Experiencing a flat tire can be an inconvenient situation caused by different factors, such as bad road conditions and underinflation, among others. Regardless, knowing how to change it can save you from being stranded on the side of the road.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced driver or just starting your journey behind the wheel. Learning the process of changing a flat tire is an essential skill that every driver should possess.
Thankfully, we’ve prepared this guide that will take you through a step-by-step process to efficiently and safely change a flat tire. We’ll discuss some basics for safety and important tools you should have at all times.
Before You Change a Flat Tire
Before you embark on the task of changing a flat tire, take some preparatory steps to make sure that the tire-changing process goes as smoothly and safely as possible. This includes the following:
- Finding a safe location: If you notice a flat tire while driving, try to find a safe and level place to pull over. Avoid stopping on a curve or hill where oncoming traffic might have difficulty seeing you. If you’re on a highway, find the nearest exit or pull over to the shoulder as far away from traffic as possible. An empty parking lot would also be ideal.
- Activating hazard lights: Once you’ve pulled over, switch on your hazard lights to let other drivers become aware of your presence and signal that you’re experiencing an issue. (Note that in some states, it’s illegal to drive with hazard lights on — in case you’re driving on a flat tire and looking to stop somewhere.)
- Applying the parking brake: Before attempting to change the tire, engage the parking brake to prevent the vehicle from rolling while it’s elevated.
- Securing the vehicle: If you have wheel chocks or other items to block the wheels, place them in front of and behind the tire opposite the flat one. This additional measure helps prevent the vehicle from rolling during the tire-changing process.
Tools You’ll Need to Change a Flat Tire
There are four tools tools necessary to effectively and safely complete the task. Prepare a spare tire, jack, lug wrench, and your vehicle manual. Here’s why you need each:
- Spare tire: The spare tire is a temporary replacement for the flat tire until you can get the original tire repaired or replaced. Always keep in mind that a spare time is only a short-term solution. Spare tires can perform for up to 50-70 miles.
- Jack: A car jack is used to lift the vehicle off the ground, allowing you to remove the flat tire and install the spare tire. Car jacks come in different types, including scissor jacks, bottle jacks, and hydraulic floor jacks. Check your vehicle’s manual to locate the proper jack points for safe lifting.
- Lug wrench: A lug wrench is used to loosen and tighten the lug nuts on the wheel. Lug wrenches typically have different sizes to fit the lug nuts on your vehicle.
- Vehicle manual: Your vehicle’s manual contains valuable information specific to your car, including the proper tire-changing procedure, the location of the jack points, and other safety guidelines. Keep the manual in the car or accessible for reference when needed.
How to Change a Flat Tire
Changing a flat tire may seem daunting, but if you follow these step-by-step instructions, you can do it successfully. Remember to prioritize safety throughout the process. Here’s how to change a flat tire:
- Find a safe location: First and foremost — when you notice a flat tire, slow down and find a safe and level spot to pull over. Avoid stopping on a curve or hill. Turn your hazard lights on to notify other drivers.
- Apply the parking brake: Engage the parking brake to prevent the vehicle from rolling while changing the tire.
- Gather the necessary tools: Retrieve the spare tire, jack, and lug wrench from your vehicle’s trunk or designated storage area.
- Loosen the lug nuts: Using the lug wrench, slightly loosen the lug nuts on the flat tire. Do not remove them completely at this stage.
- Position the jack: Check your vehicle’s manual to locate the appropriate jack points. Place the jack securely beneath the vehicle, ensuring it makes contact with the frame, not the body panels.
- Jack up the car: Raise the vehicle off the ground using the jack. Be sure to lift it high enough to allow easy removal and replacement of the flat tire. Be cautious and make sure the vehicle is stable before proceeding.
- Unscrew and remove the lug nuts and flat tire: Completely unscrew and remove the lug nuts. Take off the flat tire from the wheelbase carefully.
- Mount the spare tire: Align the spare tire with the wheelbase and push it onto the wheel studs. Hand-tighten the lug nuts to secure the spare tire in place.
- Lower the vehicle: Carefully lower the vehicle back to the ground using the jack.
- Tighten the lug nuts: Use the lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts in a star or criss-cross pattern. This ensures even tightening and prevents uneven pressure on the wheel.
- Double-check the lug nuts: Confirm that all lug nuts are tightened properly. Tighten them as much as you can with the lug wrench.
- Stow the equipment: Place the flat tire, jack, and lug wrench back in the trunk or storage area.
- Check the spare tire pressure: Verify that the spare tire is adequately inflated to the recommended pressure. If not, add air until it reaches the proper level.
- Visit a tire professional: As soon as possible, take the flat tire to a tire repair shop or dealership to assess whether it can be repaired or needs replacement. A trained professional will check the extent of damage before they can decide whether to repair or replace your flat tire.
Following these steps carefully will help you change a flat tire and continue your journey safely. Remember, if you’re unsure or uncomfortable with the process, don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional or a fellow driver.
How Long Does It Take to Change a Flat Tire?
Generally speaking, this depends on your skill level, experience, and available tools. On average, changing a flat tire usually takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Experienced individuals who have changed tires before and are well-practiced in the procedure may be able to complete the task sooner.
On the other hand, first-time or less experienced individuals might take a bit longer to ensure they follow each step correctly and safely. Also, note that external factors like weather conditions, the condition of the spare tire, and the location of the flat tire can also increase the total for changing the tire.
Regardless of the time it takes, prioritizing safety and accuracy during the process is crucial to return to the road safely.
Learning the process of changing a flat tire empowers drivers with the confidence and capability to handle such an emergency situation. Follow the preparatory steps, such as finding a safe spot (e.g. a parking lot) and blocking the wheels of your vehicle.
It will also help to start practicing tire changes beforehand. This way, you can be prepared when you encounter a flat tire in the future.