For an automobile driver, almost nothing is worse than getting a flat tire on the road. Except if you don’t know how to change a tire and you end up stranded waiting for roadside assistance or a helpful motorist. Fortunately, learning to change a flat tire is something any able-bodied adult can learn to do.
What You Need to Change a Flat Tire
You never know when your next flat tire is going to occur. Even if you have a brand new set of wheels, all it can take is running over a nail or other piece of road debris and you have a flat tire. However, what you can control is being adequately prepared when that flat does happen–and it will eventually–by having everything you need to successfully and safely change a flat tire. Here are the supplies you want to make sure are on hand:
- The spare tire.
- A jack.
- A lug wrench that has a socket end and a pry end.
- Tire pressure gauge.
- Road flares, or reflective safety triangles.
- Tire blocks, as an extra safety measure to prevent rolling.
- A spray lubricant, such as WD-40.
These are the essentials; the first three items should already be in your vehicle as they are usually included as standard equipment, see your manual for more information on the type of jack and spare you have. The remaining items are for your basic safety, especially if changing a tire at night. You should check to make sure you have these items and that they are functioning before you step into your car for the next trip. Many newer cars have wheel locks to prevent theft, you definitely want to check for this and make sure you have the key to unlock these devices. A few more items to consider that can make the process more convenient are: gloves or hand wipes, a piece of heavy duty plywood in case you have to lift the car from a soft surface, and a rain poncho for bad weather.
Staying Safe When You Get A Flat Tire
Just like you cannot control when a flat tire occurs, you also have little say in where one is going to happen. Hopefully you can identify a flat tire on your car before you even enter the vehicle so you can change it from the safety of a parking lot or driveway. If you start to go flat in traffic though, you need to slow down and pull over to the side of the road as soon as you can. Try to find a flat, hard surface that allows you to work safely away from the flow of traffic. Put your car in park and engage the parking brake and your hazard lights.
Changing the Tire
You are in a safe spot and you have everything you need, now all you have to do is remove the old tire and put on your spare.
- Remove the jack, wrench, and spare tire from your trunk.
- Place the jack underneath a stable spot on the frame, near the wheel well of the flat.
- Lift the jack just high enough to support, but not lift, the car.
- Loosen, but do not remove the nuts on the wheel.
- Lift the jack the rest of the way until the tire is high enough off the ground to remove.
- Remove the lug nuts and pull the flat tire off.
- Place the spare tire on the car, aligning the holes with the bolts.
- Tighten your lug nuts by hand until they are snug and lower the jack down until it is supporting the car.
- Now tighten the nuts the rest of the way with your wrench.
- Lower the jack, put all your supplies including the flat tire in the trunk, and drive slowly and safely to the nearest mechanic.
Now that you’ve learned this skill you can take to the roads with a new level of confidence. Even better, you are now the person who knows how to change the flat when you’re out with friends and family.