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How to Change a Flat Tire

Young woman preparing to change a flat tire

Knowing how to change a flat tire can save you if you’re stranded somewhere and can’t call for help. Sometimes, you may have no other option but to change your own tire. Here’s everything you need to know on how to put on a spare tire.

Safety first

Mechanical work can be dangerous. If you are not confident about changing your tire for any reason, it’s best to call for assistance.

Before you change to a spare tire, make sure you’re in the safest spot you can get to. Pull off to a flat, level area that’s away from traffic. A parking lot or driveway is ideal, but you might not be able to get off the side of the road.

Put your hazard lights on, and pull over as far to the side of the road as you can. If possible, call a tire changing service or roadside assistance from your motor club or insurance provider.

How to change a flat tire: Step by step

  1. Pull over
    Ensure you’re on a flat, level space away from other cars.
  2. Prepare your area
    Grab the scissor jack, jack handle, tire iron, and spare wheel from your car. Usually, these will be stowed underneath the floor of your trunk. If applicable, grab the wheel lock key. This will be typically located in the glove box or trunk.
  3. Engage your parking or emergency brake
    This could be a handle in the center console of your car, a pedal in the foot well, or an electronic switch. Do not forget to engage the parking brake!
  4. Loosen the wheel
    If your wheels have clip-on hub caps, pry them off with the tire iron. Then take the tire iron and loosen the lug nuts holding your wheel with the flat tire. Do not completely remove the lug nuts just yet. If your car has a wheel lock, use the wheel lock key with your tire iron to loosen the security lug nut.
  5. Find the jack point
    Consult your owner’s manual for the proper point to jack up the car on the side with the flat tire. If you use the wrong point, you may damage the frame of your car.
  6. Lift the car
    Take the scissor jack and place it under the jack point with the slotted bolt head away from the car. Attach the jack handle to the slot and slowly crank it clockwise. Make sure the jack is securely holding onto the jack point and is level on the ground as you turn. Lift the car until the wheel you need to change is just off the ground.
  7. Remove the flat wheel
    Take your tire iron again and fully remove all the lug nuts holding your wheel. Keep the lug nuts in a safe spot. Remove the wheel with the flat tire by pulling it out while lifting it slightly up, as the threads of the lugs may give some resistance. Lay the wheel flat on the ground, away from the road.
  8. Attach the spare
    Take your spare tire and put it on the car. Ensure the spare wheel is seated all the way to the rotor. Put the lug nuts back on, and screw them in as far as you can with your hand. Then, use the tire iron to lightly tighten them. Don’t tighten them all the way while the car is lifted.
  9. Lower the car
    Turn the jack handle slowly counter-clockwise to lower the car, until the tires are resting on the ground.
  10. Tighten lug nuts
    Finish tightening the lug nuts with the tire iron. Gradually tighten each lug nut in a star pattern and repeat until they’re as tight as you can make them.
  11. Clean up
    Put the jack back into your car along with your tire iron, jack handle, wheel lock and the wheel with the flat tire.
  12. Bring your car to a tire shop
    Go to a trusted mechanic’s shop to replace the flat as soon as possible.

A space-saver tire, known as a donut, is meant to get you to a safe location and no further. It can be unsafe to drive on a donut for extended distances or at highway speed. A donut spare is typically smaller, has less grip and lower durability than a full size wheel. Prolonged use of a temporary spare tire may damage your car’s suspension or transmission.

No matter what kind of spare you use, the lug nuts should be tightened to factory specification. Have a technician check the torque on any tire you’ve replaced.

Plymouth Rock offers lots of optional benefits so you won’t have to change your tire on your own. Drive assured with Roadside Assistance*, and help for flat tires, towing, lock-outs and more are just a call away.

Get a fast, easy quote online, give us a call at 855-993-4470 or find a local agent to see how much you can save on car insurance.

* Roadside Assistance is available with Plymouth Rock’s Assurance Preferred package only for New Jersey and Pennsylvania customers. In addition, Roadside Assistance is included in the Assurance Premier package for Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Connecticut customers. Roadside assistance is provided by Quest Towing Services (QTS). Water and up to two gallons of gas are provided free of charge. Other fluids provided at additional cost. If your car is disabled, it will be towed to the closest dealer or authorized repair facility of your choice within 25 miles, or to the nearest dealer or qualified service center if there is no repair facility within 25 miles, with no out-of-pocket expense. A $75 limit applies to reimbursements for roadside assistance services that were not obtained by contacting QTS. There is a six (6) time usage limit per policy per year of towing services. If a service call is not canceled before the service provider is on their way, or the policyholder is not present when the service provider arrives, it will count towards their usage limit even if no service is provided. Customer is solely responsible for payment directly to the service provider for any fees for accommodations arranged by Concierge Services.