It is almost inevitable that at some point in your life you will experience the dreaded and inconvenient flat tire. You're driving along, singing your favorite song and all of a sudden your car starts pulling to the side and you hear that awful flapping sound of your tire that just gave out.
Although most people today have either AAA, OnStar, or some other type of roadside assistance, it's always good to know how to change a flat yourself. If you've ever had to wait on roadside assistance, you probably know how long it can take for them to arrive. Often times you can change a flat before help even arrives if you know what to do.
Step 1: Find a Safe Location to Pull Over
If possible, pull into a parking lot or another low-traffic area. The less traffic, the less you put yourself in danger of being struck by oncoming traffic. If you are on a major highway/interstate, try and get off the exit if possible.
If you cannot reach a low traffic area, do your best to get off the road as far as you can, parking on a flat surface. Parking on a flat surface will make it much easier to secure your car from moving while you are changing your tire.
Step 2: Turn on Your Emergency Flasher Lights
Your emergency lights signal other drivers that you are in distress, which lets them know to slow down or move over when passing you.
This also helps other drivers notice you, especially at night.
Step 3: Get Your Jack, Wrench and Spare Tire From the Trunk
Typically, spare tires are located under a mat in your trunk along with a jack and lug wrench.
If you drive a truck, the spare tire is located under the bed. The jack and lug wrench for a truck are typically under or behind the back seat.
Step 4: Use the Lug Wrench to Loosen the Lug Nuts
You may need to detach the hubcap. Don't remove the lug nuts at this point; simply loosen them by rotating the wrench to the left (counter-clockwise). If the lug nuts are extremely tight, try placing the wrench on the nut and standing on the wrench arm to use your full weight on it.
Step 5: Use the Jack to Lift the Vehicle Off the Ground
Different car models may have different places to put the jack; consult your owner's manual for specific locations. Once the jack is securely in the correct spot, jack up the car until the tire is about six inches off the ground.
Step 6: Remove the Lug Nuts and Pull the Tire Off the Car
Make sure to put the lug nuts in a pile that won't get scattered, and pull the tire straight toward yourself to remove it from the wheel base.
Step 7: Put the Spare Tire on the Car
Line up the lug nut posts with the holes in the spare, and push the spare all the way onto the wheel base until it can't go any farther.
Step 8: Lower the Car Back to the Ground
Use the jack to bring the car back down to ground level. Remove the jack from underneath the car.
Step 9: Put the Lug Nuts On
First, tighten the lug nuts by hand until they are snug. Next, use the lug wrench to tighten each nut. Follow a star pattern to go from nut to nut. This ensures you do not put the tire on crooked.
Step 10: Clean Up
Place your old tire and tools back in your trunk. Double-check to make sure you did not leave any tools behind.
Step 11: Precaution
Most cars come standard with a small, "doughnut" spare tire. These tires are not meant to be driven on at high speeds or long distances. If you have a doughnut spare, you should seek to replace the full-sized flat with a new one.