Emergency Tire Change Procedure
Alisha Vent, Angie Dickinson, Taylor Ross, & Joshua Walters
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Step 1: Find a Safe Place to Park
Find a safe place to park. You will want to be on flat ground and ideally on a paved surface. Some roads have paved shoulders, sometimes called ‘Breakdown Lanes’. If possible, it’s best to avoid dirt or gravel. Soft ground may allow for an unsafe condition as the jack may sink under the focused weight of the vehicle. Ensure you are as far from active traffic as possible for safety.
Step 2: Hazard Lights
Switch your Hazard Lights ON to warn others that your vehicle is disabled.
Step 3: Put the Car in Park or Neutral
Once you are stopped, put the car in Park (P) or Neutral (N) if your vehicle has a manual transmission (Neutral is the position of the center horizontal line as shown in the second photo).
Step 4: Emergency Brake
Apply the emergency brake. Two of the most common types of emergency brake applicators are the Emergency Foot Brake and the Emergency Hand Brake.
Step 5: Turn Off the Engine
Turn the engine off. Most vehicles use a Keyed Ignition similar to the photo. Newer vehicles may have a Push Button Ignition.
Step 6: Analyze Tire
Once your vehicle is safe for exit, proceed to exit the vehicle and analyze your suspected flat tire. If there are any defects noted, proceed to change the tire as indicated by the steps that follow.
Step 7: Place Cone or Flare From Emergency Kit
If you do not own one already, it is highly recommended to have an Emergency Breakdown Kit. If you have one, it would be at this point that you’d want to place the emergency road flare, hazard triangle, or hazard cone out in the outer perimeter of your vehicle to indicate to other drivers that you are broken down and need space.
Step 8: Locate Your Spare Tire
Locate your Spare Tire. Some vehicles have a spare located under the floor board in the trunk space while others, typically trucks and SUV’s, will have the spare tire under the rear of the vehicle (see photo). Consult your owner’s manual for instructions to release the spare tire if necessary.
Step 9: Locate Tire Change Tools
Locate the Tire Change Tools that came with your vehicle. Depending on your vehicle make, they may be located in a number of places such as in the trunk along with the spare tire, behind the seat (often the case in a truck), or under the rear seat in many SUV’s and extended cab trucks.
Step 10: Place Wheel Chocks
If you carry Wheel Chocks in your vehicle, they should be placed under the front and rear of a tire on an axle of the vehicle which does NOT have a flat tire. This will be an added safety measure to prevent the vehicle from rolling during maintenance. It is highly recommended to use vehicle chocks when changing a tire on ground that is not level.
Step 11: Pry Off Cover
If your wheels have a Plastic Cover over the steel rims, you will need to use a flat-tipped rod (such as a flat-tip screwdriver or maybe the back end of the lug nut wrench in some vehicles) to pry off the edge of the cover.
Step 12: Loosen the Lug Nuts
Loosen the lug nuts. Only loosen each nut approximately ½ to 1 full turn counter-clockwise. This will make it easier to remove the tire in a later step.
CAUTION: DO NOT remove the lug nuts before the vehicle is jacked up in the air and the wheel and tire assembly are off the ground.
Step 13: Locate Jack Points
Locate the jack points which will be indicated in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. The Hoist Adapter Contact Points in the diagram below are for small floor jacks and scissor jacks. The floor jack points are primarily for larger jacks and will primarily be used on solid axle vehicles that incorporate a differential gear box.
Step 14: Jack Up the Vehicle
Jack the vehicle at the jack point closest to the tire which requires replacement. Raise the vehicle until the tire is approximately 2-4 inches off the ground (note that the vehicle may need to be jacked higher than this in order for the new, inflated tire to clear the ground upon installation).
Step 15: Remove Lug Nuts and Tire
Remove the already loosened lug nuts completely and store in a convenient location nearby where you are working. They will be used to install the spare tire. You can now completely remove the tire and wheel assembly by pulling the tire toward you in a horizontal movement.
Step 16: Inspect and Note Damage
Do a General Visual Inspection of the area that the wheel was attached to (Rotor/Drum, Brake Caliper, Brake Line, Wiring, etc.). The reason for this inspection is the fact that some tire blowouts can be semi-explosive and may cause component damage in the immediate areas around the tire. Any defects should be noted and a vehicle mechanic should be consulted prior to continued vehicle operation.
Step 17: Install Spare Tire
Install the spare tire by clocking the wheel so the lugs are lined up with the wheel mounting holes. While holding the tire in place with one hand or your foot, install the Lug Nuts on the lugs by hand as tight as you can. Note that most lug nuts are tapered on one side. This tapered end goes on the lug first.
Step 18: Tighten Lug Nuts
Snug the lug nuts with the lug nut wrench. Note that the wheel may want to turn from the force of the wrench turning the nut. Once this starts to happen, you’ve tightened the lug nut enough to lower the vehicle.
Step 19: Check Tire Pressure
Check the spare tire’s internal pressure. Most vehicles will not include a tire pressure gauge in their tire change kit. This is something that should be carried in the vehicle at all times as a precaution. Unscrew the cap on the Schrader Valve (air chuck fitting) and test the air pressure using a Tire Pressure Gauge. Proper tire pressure will be indicated in the owner’s manual, on a placard inside the driver’s door frame, or located on the tire itself. DO NOT exceed the pressure indicated on the sidewall of the tire as some Donut Spares may have a different pressure than the normal sized vehicle tires.
Conventional tire pressure gauges are about the size of a pencil. They typically have metal exteriors with plastic rods that extend out when the device is pushed into the tire stem (Schrader Valve). Notches along the extended rod's side will tell you how much pressure has been exerted. Most tire pressure gauges have black notches on white rods. Every tenth notch is usually a bit larger than the others. This makes it easier for you to read the PSI. For instance, if you attach the gauge to your tire and the rod extends to a large 3 and a small 4, then your reading is 34 PSI. Don't get confused by thinking that the gauge is giving you a measurement of 3.4 PSI.
a. If the tire pressure is within an acceptable range, reinstall the protective cap.
b. If the tire pressure is low, pump the tire with a compressed air source (may be found in an Emergency Breakdown Kit).
c. If the pressure is too high, reduce to an acceptable range by pushing on the pin in the center of the Schrader valve.
Step 20: Lower the Vehicle
Lower the vehicle back to the ground using the vehicle jack. Remove the jack from under the vehicle and stow it in the completely retracted position for storage.
Step 21: Tighten Lug Nuts in Star Pattern
Tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern as indicated in most vehicle owner’s manuals. The diagram shows the most common torque patterns. It is best practice to use a Torque Wrench to tighten the lug nuts. Lug nut torque values can be found in the vehicle owner’s manual (typically between 90-160 pound-feet).
Step 22: Tire Change Is Complete
The tire change is complete. Clean and store all the tools to its original storage location. Place the damaged tire in a convenient location in/on the vehicle for easy access to remove it for repair at a local tire shop. Check the lug nuts after driving because nuts may loosen after driving at high speeds. Repair or replace the damaged tire as soon as possible as it is not desirable to risk driving without a spare on hand. This procedure may also be used in a non-emergency situation.