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Tips for Changing a Flat Tire

Knowing how to change a tire is a skill all drivers should possess. While most people carry cell phones, it may not always be possible to call for roadside assistance and knowing how to perform basic tasks such as changing a tire can keep you from becoming stranded. Flat tires can happen anywhere but changing a tire isn't all that difficult as long as your have the right equipment.

What You Need

To change a flat tire, you need to have the right equipment with you. Most of the items you will need should come with your vehicle. These include a jack, spare tire, lug wrench, and the owner's manual. You should make sure these items are in your vehicle at all times, and remember to regularly check the air pressure of the spare tire each time you check all the other tires. It can also be helpful to have a flashlight, gloves, wheel wedges, and a rain jacket or poncho.

How to Change a Tire

  • The first step to changing a flat tire is finding a safe location. If you are driving and realize your tire has gone flat, you should refrain from abruptly turning or braking. You should slowly reduce your speed and find a flat stretch of road with a wide enough shoulder to safely pull over.
  • If you are changing a tire on the side of the road, you should keep the hazard lights on the entire time. This will allow other drivers to see you pulled over and safely move over. To prevent an accident, you should turn on your hazards as soon as you realize that you must pull over.
  • Once you have found a safe spot to pull over, you need to remove the wheel cover or hubcap. It is easier to remove this before you lift the vehicle on the jack. If your tire does not have a hubcap, you can begin loosening the lug nuts. Using the wrench, turn the lug nuts counterclockwise until you break the resistance. It may be necessary to use quite a bit of force. Do not completely remove the lug nuts until the car is placed on the jack.
  • The jack is normally placed beneath the vehicle frame closest to the tire that is flat. Many vehicles have molded plastic on the bottom with an area of metal exposed specifically for the jack. Consult the owner's manual regarding specific jack placement to not only safely lift the vehicle but also avoid damage. It can be helpful to place a small piece of wood beneath the jack before raising your vehicle. This can prevent the jack from settling due to the weight of the vehicle and coming off balance. The jack should be used to raise the vehicle approximately six inches off the ground. You should never place any part of your body under the vehicle while it is on the jack.
  • Once the vehicle is raised, the lug nuts can be removed completely. The tire can then be removed by gently pulling it towards you. The spare tire can now be placed on the lug bolts by lining up the rim with the bolts. Gently push on the tire so that the bolts poke through the rim. The lug nuts should then be placed back on the bolts and tightened as much as possible by hand.
  • It is now time to lower the vehicle and tighten the lug nuts with the wrench to get them as tight as possible. It can be helpful to push on the wrench with your full body weight to tighten the lug nuts. The hubcap or wheel cover can then be put back on if necessary and equipment can be put away.
  • Before driving away, you should check the pressure of the spare tire to ensure that it is safe for driving. This can be done with a tire gauge which is a good tool to keep in your vehicle. If the spare needs air, drive slowly and carefully to the nearest service station to fill up.
  • Spare tires should not be driven on at high speeds or for long distances. You should drive cautiously until you are able to get the spare replaced with a new full sized tire. Sometimes tires can simply be patched but a replacement may be necessary depending on damage.

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