Introduction: How to Change a Car Tire
You’ve just walked out of the DMV smiling ear to ear. As you approach your vehicle you receive a big congratulations from your parent. They toss you the keys and say take your first spin as a licensed driver. Sound familiar to you? Every year in the U.S. nearly 4 million new drivers are licensed2 in the U.S. Are you really prepared for the road though? You studied your state issued learning packet, learned the laws of the road, and even passed parallel parking. Obviously there is nothing you can’t handle.
Well let me ask you this, how do you change a flat tire? Every year flat tires and tire blowouts account for between 10-15% of automobile breakdowns in the U.S3. For those of you are sitting there thinking still no big deal, I have AAA or one of numerous other roadside assistant services, you are still wrong. What if you can’t contact your roadside assistant; it's not unfeasible considering the possibility of no cell phone service, dead cell phone battery, roadside is busy so your call won’t go through, you don’t know where you are or what if roadside assistance can’t make it to your location? What if you are simply in a hurry and roadside assistance can’t be there in a timely manner because your automobile breakdown isn’t considered “critical”, so you keep getting moved down the list as more pressing customers are placed ahead of you.
Now imagine knowing you could fix this very predicament. No waiting for roadside assistance, if they can even come, and get the task done much faster. Most people can unsafely muddle their way through changing a flat tire, but when you are involving a multi-ton chunk of metal safety is key. Our goal is to teach you that through knowledge, careful preparation, and having a plan changing an automobile tire is safe, fast and easy.
Step 1: Preparing to Change a Flat Tire
The best way to deal with a situation is to plan for it. By taking minimal steps the task of changing a flat tire becomes significantly safer and easier. The following equipment and tools are needed to help you complete the task.
-Spare Tire: First and foremost to change a flat tire you need to be able to replacement it. Having a properly maintained spare tire available will greatly in replacing the flat tire. One recommendation is to regularly inspect the spare tire; check the tire pressure to make sure it is in the necessary pressure range (listed on the tire), and that the tire and tire tread do not appear to have been compromised.
-Tire Iron: This tool will be used to loosen the lug nuts, which are what old the wheel to the wheel bolts.
-Jack: This is what will be used to raise the vehicle from the ground so the flat tire can be taken off the vehicle and the spare tire put on. It is important to make sure the jack is rated for your cars weight, see the products owner’s manual. Also it is important to find a strong and secure place on the vehicle's undercarriage to place the jack before using. A great source of reference is the vehicles owner manual.
-Flashlight: Having a flashlight is particularly useful if the tire replacement needs to be done at night or in an area of low light.
-Reflective Triangles (at least 2): Reflective triangles are used as a safety measure. When properly use they can signal to other drivers that a stopped vehicle is ahead and prepare to modify their driving style to avoid an accident.
-Tire Pressure Gauge: This is important in case the spare tire has not been properly maintained and has a low air pressure. By using the tire pressure gauge you can determine the how inflated the spare tire is.
-Air Pump: This can be used to inflate a tire with in the event pressure is too low. It is common for most air pumps to have pressure gauges built in so obtained a separate pressure gauge may not be necessary.
Additionally knowing the parts of the vehicle you will be working with is important to understanding how to change a flat tire.
Step 2: Recognition and Your Safety
Recognize that your vehicle has a flat tire.
How to notice when parked:
-If your car is parked visually walk 360 degrees around the vehicle and see if any of the tires is deflated.
How to notice when driving
-A vehicle uncharacteristically pulling to one side of the road indicates the tire is either low on air pressure or has a hole in it through which the air is escaping.
-A loud bang accompanied by the vehicle jerking to one side of the road indicates a tire blow out.
If driving, find a safe place to pull off onto the side of the road. If flat tire was discovered while stationary it is still important to find an area that meets the given requirements.
-Low traffic if possible; this minimizes the number of vehicles passing by.
-Long straight area of road; this helps to increase your and your vehicle’s visibility.
-Flat firm ground (no incline/hill); this helps increase your visibility as well prevents the vehicle from rolling/slipping.
Shift vehicle into parking gear and apply emergency brake. By applying the emergency brake your vehicle is much less likely to move.
Once safely off the road first check to ensure you are safe and unharmed. Tire blowouts and other flat tire scenarios can cause serious driver injury. If self or passenger injury is suspected call 911 for emergency personal help.
After assessing possible injuries, before leaving the vehicle turn on the hazard lights. Note: Use of hazard lights is not needed if the flat tire is being changed in a location of no traffic (e.g. parking lot, driveway, etc).
Observe all four tires to see if one needs replaced. If one does need to be changed proceed.
Place reflective triangles on the road.Note: Reflective triangles are not needed if the flat tire is being changed in a location of no traffic (e.g. parking lot, drive way, etc)
On a two-way road:
-Reflective triangle 1 should be placed 100 feet (about 40 adult paces) in front of the car on the shoulder of the road that the vehicle occupies to warn oncoming traffic.
-Reflective triangle 2 should be placed 100 feet (about 40 adult paces) behind the car on the shoulder of the road that the vehicle occupies to warn approaching traffic. Note: Extra reflective triangles should be placed such that they give maximum advanced warning (e.g. turns, on top of close by hills, etc), but should not exceed 200 feet from the vehicle. If it is dark outside carry the light flashlight with you of increase your visibility.
On a one-way road:
-Reflective triangle 1 should be placed 100 feet (about 40 adult paces) behind the car on the shoulder of the road that the vehicle occupies to warn approaching traffic.
-Reflective triangle 2 should be placed an additional 100 feet behind the car (i.e. 200 feet total behind the car) on the shoulder of the road that the vehicle occupies to warn approaching traffic. If it is dark outside carry the light flashlight with you to increase your visibility.
Step 3: Changing the Vehicle Tire
Gather tools and equipment from the vehicle and safely place in close proximity to your work site.
Place jack under predetermined strong spot of the undercarriage.
Raise the jack so that it is supporting the vehicles weight, but not lifting the vehicle.
Using the tire iron loosen all the lug nuts on the wheel. Note: Do not fully remove lug nuts.
-Remember turn counterclockwise/left to loosen the lug nuts.
Raise the vehicle 2-3 inches off the ground. Note: As you lift make sure the vehicle is stable. If it is not stable lower the vehicle and fix the problem before fully lifting the vehicle.
With the vehicle raised 2-3 inches from the ground fully remove the lug nuts from the wheel.
Remove the tire from the vehicle and place it on the side of the road flat. Note: Do not place tire on its rim. Place on its side to prevent the wheel from potentially rolling away.
Place the spare tire on the hub, making sure to align the wheel bolts.Note: It can be difficult to align the wheel bolts with the bolt hole. Make sure all bolts and bolt holes are aligned properly and the tire is flat on the hub. One common problem is the jack not being raised high enough. If this is the case place the spare tire safely on the ground and raise the jack height.
Hand/loosely tighten the lug nuts until they are snug against the replacement wheel.
-Don't completely tighten the lug nuts one at a time. Completely tightening a single lug nut can cause the tire to be unbalanced. Tightening the lug nuts in a star pattern around the tire, one nut across from another, give each nut a full turn until they are equally tight.
Lower the car from the jack so the full weight of the vehicle is applied on the spare tire.
With the tire iron tighten the lug nuts as much as possible.
Place the flat tire, jack and any other tools used into the vehicle.
Step 4: Safely Reentering Road Traffic
Pick up the reflector triangles. Note: Recovering reflector triangles is not done if they were not used.
On a two-way road:
-First pick up the reflector triangle farthest from the front of the vehicle, collecting additional reflectors while walking back to the vehicle.
-Second pick up triangle reflectors farthest from the rear of the vehicle, collecting reflectors while walking back at the vehicle.
On a one-way road:
-Begin by collecting the triangle reflector farthest from the vehicle, collecting reflectors while walking back at the vehicle.
Start the vehicle.
Turn off hazard lights.
Remove emergency brake.
Signal to return into traffic and merge when appropriate.
Step 5: Monitoring Your Success
Congratulations, you have successfully changed your flat tire, but you’re still not done yet. There is always the possibility you overlooked a step or never actually completed the full process. There are telltale signs though that drivers can use monitor the success of their tire change.
Before driving away it is important to inspect your work. Scan the area around the vehicle tire that was changed. Double check that all lug nuts are securely fastened on the wheel. Also double check that the spare and other tires have proper tire pressure. If they do not use the pressure gauge and air pump to fill the tire/tires with air.
One of the earliest identifiers that the spare tire was not changed correctly is by feel of how the vehicle is driving. If there is shaking of the vehicle or the vehicle wants to pull to one side of the road immediately refer to step 2 of “Changing a Flat Tire”. The first five to ten minutes of driving after having changed a flat tire lend themselves to auditory alarm. For those first ten minutes it is recommended to drive in silence. If you hear any abnormal sound coming from the wheel immediately refer to step 2 of “Changing a Flat Car Tire”.
A final common indicator that the spare tire was not properly changed is any abnormal smells. Perhaps the most obvious would be the smell of burning rubber, generally coming from the spare tire. Another common smell is hot metal. If you notice an abnormal smell immediately refer to step 2 of “Changing a Flat Car Tire”.
Lastly, it is important to make an appointment as soon as possible with an auto-mechanic shop. While you may have properly changed the flat tire, the spare the is generally not intended for long-term use. At the mechanic shop they can replace the spare tire with a better, long term tire that will better suit daily driving requirements as well as perform any necessary testing to ensure your vehicle was not damaged as a result of the flat tire.
Step 6: Conclusion
Now that you have read and understood the steps of changing a flat tire, you can now feel safe and secure when taking long road trips, whether it’s by yourself or accompanied by others.
Step 7: Works Cited
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