Few things ruin a perfectly good day like a flat tire. Whether cruising on a long road trip or trying to fight traffic on the way to work, catching a flat is always bad news, and if you don't know how to change your own tires, it becomes even worse news as you have to wait for a service vehicle to reach you. And if you don't have AMA or some equivalent service, it becomes expensive bad news.
So, how do I change a tire?
It's actually easier than you might think, especially given the typical Hollywood portrayal of changing a tire as a tedious, possibly painful process. Following these five steps will have you back on the road in no time.
- Get the vehicle to a level, firm surface - To change a tire, you'll have to raise the car using a jack, a task that is virtually impossible on soft ground (the weight of the vehicle will merely push the jack into the dirt instead of lifting the car). Concrete is ideal, though asphalt will usually work. If there is no hard surface available, a useful trick is to put a piece of scrap wood under the jack. Never raise a vehicle on a surface that isn't level. Once the vehicle is where you want it, engage the parking brake, and take out your spare tire, jack and tire wrench (in many vehicles, the tire wrench will serve double duty as the jack handle).
- Release the lugnuts - Before you jack up the vehicle, you must get the lug nuts loose, or the wheel will just spin when you actually try to take it off. With the wheel still on the ground, use your tire wrench to get the lug nuts (the bolts that hold the wheel on) turning. Don't loosen them too much, just enough that you can easily turn them once you get the car up.
- Jack up the vehicle - Most passenger vehicles are equipped with a car jack, usually located with the spare tire. There are various types of jacks, so consult your vehicle manual for specific instructions, but regardless of the particular jack mechanism, you'll want to place it directly under the chassis (the solid metal structure of the vehicle that everything is attached to). Most vehicles have easily identifiable places on the chassis for the jack. Never put the jack under fiberglass or thin metal. You won't like the results! Operate the jack until the flat tire is well off the ground (you have to ensure there is enough clearance for the non-flat spare).
- Replace the tire - Once the tire is off the ground, loosen the lug nuts the rest of the way and put them somewhere they won't roll away or get lost. Pull the flat tire off and put it away. Take the spare tire and carefully put it on the bolts. This step can be a lot easier with a helper. Once the tire is on, put the lug nuts on the bolts and hand tighten them (making sure to hold the tire in place while doing so).
- Lower the vehicle - Carefully lower the jack, according to its particular instructions, and once the tire is firmly resting on the ground, use the tire wrench to tighten the lug nuts the rest of the way. Tighten them until you can't get them to turn anymore. Go ahead and put everything away and give the vehicle a good visual once over to ensure that everything looks in order.
Need help changing or fixing your flat tire? Book a service appointment and we'll get you back on the road fast. We carry a huge selection of brand new tires from all the top tire brand names and we have competitive prices on all-season tires and winter tires. Our service advisors can give you professional advice and tips on tire maintenance.