When changing a flat tire it is essential to make sure that your well prepared. Lets face it. No one wants to be stuck on the side of the highway in the pouring rain without the proper equipment and knowledge to do such a basic task.Taking preventative measure to assure this task is done smoothly can be extremely important and can make the difference in making it to work on time or getting yourself out of a sticky situation.
Some basic equipment needed
- Spare tire: Make sure that you have a spare tire that is properly inflated to the correct psi (pounds per square inch). The correct psi should be located on the side of the spare tire as well as your owners manual. Usually your spare tire is located in the trunk of your vehicle under the base of the trunk. In some vehicles it is located under the car in the under carriage. Please refer to your owners manual if you have a hard time locating your spare tire.
- Tire Iron: To take the lug nuts off that are holding your tire to the axel, you must have a tire iron. You must also ensure that the tire iron you own fits the lug nuts properly. Often times lug nuts are not universal sizes, therefore this step in preparation is very important. Most cars come with a tire iron that is located wherever your spare tire is. If not, tire irons can be purchased at you local hardware store for relatively cheap.
- Chock block: when changing a tire, especially on the side of the street, safety is most important. Something wedged behind your rear tire (on the opposite side if the rear tire is the flat) will prevent your car from rolling away while your working.
- Jack/jack stand: To lift your car while your changing your tire you will need a jack. This is often times also located wherever your spare tire is. Make sure that your jack has the handle otherwise you will not be able to lift the vehicle. Sometimes the jack and the handle are separated for storage purposes. If available, having a jack stand to slide under your car while its on the jack well further improve safety measures.
Step 1: Loosen Your Lug Nuts
After you conduct the proper inventory of all your equipment, place them is in an area that is convenient for you to reach while your working. Scrambling around looking for your tools can be frustrating in an already maddening situation.
- Start by locating your tire iron.
- Place the end of your tire iron with the wrenching side, onto your first lug nut. If your car is equipped with hub caps, remove the cap by simply popping it off with your finger tips. If this becomes to much of a task use a screw driver if handy to pry it off.
- Turn the tire iron to the LEFT to loosen the nut. Sometimes this can be easier said than done. Lug nuts hold your tire on while going high speeds so they are tightened down fairly tight. If you find that the lug nuts are too tight, trying spraying the nuts with lubricant such as WD40 to break the nut loose.
- Loosen all the lug nuts but DO NOT take the nuts off. Leave them threaded on at least hand tight.
Step 2: Jacking Up the Vehicle
This is the most important step in the process when regarding safety. Proper placement of the jack before lifting the car is imperative in ensuring your car doesn't slide around or fall while off the ground. If your car falls while the tire is off, your flat is going to be the least of your concerns.
- Locate your jack, and the jack handle.
- Slide the jack under your vehicle into the proper position which is called the LIFT POINT. The correct lift point for your particular car will be located in your owners manual. Most times the lift point is located 10in-12in away from the tire and is a part of the cars frame. Using the frame is the best because it is the most stable point to place your jack. Otherwise the jack may puncture the body of your vehicle. Also, ensure that your raising your vehicle on a FLAT surface.
- Locate the jack handle and attach it to the jack. If the jack is in the proper position, begin pumping the jack up by turning the handle clockwise.
- Repeat this motion until your vehicle is high enough off of the ground to slide the flat tire off.
Step 3: Removing the Flat Tire
- Once you have lifted your vehicle to the proper height, completely remove the lug nuts from the axel.
- Ensure that you place the lug nuts in an area where they do not roll away and can be easily located. If your rim has a hub cap, the rule of thumb is to place your newly removed lug nuts inside the hub cab once it is removed.
- Some vehicle tires come equipped with an automatic inflating system that puts air in the tire when the car senses the tire is low. If this is the case, unscrew the self inflating system from the point in which you would add air to the tire.
- Slide the tire off carefully and place it in a safe spot until your work is complete.
Step 4: Installing the Spare or New Tire
The next step in the process is placing your tire on the threads. Often times this can be frustrating because the tire will have a tendency to not sit on the threads evenly. If you have a passenger, have them hold the tire in place while you screw on the lug nuts. If not, be patient and allow the tire to balance on the threads while you quickly put on the nuts.
- Slide the tire on the threads while holding it in place.
- Screw on each lug nut so that the tire is flush against the axel.
- Try and tighten the nuts as snug as you can possibly get them using your fingers.
Step 5: Lowering Your Vehicle and Tightening the Lug Nuts
Now that the tire has been installed, it is time to lower the vehicle back to ground level.
- Start by locating the jack handle.
- Lower the vehicle by turning the handle counter clockwise until the vehicle is once again on the ground.
- Using your tire iron, tighten the nuts until you cannot turn them anymore.
- Next, slide your jack from under the car and place it back where it belongs along with the flat tire.
NOTE: After the tire has been installed properly and your own your way, I recommend stopping at your local shop to have the lug nuts tightened down to the specific torque specifications. Often times, the manufacturer has their own specs as to how tight the bolts should be. Over tightening or not tightening enough can result in damage to your vehicle.
Step 6: Finishing the Job
Once all your tools and equipment have been properly stowed, drive your car a couple of feet to ensure that the tire is ok to drive on. If the tire is not inflated to the proper psi, stop at a location where you can add air and input the right amount. Most spares have a mileage limit of how long you can drive on them so it is highly important to retrieve a new tire as soon as possible.
You've done it! Hurray! Now you may not be ready to be a part of a pit crew but you can change your tire all on your own! Look at you go!
NOTE: When replacing the flat with a new tire, have the tire shop inspect the tire to find out what caused the flat. If the tire went flat because of ware you might consider changing all of them as soon as possible. If its just a nail or broken glass have them inspect your tires anyway. Most shops will do this as a courtesy.