Finding yourself on the side of the road with a flat tire is an unfortunate rite of passage for almost all drivers. Knowing how to easily change a flat before you actually need to do it can mean the difference between a small inconvenience and a major crisis.
Luckily, it’s easier than you might think. Here are five simple steps for changing a flat in a flash.
1. Always Be Prepared
To make your tire changing as easy and efficient as possible, you’ll want to make sure you have all of the necessary tools and equipment. Check your vehicle today to make sure you have all of the following items on hand:
- A working jack
- Properly inflated spare tire
- Vehicle owner’s manual
If any of these items are missing, do yourself a favor and go out and buy them today. It’s also a good idea to check your spare tire every time you check the rest of your tires to ensure that it’s inflated to the recommended PSI.
Additional items that will help make the job easier include:
- A powerful flashlight with working batteries
- A rain poncho
- Wheel wedges
- A small piece of wood (2” by 6”) to secure your jack
Stash these items in your trunk or glove box. When the time comes, you’ll be glad you did.
2. Safety First!
First and foremost, you’ll want to get your car to a location where you can change your tire safely. If you’re lucky enough to be at home, simply find a solid, level surface that will prevent your vehicle from rolling.
If you’re driving, this could take a bit more effort. First, don’t abruptly turn or slam on your brakes. Instead, slowly reduce your speed and look for a flat area that’s as far away from traffic as possible. A parking lot is ideal, but a straight road with a wide shoulder is okay as well.
Avoid hills and soft ground and never try to change your tire in an area that puts you at risk of being hit by oncoming traffic. While slowly driving your vehicle to a safe place does increase the risk of rim damage, it’s far more preferable than being struck by an inattentive driver.
Once you’ve found the right spot, turn on your hazard lights and engage your parking brake. If you have wheel wedges, put them under the opposite tires to reduce the risk that your vehicle could roll. If you’re changing a front tire, you’ll want to put the wedges under the back wheels, and when changing a rear tire, put them under your front wheels. If you don’t have wheel wedges on hand, a brick or large rock will also do the trick.
3. Remove Your Tire
If you have a wheel cover or hubcap, you’ll want to remove it now so you can get to your lug nuts. For most vehicles, you can pry the hubcap off. with the flat end of your lug wrench. Some vehicles do require a special tool for hubcap removal. Do yourself a favor and check this before you find yourself needing to change your tire.
Once you can access your lug nuts, use the lug wrench to turn them counterclockwise until they start to move. This can take some elbow grease – in many cases you’ll need to use your foot or your entire bodyweight. Turn the lug nuts ¼ to ½ turn but don’t completely remove them yet.
Next, place the jack under your vehicle’s frame near the flat tire. Check your vehicle’s manual for specific instructions. Place the small piece of wood under the jack to secure it and raise your vehicle. To avoid injury, make sure no part of your body is ever under your vehicle while it’s raised.
Once the vehicle is up off the ground, finish removing the lug nuts and gently pull the flat tire off. Set it aside where it won’t be in the way.
4. Mount Your Spare
Now is the time to mount your spare tire! Start by lining it up and pushing it onto the rim until the lug bolts show through. Put the lug nuts on and tighten them by hand as much as you can.
Then, lower the vehicle so it’s touching the ground but the tire isn’t yet bearing all of the weight. Tighten the bolts as much as possible with your lug wrench, using your full body weight. Lower the vehicle the rest of the way and remove the jack. To be safe, it’s a good idea to give the lug wrench one more pull to ensure the tire is on as tightly as possible.
Put all of your equipment back in your vehicle and put the hubcap back on if it will fit. Finally, check your spare tire’s pressure. If it’s low, slowly drive to the nearest service station and add some air.
5. Follow Up Auto Worx Collision Center
Spare tires are a temporary fix, and they’re not meant for driving long distances or at high speeds. You’ll want to drive carefully until you’re able to take your vehicle to a service technician. If you’re in the LA area, we recommend stopping by Auto Worx. We can quickly tell you whether your tire can be repaired or if it needs to be replaced. Either way, we’ll take care of the problem and get you back on the road in a flash!