Learning how to change a tire the right way sounds like it could be pretty complicated. It’s not. Most people can do it with a little direction. Still, you might get a little dirty (roads aren’t exactly clean, you know) – so just expect that right from the get-go.
Most people reach for a phone to call roadside assistance when they get a flat. You can do that. Or you can also learn a valuable skill and have your car back on the road in 20 minutes (or so).
Here’s the short version – the last two steps are very important:
- Be safe (pull over as far as you can and use your hazards).
- Apply your parking brake.
- Loosen your lug nuts.
- Find a spot on the car frame to jack up your car.
- Remove the lug nuts and tire.
- Attach the spare.
- Hand tighten lugs.
- Lower car.
- Fully tighten lugs.
- Bask in a job well done.
- Buy yourself a treat.
Before you start changing tires full-time, you’ll want to do a couple of things right now: make sure your car actually has a spare tire (some don’t nowadays); perform some spare tire maintenance; and pack an emergency car kit (traditional or LED flares, gloves, jumper cables, appropriate tools, etc).
Just a quick note: These are general steps that will help you learn – they are not an all-encompassing guide to every situation you’ll face. You will have to think on your feet and make decisions. If you’re at all concerned about getting out of the car or handling this on your own … don’t. That may be a good situation for roadside assistance. That said – are you ready to learn how to change a tire the right way?
Pull Over to a Safe Spot
If you get a flat while driving, pull over as far on the shoulder as you can. Turn on your emergency flashers and apply your parking brake. In all situations, it’s ideal to be on a flat, level surface with room to work. Before you go any further, check with your car’s owner manual to be certain there are no special considerations to follow while changing a tire.
Loosen the Lug Nuts
After you retrieve your jack and wrench from the trunk (or wherever they’re stored in your car), get to work on the lug nuts. The lug nuts are the bolts that hold the tire in place. The first step is to slightly loosen – but not remove – them. All you need to do is to turn them enough to break their resistance (which may take a little muscle).
Safely Raise the Vehicle Using a Jack
Before you remove the lug nuts, you’ll need to raise the level of the vehicle so you can remove the tire. To do this, you’ll need to place the jack under your vehicle. The jack must be beneath the vehicle frame. In most vehicles, there is a flat area that runs alongside the tire that’s flat. Look under your vehicle. Most cars will have an area where you can clearly see the metal vehicle frame. Place the jack here. Then, use the jack to elevate the vehicle. Aim for at least a few inches off the ground.
Remove the Lug Nuts and Tire
Next, fully remove the lug nuts and pull off the tire. Then, mount the spare tire or replacement tire onto the wheel. Put each of the lug nuts back in place. Tighten them by hand as much as possible. You’re now ready to lower your vehicle.
Tighten the Lug Nuts
With your car on the ground, you’ll be able to fully tighten the lug nuts. Use the lug wrench to ensure the tightest fit possible. Tighten the lugs in a star pattern, heading to the most opposite lug nut after tightening one.
Buy Yourself a Treat
Depending on the season, fresh farm stand fruit is a good choice, but so is chocolate cake.