Changing a flat tire, especially while out on the road, is something that every driver should know how to do. Even if you've got the best roadside insurance coverage available, you could find yourself in a situation where you're just too far from civilisation to rely on it. The good news is that changing a tyre is actually pretty easy, provided you're not stuck in a mud hole. Here's how to do it.
What You'll Need
You should always have these things in your car, whether you plan on using them or not:
- A spare tyre (ideally, the one that came with the car).
- A tyre iron that matches the lug nuts on your wheels, or a socket that fits them and a long handle for it. If you have a "locking nut", you need to make sure you have the socket that matches that, too.
- A jack. Since most cases are out on the road, we'll concentrate on using a portable emergency jack. The one that came with the car is fine, but you need to also check that it has all its attachments, or you won't be able to make much use of it.
Changing the Tyre
As the video above explains, you always want to get your pieces ready and prepare the car and surrounding area first. If you've got reflective warning props, use them so oncoming traffic can see you better. If the car is on any sort of hill or grade, you should really do your best to wedge something under the tyres on the opposite side of the flat, and make sure your emergency brake is locked tight.
If you've never changed a tyre before in your life, or watched one get changed, this is the part you might get wrong (plenty of people do): You have to loosen the lug nuts before jacking the car off the ground. If you put the jack under the car and lift the car first, you'll be in for a pretty hard time trying to loosen them with the wheel floating in the air and able to spin.
The next part that people tend to get wrong is the placement of the jack. The jack needs to go underneath a solid part of the car's frame, not the floorboards! Your owner's manual will always have a drawing of suggested contact points for the jack, and you'll probably be able to see little labelled notches under the car, too.
You don't have to lift the car several feet off the ground to get the wheel off. Usually, when you see the flat tire floating about an inch or two above the ground, you're OK to stop raising the car. That's when you can finish taking the lug nuts off, and removing the wheel entirely. Immediately replace it with the spare, and start threading the lug nuts back on. Don't try to tighten them all the way, though, or you could actually knock the car off the tiny jack by torsional force alone.
Once the wheel's on, and the lug nuts are threaded on but not fully tightened, you can slowly lower the jack's height until the spare tire is not only touching the ground, but has some weight on it. That's when you should finish tightening the lug nuts. When that's finished, lower the car the rest of the way until the jack no longer touches the frame, and pull the jack away from the car. Double check all your lug nuts, then put all your tools and other items away — because you're done!