Nothing can flatten a mood quite like a flat tire. Luckily, with a few easy steps, you can have your spare on in no time and get back to eating tacos or whatever else it is you do in your spare time.
Check out Aceable's easy step-by-step instructions for changing a flat tire, and tips for maintaining your tires' health so you hopefully won't need to.
Video Guide to Changing a Tire
One of the worst nightmares with owning a car is getting a flat tire. We're going to learn about what to do when you have a flat tire, how to change it yourself, or when to ask for help. Want more car maintenance tips from Patrice? Find her in Aceable's drivers ed courses!
More vehicle Maintenance Tips
Car Battery Care and Maintenance
How to Check or Change Your Vehicle’s Oil
How to Measure Tire Tread
Vehicle Warning Lights
How to Check and Change Your Engine Coolant (Antifreeze)
When to Change Your Transmission Fluid
What You'll Need:
- A lug nut wrench
- A car jack
- A spare tire that is fully inflated
- Optional: a knee pad and an extra piece of pipe
What You'll Do:
- Pullover in a safe place. You'll always want the side of the car with the flat tire to be facing away from traffic. Pullover to the side of the road that the flat tire is on to make sure you're never in oncoming traffic. Make sure you're on flat ground, turn on your hazard lights, and put on your emergency brake.
- Find the jack lift point on your car. This information should be in your owners manual or even listed on the jack, but when in doubt look for two notches on the metal frame of the car- the lift point will be between those two notches.
- Place the jack under the lift point and start turning the lift knob to the right to lift the car. Lift the car until some of the weight is off the ground, but the wheel is still touching the road.
- Start loosening the lug nuts with the lug nut wrench until they're loose enough to turn with your fingers, but don't take them all the way off yet. To do this, place the lug nut wrench on the nuts and turn the wrench to the left. If the nut is stuck, try stepping on the wrench for some extra force or using a spare piece of pipe to get extra leverage.
- Once you can turn the lug nuts with your hand, jack the car up until the wheel can spin freely. To do this you'll want to use the hook that comes with your car jack to gain extra leverage and turn the jack knob to the right.
- Remove the lug nuts completely by hand. Make sure to put them in a safe spot so you don't lose them!
- Grab your spare tire and line up the 5 holes with the 5 lugs on the wheel. Slide the spare onto the car and replace the lug nuts by hand, tightening them slightly.
- Lower the car back to the ground until the wheel is touching the road, but don't release all of the weight back down yet. The car should still be slightly lifted, but the wheel should not be able to turn.
- Tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern. Use the lug nut wrench to make your way around the nuts tightening them until they won't turn anymore. Make sure to tighten the nuts in the star formation shown below.
- Lower the car the rest of the way back down to the ground, put your tools back in your vehicle, and head to the nearest auto care facility to get your tire replaced. REMEMBER: A spare tire is a temporary solution! Don't drive on the highway or go over 50 mph on a spare.
Tire Safety and You
If you want to keep your tires treading along, you’ll have to keep them properly maintained. Just like you need to get regular oil changes and replace your filters, keeping up with regular tire checks is important. You help your tires, and your tires will help you. Here's what you'll need to do to keep those tires up to par.
Tip 1: Check Your Tire Pressure Monthly
To check your tire pressure, you’ll need to get a tire pressure gauge to check that they’re inflated to the proper tire PSI (pounds per square inch).
- Buy an inexpensive tire pressure gauge (recommended) or use the one on the gas station air pump (less recommended).
- Find out what your tire pressure should be. Check your owner's manual or the sticker on the inside of your driver-side door for the correct tire pressure. It should be a number followed by "PSI."
- Remove the cap from the tire valve stem on your wheel and put the pressure gauge on it. You’ll hear a hiss and then, bam, you’ll be able to see your tire inflation level reading. Make sure this number matches the number in your manual and add/release air as needed.
If you're lucky, your car might have a TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) feature that will automatically tell you where your tire pressure is or if they're starting to run flat.
Keep in mind, checking your tire pressure is even more important when the weather is cold. The colder it is, the more your PSI/inflation level drops. You want to make sure you’re taking the correct winter driving precautions.
Pro tip: Make sure you also check the air pressure and tread of the spare tire in your trunk. If you get a flat and have to change use your spare, you want to make sure it’s ready to go.
Tip 2: Check With a Mechanic
You should also check in with your mechanic every once in a while for the following things:
- It's recommended that most cars get a tire rotation every 6,000 miles. This can vary based on the make and model of your car so check your owner's manual for more info!
- It's also recommended to get a tire alignment every 12,000 miles. Again, check your owner's manual for exact recommendations. So basically, for every other tire rotation you get, you should also get an alignment for your vehicle. This is to make sure one of your tires doesn’t go rogue and wear down the tread faster than the others.
Tire care should definitely be high on your list of vehicle maintenance priorities, hanging somewhere near tree-shaped air freshener upkeep and filling up your gas tank. As diligent as you are about keeping your tires in good shape, accidents can still happen. Make sure you have a spare tire, tire jack and lug nut wrench on hand at all times and you should be ready for any tire-related situation the road can throw at you!
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Image sources in order of appearance: Aceable, Wikipedia, Wikipedia.