Changing a Flat Tire




About: I am an Engineering student at Iowa State Univeristy. I have performed all maintenance on the vehicles I have owned.

Perfect! You are simply enjoying a Sunday afternoon drive when you hear a loud pop followed by a constant thumping noise. You pull over and to your dismay you see your tire is flat.

Don't panic!

Maybe you’ve changed a tire before, or it is possible that you have never been in this situation, either way changing this tire won't be very difficult at all, and with the help of this instructable you should be able to put on that spare and be rolling again in no time.

Step 1: Loosen Flat Tire Bolts

Picture 1
It is good to know where your spare tire and tools are located, and that they are in good order; the spare tire and tools required are usually stored in the trunk, however on a larger car or truck a spare may be bolted underneath the vehicle or onto the trunk. Get out the jack, tire iron, and crankshaft (refer to picture 3 here for tool images), but the spare can stay for now if you want.

Picture 2
It is very important to loosen the bolts holding the tire in place before raising the car off the ground, otherwise you may not be able to produce enough torque to loosen the bolts, especially old rusty ones, and you certainly don’t want to knock the car off of the jack. Only loosen the bolts a little bit right now though, this way the tire will safely stay in place.

Picture 3
Once the bolts are initially loosened, place the jack underneath the car. Only the manufacturer provided jack should be used; the use of a different jack could compromise safety. A small arrow or notch will be shown on the pinch wall of the car's frame under the car near each tire; this is where the jack should be lined up with and placed.

Step 2: Raise Car

Pictures 1 & 2
Once the jack is in place, insert the crankshaft device into the slot or hole on the jack arm. Again, these parts will only be compatible if they are all original manufacturer equipment. Turn the crank clockwise and the car will begin to rise. The crank won’t turn without a little elbow grease, two hands will need to be used, one to steady and position the crank while the other can turn it.

Picture 3
Once the flat tire is off the ground (the three other wheels will still be contact with the ground) the bolts can then be completely loosened and removed. They should have initially been loosened earlier however, before the car was off the ground.

Step 3: Remove Flat Tire

Once all the bolts are removed the flat tire can be taken off the wheel hub. If the tire is really stuck on the hub, simply leave one bolt in and lightly kick around the edge of the tire, this should pop any rusted parts away from the hub.

Put the flat off to the side for now, or if you have already taken the spare out of its compartment, the flat tire and wheel can just be put right into that empty bay. Also be sure not to misplace the bolts you took off, you will need those to secure the spare, and obviously the original wheel once you get a new tire, onto the wheel hub

Step 4: Install Spare

Picture 1
If you haven't done so already, take the spare out of the trunk and bring it over to your empty wheel hub. Note the air pressure in the tire, and if it seems dangerously low, to the point where you can squeeze the tire and see a deflection, then it should not be used. If that is the case you may have to call someone or find further assistance. You never know when you may need you spare tire, and this is exactly why it is recommended to maintain you spare and all tools at all times.

Picture 2
Align the 5 bolt holes on the spare with the 5 bolt holes on the wheel hub and lift the spare into place. Don't push the spare all the way onto the hub until the holes are lined up properly, this will make inserting the bolts easier.

Picture 3 & 4
Insert the same bolts back into the holes, it doesn't matter which bolt goes in each hole. When inserting the bolts into the holes, put them in any order you feel comfortable with and will allow the tire to be held in place. You can hand tighten the bolts or use light force with the tire iron, but do not completely tighten. When performing a final tightening of the bolts once the car is back on the ground, a star pattern should be followed, always tightening the bolt across from the one you just tightened, more on this later.

Step 5: Lower Car

Once the tire is held in place on the wheel hub and the bolts are hand tightened the car can be lowered back onto the ground. This is done exactly the same way it is raised except this time the crank is turned counter-clockwise. Once the car is lowered the jack can be completely collapsed and set aside.

Step 6: Tighten Bolts

Now that the car is on the ground, the bolts can be completely tightened. Start at a random bolt and work in a star pattern, always tightening the bolt across from the one previously tightened, similar to how you would draw a 5-point star. This will ensure that the wheel achieves full contact with the wheel hub. It is unlikely that you are traveling with a torque wrench, so a good rule of thumb is to tighten the bolt with out excessive force using the tire iron, and then turn the bolt a quarter turn more. You do not want that spare falling off on your way to the tire shop or car dealer. Pack up all your tools and put your full size tire in the empty bay your spare previously occupied if you haven’t yet done so.

Replace the flat with a new tire as soon as possible, and DO NOT drive on your spare for an extended period of time.

Give yourself a big pat on the back for a job well done!



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    10 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 6

    I feel so sorry for you, they painted your spare bright red, probably to embarrass you and get you to fix the old one as soon as possible.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It's done to identify the rim as a spare, so that nobody attempts to mount a regular tire on it, and yes, to also remind you that you are riding on your spare tire. In any case, it's best that you have your regular tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible. Those Mickey Mouse (space saver) spares are not intended for long-term use. In fact, they can create problems if left on the car for an extended time. For example, if your car has a limited slip differential, and the space saver is mounted on the drive axle, long-term use can cause failure of the limited slip mechanism. Those space saver tires don't have the grip your regular tires do, either - which may cause problems with handling or braking in some conditions. Also, if you have a space saver spare mounted on the car, you're usually restricted to a reduced speed (50 mph in most cases, I believe - check your owner's manual!). Exceeding the recommended speed increases the risk of handling or braking problems as well as increasing the risk of failure. For these reasons, I recommend replacing your space saver spare with a full-size rim and tire if at all possible.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I've been lucky enough to have full sized spares in all of the vehicles I've changed out to date.


    6 years ago on Step 3

    After you remove the flat tire, and before you put the spare on, You should NEVER do anything to disturb the car, such as putting the flat tire into the trunk. The correct order is:
    Remove the flat tire.
    Put the spare on.
    Start 3 bolts to support weight of car should the car fall off jack.
    Install all bolts.
    Tighter bolts in this order: 1...3...5...2...4 or you risk warping wheel
    Let jack down.
    Re-torque bolts as described above.
    Put flat in trunk.
    Put jack in trunk.


    9 years ago on Step 3

    Once removed, you could place the flat tire next to the jack. In casethe jack gives out, the car falls on the tire and doesn't damage thebreak pads.

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 3

    I would imagine that the brake rotors would be more at risk for damagethan the pads, but either way a very useful tip.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    They are. The brake pads are up there on the caliper, the rotor is cast iron on most cars, it can break.

    Think safety first, imagine you're reaching under the car for a tool that just rolled under it when the jack collapses. Not likely, but possible.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice detail.

    Looks like your spare, could do with a lil' air also. ; ) 


    9 years ago on Introduction

     It's Great that you show how this is done, there is alot of people who do not know how... but by looking at these pictures, you should never!
    put your spare on the front of your car... too dangerous! even though you always see people do it, don't!  the spare wheel is not meant to support the weight of the motor and forces created when going around corners and there is not enough grip on the tire which could lead to a loss of control and accidents. Please take off your back tire and put it on the front and put your spare on the back. this might take a little longer to do but might "spare" you some other problems.


    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent point Roljo, and thanks for the comment. Hopefully this document can at least guide people through the process, whether it is a front or rear flat.

    If you find yourself with a flat in a dangerous setting, such as the side of an interstate, it might be a good idea take as little time as possible to switch out the flat and spare to relocate to a safer place.

    However Roljo is correct, riding with a spare up front, especially when you have a front mounted engine, can be just as dangerous or even more so than riding with a spare for an extended period of time.