Knowing how to change a flat tire is basic knowledge for every driver.
It goes alongside knowing how to change a headlamp bulb or the windshield wiper blades.
This is one of the most common problems that you’ll encounter during your driving “career” so not being able to change one can cause you headaches.
So, if you want to be safe and get yourself out of trouble, learn how to do this.
Important: this tutorial on how to change a flat tire doesn’t apply to cars with the newer generation tire kits (with sealant).
These work on another principle; the flat tire is meant to be filled with a sealant that briefly mends the puncture (just to get to the first tire service). There’s no spare tire or taking the wheel of.
Tools that you’ll need for changing a flat tire
The basic tool kit you have in your car is enough. You’ll need the car jack and wheel lug nut wrench.
If you have hubcaps, you’ll need a screwdriver to take them off. You can do it with your hands, but it isn’t a pleasant experience.
If the hubcaps are additionally held with plastic straps (this is common so the caps don’t fall off the wheel), you’ll also need a pair of pliers or a knife.
Procedure for changing a flat tire
(Basic guidelines are in bold) :
Pull the car to the side of the road-safety is always first!!!
Move the car from the road and make a safe distance (stop lane, parking lot, widening on the side of the road, etc.). Even if the tire goes completely flat, you can move the car a few meters without damaging the tire.
BE SURE EVERYONE CAN SEE YOU CLEARLY ON THE ROAD!!!
Switch the hazard lights on and put proper signalization on the road. It’s both a traffic rule and can save your life! This is done with the good old warning triangle and putting on a fluorescent vest. All of these are a must-have in your car kit at all times.
Pull the emergency brake.
This will stop the car from moving while it’s lifted up so it doesn’t fall off the car jack.
If you have passengers get them all out.
You will be, perhaps, tempted to leave the passengers inside, especially if it’s raining or snowing. DO NOT DO IT!! The car jack is constructed for the weight of the car only!!!
Take out the car jack, tire wrench, and spare tire. If you have wheel covers you’ll need a screwdriver in order to remove them.
Place the car jack in place.
All cars have visible places where to put-insert the car jack (those places are additionally strengthened for the weight of the car). If they don’t, be sure to put the car jack near the wheel arch as close as possible.
Be sure that the “foot” of the car jack is properly “sitting “on the road. You don’t want the car swinging while it’s on the car jack.
Loosen the wheel nuts-while the car is on the ground!!!
Put the tire wrench on the wheel nut properly and tightly. Turn counter-clockwise to unscrew. If the lug nuts are too tight, try finding a lever or use the weight of your body.
Lift the car up.
Rotate the car jack lever clockwise to lift up. Lift the car so much as to be able to remove the wheel (the wheel needs only about 1 cm to be free from the ground).
Don’t over-lift; the higher you lift, the more unstable the car gets.
Unscrew the wheel lug nuts
Use the wheel lug wrench to completely remove the lug nuts.
Take the flat tire off.
Make sure that the spare tire is in reach.
Putt the spare tire in back in place
Almost all cars have guides on the wheel hub which will help you put the tire properly back on. If this isn’t the case, make sure that the wheel properly sits on the wheel hub and that the lug nut holes are aligned with the wheel hub.
Putt the wheel lug nuts back in place.
Use your hands to tighten the screws; then the tire wrench to slightly tighten. DO NOT FULLY TIGHTEN THE WHEEL WHILE THE CAR IS STILL ON THE CAR JACK. YOU’RE AT RISK THAT THE CAR MIGHT FALL OF THE CAR JACK!!!!
Lower the car jack (turn the lever of the jack counter clock-wise). Once the car jack is free, put it aside.
Tighten the wheel nuts with the wrench.
Tighten as hard as you can. Don’t worry about over-tightening; it is virtually impossible by hand.
Return the wheel caps
Position them on the wheel and then slightly hammer with your hand until they click into place.
Put back all of the tools in place. Return the flat tire where the spare one was.
Remove all of your signalization from the road. Make another check that you’ve done everything correct. Also, take a look that you haven’t left anything behind.
Knowing how to change a flat tire can save you time and money!
I’ve seen numerous times drivers “stranded” on the side of the road, desperate, not knowing how to change a flat tire.
It’s a pretty bad situation, especially if: you’re in a hurry, if it happens during bad weather (snow or rain) or if you’re on a trip with your kids.
In most countries, people tend to call road services or mechanics to change a flat tire. Of course, they come and do the job for you. This will, most times, be for free, especially if you’re a member of one of the many road assistance companies.
On the other hand, if you’re not, you’re looking at a bill (probably not a small one) or even worse, towing to the garage to change the flat tire.
This is all under the condition that you’re not in a remote place and you have a signal for the cellphone.
If not then it’s a really big problem. Even worse if it happens during night-time or in winter.
You’ll be lucky if some other driver stops and helps but that is a pretty rare occasion these days.
So to summarize: it’s a major pain not knowing how to change a flat tire!
It’s a short and simple procedure that can save you precious time, money, and perhaps get out of harm’s way.
If that isn’t motivation enough to learn, I don’t know what is.
How to avoid getting a flat tire?
Well, there’s no certain 100% way.
Since this happens randomly, the best thing you can do is avoid this through careful driving and paying attention.
If you encounter leftover debris on the road (like from a car accident or other) slow down and go around it as carefully as you can. There will probably be glass and metal parts everywhere which will slice through the tire.
Potholes are also one of the major enemies of tires. If you hit a pothole hard, it can easily cut the tire. Even worse, it can damage the wheel rim. So; if you’re on a poorly maintained road, keep your eyes open and drive slowly.
It’s also common to get a flat tire in your own backyard, parking lot, or driveway. Check from time to time that everything is clean. I myself have gotten a few flats because of leftover nails, screws, small metal pieces, etc on my own driveway.
Should I buy a new spare tire or will the used one do?
A lot of drivers out there seldom take care that they have a good spare tire.
Since it’s not used that much, it’s either the one you bought the car with or one that was once used on the car.
Almost no one buys a new spare tire and that’s a fact.
Well, to tell you the truth you have two options :
- buy a new one and forget about the spare tire for the rest of the cars “life”
- have a used one-only if it’s in good shape
Having a used and worn-out spare tire will always raise the question (when you have to change a flat tire), will it holdout to the next service or garage.