Having a flat tire while on the road can be irritating, to say the least. Even worse, this seems to happen mostly when we’re out of urban areas, like when we’re going on a vacation. Luckily, though, with the right knowledge and tools, a flat tire is only a slight inconvenience. Everyone can change a car tire, even when stranded hundreds of miles from the nearest town.
That said, if you don’t prepare for a tire change, it can quickly become a nightmare. People that don’t know precisely how to change a tire often stay stationary for hours unless someone stops to help. Even worse, if the spare wheel isn’t installed correctly, driving can be unsafe and dangerous.
Is it Safe to Change Your Own Tires?
You bet it is. And fortunately, you are just in the right place to learn how to change a car tire. In this article, we will cover everything there is to know about how to change a car tire. You can quickly run through it to see the required steps, which is handy if you’re stranded somewhere right now.
However, we recommend reading this article thoroughly so you can better prepare the next time it happens. With proper preparation, changing a car tire can be turned from nightmare to joy. Kids will even remember it as part of the adventure!
How to Prepare for Car Tire Replacement?
A flat tire can happen anywhere, anytime. It can happen far from any settlement, and in any weather condition. That’s why you must go fully prepared the next time you hit the road. Here are all the items that you’ll need for a streamlined car tire change.
Essential Tools Needed to Change a Car Tire
- A spare tire: Obviously, you can’t change the flat tire if you don’t have a spare one. Be sure that the spare tire in your car is always fully inflated before you hit the road.
- A jack for lifting the vehicle. Almost every car has a built-in jack. If you need to buy a new jack, be sure that it can support the weight of your car.
- A lug wrench to change the car tire. Make sure that the wrench has a pry bar on the other side for easier removal of the wheel cover.
- Wheel locks key. If your car is equipped with anti-theft locking lug nuts.
Additional Items for Better Safety and Protection When you Change a Car Tire
- A reflective triangle to make sure that you’re visible to other cars. In most states and countries, the reflective triangle is mandatory.
- A tire pressure gauge to make sure that the spare tire is at the right pressure; Driving with a deflated tire can be unsafe and dangerous.
- A portable air compressor in case you need to increase the pressure in your spare tire.
- Wheel wedges to secure your car into place when you jack it up; You can also use larger stones, but they might not be available at hand.
- A small cut of wood, so the jack doesn’t sink into the surface. This part is especially important if the flat tire happens on a soft surface.
- A tire changing mat will keep you clean while doing the job.
- Working gloves for easier handling of the tools and the wheel; The gloves will protect your hands, but also keep them clean.
- A flashlight in case you need to change a car tire at night. You can also use the LED flash on your smartphone for this purpose. However, the phone might get easily damaged or dirty. On top of that, heavy-duty flashlights are quite inexpensive nowadays.
- A plastic raincoat in case you need to change a car tire when it rains.
How to Change a Car Tire – Step by Step Guide
There are many steps required to change a car tire. However, once you got the hang of it, it’s very simple. Briefly, you need to jack up the car, remove the wheel with the flat tire, and install the spare tire. That said, we still recommend going through all steps to ensure that everything is in order.
1. Park your vehicle on a safe and stable place
Obviously, you shouldn’t park your car in the middle of the road when you change a car tire. As soon as you notice that one of the tires is flat, reduce the speed slowly. Look for ample space on the right side of the road. On modern roads, there are parking lots seemingly everywhere. And even if there is no parking lot, drive slowly until you find one. Replacing your car tire in the middle of the road is dangerous for you and other motorists.
You also need to make sure that the surface is level. If not, there is a chance that the car will roll backward or forward while it’s jacked. Before you get out of your vehicle, be sure that you engage the parking brake.
2. Turn on the hazard lights and put the reflective triangle behind your vehicle
You must be visible to other motorists when you change a car tire. Turn on your hazard lights on immediately after you park your vehicle. Then, put the reflective triangle at least 150 feet behind the car.
3. Take out the spare tire and tools from the trunk
Take out all of the tools that we mentioned previously. Make sure that you at least have a spare tire, a jack, and a lug wrench. Put them near the vehicle but never near the road.
If you have other tools at your disposal, such as a mat, place them near the area where you’ll work on.
4. Apply wheel wedges behind the inflated wheels
This way, you’ll be sure that the car stays in place and doesn’t roll. Never put the wheel wedges on the axis with the flat tire. In other words, if a front tire is flat, put them on the back wheels and vice versa. If you don’t have any wheel wedges, you can use larger stones or bricks.
5. Remove the wheel cover (if any)
To remove the wheel cover, read the owner’s manual first. Usually, you can remove them with your hands or by using a screwdriver. However, on some cars, the covers are held in place by the lug nuts and can’t be removed simply by pulling. Skip this step if your automobile has alloy wheels or doesn’t have wheel covers.
6. Loosen the lug nuts before jacking the car
Many people jack the vehicle first and then try to loosen the lug nuts. That is the wrong approach. If the lug nuts aren’t loose, you might have trouble removing them once the vehicle is raised. That said, you should only loosen the nuts – not remove them completely.
Use the wrench to loosen the lug nuts. In some cases, the nuts might be stuck. When that happens, you can use your legs and body weight to loosen them.
7. Place the jack under the jack point of your car (near the flat tire)
Place the jack over a small cut of wood and under the jack point that is near the flat tire. Finding the jack point of your car shouldn’t be hard. On passenger cars and crossovers (unibody construction), there is a mark or a hole where you can place the jack. On SUVs and trucks (body on frame construction), the point is usually at the beams of the frame. If you can’t find the jack point, consult your owners’ manual.
8. Raise your car with the jack
Once the jack is in place, start raising it until it touches the jack point. Continue raising the vehicle until the tire doesn’t touch the ground. Continue raising the car until the tire is 6-7 inches from the ground. By doing this, you’ll ensure that you can easily place the spare tire.
9. Completely unscrew the lug nuts
After you loosen the lug nuts, they will come out quickly. You can even use your hands to remove them altogether.
10. Remove the wheel with the flat tire
Remove the wheel by gripping it on the tire tread. We recommend using working gloves when doing this.
11. Place the spare tire on the lug studs
Align the wheel on the studs and push it forward. Make sure that the valve stem faces you. If it doesn’t, turn the wheel around.
12. Tighten the lug nuts on the studs
Use your hands to tighten the lug nuts on the studs. Do that until the wheel stays mostly in place.
13. Lower your car slowly
Make sure that there are no large items or people below the vehicle. Then, slowly lower the car using the jack until it touches the ground without putting all the car’s weight on the tire. The idea here is to prevent the wheel from turning while tightening it.
14. Tighten the lug nuts with the wrench
Tighten the lug nuts with the wrench as much as possible. Using a star pattern is recommended for safety. Put a wheel lock on one of the lug nuts (if any). Then, lower the car completely and tighten all the lug nuts once again. Better safe than sorry!
15. Check the pressure in the tire
It should be near the pressure provided by the car manufacturer. If there is not enough pressure in the spare tire, drive slowly to the nearest gas station or service station. You can also use a 12V portable air compressor to inflate the tire to the recommended pressure (if you have any).
16. Put the wheel cover back on
Use firm but not overly strong force on the outer side of the wheel cover to put it into place.
17. Put all of your equipment back into the trunk
Be sure that you don’t leave anything on the road for safety reasons. Use your flashlight if it’s dark outside.
What to Do After You Change a Car Tire?
When you replace your flat tire, it takes the place of the spare tire. This means that the next time you encounter a puncture, you will be stranded on the road. We strongly recommend going to the nearest tire technician after you change a car tire and repair the flat one. Never drive without a fully pressurized spare tire!
Most spare tires are only intended for temporary use and shouldn’t be used to drive over 50mph. We highly recommend having the flat fixed and reinstalling the standard tire as soon as possible.
How to Change a Car Tire Without a Jack?
Interestingly, you can change a car tire even without a jack. Basically, you need to park your car on soft soil, put a big wooden block or rock under the frame and start digging beneath the flat tire. Obviously, you’ll need to dig a pretty deep hole to ensure that you can easily put the spare tire on. That being said, we strongly advise against this technique as it can be quite messy. It also requires you to park your car on soft soil, where you can get stuck. However, it can still save your life if you ever find yourself stranded off-road or far away from civilization.