle. Scissor jacks will require the tool with the hook end and the breaker bar. Insert the hook into the loop on the outside loop in the middle of the jack. Take the other end of the hook tool, the square end, and insert it into the middle of the breaker bar. (Tools may vary depending on vehicle make.) To raise the jack, use the breaker bar and spin it clockwise and the vehicle will begin to rise. If a bottle Jack is required stick the square end of one of the tools into the hole on the jack knob and twist clockwise to raise. Lift the vehicle until there is adequate room under the tire to remove it. Anymore than this could cause the vehicle to tip.

Step 5: Taking Off the Flat Tire.

When the vehicles bad tire is lifted off of the ground loosen the lug nuts the rest of the way and remove them. Tip: Place one hand on the wheel to hold it as you take the nuts off. This will prevent it from falling off or pinching fingers. Now, pull the tire carefully away from the vehicle and off the wheel studs. Use proper lifting techniques! Keeping feet and shoulders square, knees bent, and back straight.

Step 6: Putting on the Spare.

Now the spare tire can be installed. This step may require lifting the vehicle higher. Set the wheel next to the wheel mount and see if the wheel will fit on the stud, or raise the vehicle until the wheel can easily slide on. Use caution and do not lift the vehicle too high to avoid tipping. Next, while still using proper lifting techniques, lift the spare and slide it onto the wheel studs. Take the lug nuts and screw them back onto the studs to hold the tire in place. These last few steps are critical to ensuring the journey continues well after the exchange, so pay attention.

Step 7: Pre-tightening of Lug Nuts.

Subsequently tighten the lug nuts until they are hand tight. It may be helpful to rock the tire back and forth or side to side to set the lug nuts on further. Once, the nuts are as tight as possible with your fingers use the breaker bar to continue to tighten the lug nuts. While using the breaker bar tighten the nuts in a star pattern. This means tighten one, then tighten the nut on the opposite side, and continue. Once the nuts are tight without the tire spinning it is time to let the jack down and put the vehicle back on the road.

Step 8: Lower the Vehicle Back Down to the Road.

Next, begin letting the vehicle down by slowly turning the bar on the jack counter clockwise. The tire will be on the ground before the jack is ready to be removed. Continue lowering the jack, the tires will be on the ground and the vehicle will continue to settle until the shocks take all of the vehicles weight. Once the vehicle is settled the jack will come down from the bottom of the frame and can be removed.

Step 9: Finish Tightening Lug Nuts.

Finally, with the vehicle on the ground and the jack removed from underneath the vehicle it is time to finish tightening the lug nuts. Take the breaker bar and use it to tighten the nuts down. The nuts can only be tightened so much before they strip out. Be careful and use force to tighten the bolts down, but do not jump or pry or put your weight on the breaker bar to avoid breaking the nuts. On smaller vehicles it is safe to tighten until the vehicle starts to move slightly. This may not be possible on a larger vehicle.

Step 10: Getting Back on the Road.

The installation is complete! Congratulations! Now pick up the tools used and store them appropriately. Put the flat tire in the place where the spare was and tighten it into place. Complete one final walk around of the vehicle to ensure the other tires are in good condition and no tools were left behind. Just like that, it’s time to get back on the road. One final recommendation. Bring the vehicle in to have a new tire installed. Spare tires are not designed to be used for long periods of time or for many miles. The spare will need to be replaced and inspected by a professional as soon as possible, but now the spooky roadway is in the rear-view mirror. This process may take more than ten minutes the first time it is performed, but should still be able to be done in less than 20. For knowledge sake I recommend everyone everyone goes through a practice run on performing the tire change when a drivers license is obtained.