So, you’ve blown a tire, and you’re head-scratching on the shoulder of the road. You need it changed. What do you do? Sure you could call your spouse, your friend, AAA, or the Ghostbusters, but when it comes to changing a tire, we want to make it so simple that you can learn to call on yourself. Sometimes, there may be no other assistance available, but by following these simple steps, we can help ensure that you can get yourself up and running in no time.
Step 1: Ensure You Always Have the Tools You Need
What tools do you need to change a tire, you ask?
- A spare tire - Usually, cars already have a spare tire conveniently tucked under the floor mat in the trunk, or mounted underneath or on the back of your car. Before your next trip, check to make sure you can find your spare and that the tire is inflated.
- Your car manual - This will give you step-by-step instructions for changing the tire on your particular make and model
- Gloves (ideally leather for possible inclement weather)
- Lug wrench
- Wheel wedge(s)
- Tire Pressure Gauge
- Cones, flares, or reflective markers
- Working flashlight
Before heading out, check to ensure that all these tools are in your car. A jack, spare tire, and lug wrench should come with your car, but you may need to stock the other items. Be sure to replace tools if they are missing or wear out!
Step 2: Get to Safety
Safety is key when you have a tire blow. Assuming you were driving when it happened, we recommend you slow down immediately, put on your hazard lights, and get as far over on the shoulder as you can (or find another, safer spot off the road if you can). Stay away from traffic! The best places to change a tire are non-crowded areas such as the shoulder, side streets, parking lots, off-ramps, or unused roads/land.
Tip: A flat, paved road is much more conducive to changing a tire than an inclined, unpaved road!
Step 3: Change the Tire
Obviously, there are several steps to this step, and we break them down for you here:
- Use the cones, flares, or reflective markers to direct traffic away from your car
- Gather your tools, including your spare tire
- Secure your vehicle by placing the wheel wedges against the tires on the other side of your car from the flat tire
- Take off the wheel cover or hubcap. (If your lug nuts are already exposed, simply pry off the cover with the flat end of your wrench.)
- WITHOUT REMOVING THE LUG NUTS, loosen the lug nuts with the wrench.
- Use the jack to raise the frame of your car to about 6 inches off the ground. Refer to your car manual for how to use the jack. WARNING: Keep all parts of your body out from the under the vehicle!
- Finish unscrewing and remove the lug nuts. Do not lose them! Keep them in a safe spot to put them back on later.
- Remove the flat tire using both hands and setting it aside.
- Push the spare tire into place by lining it up with the exposed lug bolts.
- Replace the lug nuts making them as tight as you can with your hand ONLY.
- Lower your vehicle from the jack. When your car touches the ground, remove the jack.
- Finish tightening the lug nuts in a star pattern. This means that you should tighten the nuts across from each other one after the other, not tightening nuts next to each other. This ensures even alignment. Tip: Make those nuts extra tight by using all your weight!
- Replace the wheel cover or hubcap.
- Gather your cones, flares, or reflective markers, your tools, and your old tire, so you don’t leave these things in the road!
- Check your tire pressure with a tire gauge, or drive to a gas station or auto service station to ensure your spare is safe to drive on.
Note: You should not continue driving on your spare tire! The spare should only be used to get you to the next location where you can repair your flat tire or replace it with a new tire.
When NOT to Change a Tire Yourself
Although it’s safe to know protocol for changing your own tire, there are times when it’s smarter and safer to call for help:
- When road and traffic conditions prevent you from getting to a safe location - If you can’t find a flat, paved, well-lighted, low-traffic area to change your tire, call for help.
- When the weather is inclement - Call for help when it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, hailing, or so blazing hot that you are not able to safely see or operate your equipment.
- When you have passengers in the car who may be in danger - If conditions aren’t also safe for your passengers (including pets), don’t change your tire yourself.
- When you’re missing tools, or are working with worn-out tools - If your spare is not inflated, or your jack looks rusty, it’s simply not worth the risk!