So one of your tires suddenly blew while you’re driving at 70 mph down the highway. You want to be armed and ready for scenarios like this, as tires don’t choose where to blow (and when to blow). Learning how to swap out a flat tire on your own will save you time and effort, especially when roadside assistance isn’t coming anytime soon.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to changing a flat tire to help you get back on the road as quickly as possible.
Tools You Need
A tire changing kit should contain basic tools including:
- Lug wrench – A tool with a pry bar on one end and a socket on the other
- Jack – A scissor jack is the most common type that uses a mechanical scissor to lift the car.
- Spare tire
- Tire pressure gauge – Use it to check the air pressure in your spare tire.
- Flashlight with spare batteries – This is in case of low light/nighttime repair.
- Gloves or hand wipes – Use these to keep your hands clean after the job.
- Floor mat or tarp – These are meant to keep your clothes clean while doing the job.
- Reflective triangles or road flares – Use this so other drivers can see you along the highway.
- A sheet of plywood – It should be 12×12 in (30×30 cm); this will serve as a stable base for the jack if your roadside spot is soft.
There are additional tools which will depend on the make and model of your vehicle, like:
- Extension bars to help lower the spare tire
- Wheel lock
How to Change a Flat Tire
- Always be prepared.
New car models don’t always come with a spare; make sure to check if your car has one. It’s also important that you check this spare tire regularly. A spare tire with insufficient air pressure does you no good. Make it a habit to check the air pressure before going on road trips or long drives. When doing tire inspections, you will need a headlamp, tire gauge, and paper towels. Use a floor mat to keep your clothes clean.
- Choose a safe and convenient spot.
Finding a good and safe spot for swapping a flat tire isn’t always easy. In this case, choose a level and hard surface. Make sure there’s ample space between the busy road and your vehicle. Avoid driving a mile on your rim for too long so you won’t have to get new rims. Throw your flashers on as you head to your chosen spot, then set your parking brake once there.
- Get all your tools.
If you’ve made regular checkups on your spare tire and toolkit a habit, then you may skip this step. Otherwise, ensure all your tools are complete and are in your trunk when it’s time to use them.
- Loosen up the lugs.
You can start off by chocking a wheel at the opposite side of the vehicle you’re supposed to jack up. If you don’t have an actual chock for your car’s wheels you can use a piece of rock or wood you can find on the side of the road. This helps to ensure that the car doesn’t roll anywhere.
Changing a flat tire on the highway can be dangerous, if you’re driving with someone, ask them to spot incoming traffic. If you are alone put on a high visibility vest or other reflective clothing.
Spread a floor mat down and get your lug wrench. Some cases may require you to pry off a lug nut cover, but you can also proceed right away. Let the lugs loose, but don’t remove them entirely. You may need to use a lug key adapter depending on your car.
- Jack your car up.
Locate the jack point or the spot weld below your vehicle by the wheel you’re about to take off. Position the jack in such a way that its handle points out. Crank the jack clockwise using the jack handle tools you have.
To know if it’s already high enough to remove the tire, make sure you can see light between the tire and ground.
- Remove the flat tire.
At this point, spin the loosen lug nuts until they come off and set them aside somewhere safe. Remove the wheel from the vehicle. Typically, the wheel falls right off, but if it doesn’t, a few kicks to the sidewall from the right angle will loosen it. Make sure to bring the wheel behind your car or out of the way after removing it.
- Get the spare tire.
Grab your spare from your trunk or wherever you’ve hidden it. For many cars and SUVs, the tire is under the loading floor. Some trucks might have it suspended under the bed. But there’s possibly a center nut fixing it in place, so you’ll need to screw it off and remove it.
Line up the studs and holes then put the wheel on. Place all the lugs back to where they should be. When the wheel is seated properly, get the car back on the ground.
- Lower the car.
To slowly lower the car to the ground, turn the jack handle in the opposite direction. After it’s been set down, remove the jack from under your vehicle and get your lug wrench.
- Tighten back the lugs.
The most important step before finishing the job is to make sure all the lugs are tightened and securely in place. Tighten the lugs in a crisscross manner (going across in a star-pattern, not in a circle). Repeat this step several times until you’re sure the lugs are as tight as they should be. You can use a torque wrench for this purpose but if not, just ensure they’re snug before finishing up.
- Gather your tools and drive home.
Pick up all your tools, grab your flat tire, and secure all your things inside your trunk. Clean up your hands to prevent smearing grime and dirt all over your car’s interior.
It’s highly likely that you’re driving on space-saver spare tire so it’s crucial to follow the rules that go with it. In many cases, tires are rated for a maximum speed of about 80 km/h. Driving above this speed could lead to another blowout.
At this point, your vehicle won’t handle and brake the same way as it did with your old tire. It pays to be extra cautious. It will help to feel the new driving dynamics of a space-saver tire. Tiny tires are made to travel a limited number of km, so you’ll need to get a new tire as soon as possible.
Changing a flat tire isn’t as easy as it sounds; but with enough practice and the right tools, you can do the job without breaking a sweat. Follow this guide to changing flat tires today to expand your skillset.
If you’re looking for inexpensive yet high-quality tires, you can count on Round & Around Tires, Inc. Not only do we sell new and used tires for passenger vehicles, light trucks, and SUVs; we also exercise great care in installing tires to protect your rims and achieve wheel balance.