Virginia Auto Service

How to Change a Flat Tire

If there is one thing every driver should learn to do, it’s how to change a flat tire.

Today, with technology like cell phones, getting help in an emergency is a lot easier than it used to be, but knowing how to help yourself is still important. There is always a possibility that your phone may be dead or that you are beyond the range of service. So, even if you have roadside assistance, there may come a time when you simply must know how to change a tire yourself.

The good news is changing a flat tire really is not that challenging when you are properly prepared.

The Tools You’ll Need

Every driver should keep a roadside emergency kit in their vehicle at all times. Among other items, the tools you’ll need for a tire change should be included.

  • Your vehicle owner’s manual
  • Working spare tire
  • Lug wrench
  • Jack
  • 2 in. x 6 in. piece of wood to secure the jack
  • Wheel wedges
  • Rain poncho and/or winter coat
  • Flashlight and working batteries
  • Gloves

We always stress the importance of checking your spare tire’s inflation along with your others, and when it comes time to use it you will understand why. The last thing you want when you have a flat tire is to also have a flat spare!

How to Change a Tire

With a little know-how, changing a flat tire is not overly complicated. Review your owner’s manual to learn steps that may be specific to your vehicle. Also, consider practicing changing your tire at home in your driveway a few times, just to make sure you can handle it when you need to. In total, changing your tire shouldn’t take any more than 15-30 minutes.

Here are 18 steps to changing a tire:

Reduce your speed. If you are driving when you develop a flat tire, the first thing you need to do is start slowing down. Do not slam on the brakes, instead, slowly reduce your speed by gradually removing your foot from the brake.

Turn on your hazard lights. Your hazard lights, or emergency flashers, should be turned on the moment you begin slowing your speed to pull over. This helps to alert other drivers that you are likely trying to make your way off the road to pull over, allowing them to maneuver accordingly.

Pull over to a safe location.  Look around you for an expanse of road that is straight and level and has a broad shoulder. If you can make it to one, a parking lot or something similar would be the ideal place to change a tire. You want the ground to be level to help prevent your car from rolling while you change it. Avoid pulling over where the road curves and choose a straight stretch so other motorists can see you more easily.  Do not change your tire on a constricted shoulder where there is bound to be traffic. Stopping in too narrow a spot will increase your chances of being hit by another vehicle. Instead, move at a slow pace until you locate a spot with a wide shoulder for safety. Driving on a flat tire may increase your chance of damaging your rim, but that is preferable to endangering your life.

Engage your parking (emergency) brake.  Using your parking brake will help minimize the chances of your car rolling while you are changing your flat tire.

Place the wheel wedges. Wheel wedges are to be used for your safety, again preventing the vehicle from rolling. You place the wedges either in the front of or behind your tires, depending on the location of the flat. If your flat tire is in the back of the vehicle, place the wedges in front of the tires at the front of the vehicle. If the flat is in the front of the vehicle, then place the wedges behind the back tires. If you don’t keep wheel wedges in your vehicle, large stones or bricks are a good substitute.

Take off the hubcap. Most tires have a hubcap over the lug nuts, which is more easily removed before you lift the car with a jack. Removing the hubcap using the flat side of your lug wrench works on most vehicles, however, some require another tool.  Refer to your owner’s manual to learn the correct way to remove your hubcap ahead of time so you are properly prepared when the time comes.

Loosen (but don’t remove) the lug nuts. With your lug wrench, rotate the lug nuts to the left (think “lefty loosey, righty tighty”) until you notice a break in resistance- about a quarter to one half of a turn. It may be necessary to use a lot of muscle, which is just fine. Put all your weight behind it if you need to. Do not fully remove the lug nuts at this time.

Place and use your jack. Position the jack under your car’s frame next to the tire that is flat. Refer to your owner’s manual for the correct placement of the jack on your vehicle. Place the two-inch by six-inch piece of wood beneath your jack before you lift your vehicle. This will help to keep it from settling and becoming unbalanced. Doing this is exceptionally helpful on the asphalt. Once the jack is properly and safely positioned begin raising your car until the flat tire is around six inches off the ground. For your safety, do not go under the vehicle while the vehicle is raised.

Remove the lug nuts. It is at this point that you should finish removing the lug nuts. Because they have already been loosened, they will likely come loose easily by hand.

Remove the tire. Grab the flat by its tread and gently pull it until it comes off the hub. Set it down on its side to avoid having it roll away.

Place your spare tire on the hub. After the flat has been removed you can put the spare tire in place. To do this, line up the rim with the lug bolts. Gently push the tire until the lug bolts are showing through the rim.

Begin tightening the lug nuts. After the tire is placed you can begin to tighten them by hand. Tighten them as far as you can get them manually.

Begin to lower your vehicle and finish tightening the lug nuts. Using your jack, lower your car down to where the spare rests on the ground without the weight of your car resting on the tire. Then, tighten the lug nuts the rest of the way using the lug wrench. Use your whole body and tighten them as much as you can.

Finish lowering the vehicle. After the lug nuts are nice and tight, lower the vehicle the rest of the way to the ground and then remove the jack. Then, use the lug wrench on the lug nuts one more time, ensuring that they are as tight as you can get them.

Place the hubcap. If you had a hubcap to remove, now is the time to replace it, if it fits with your spare.

Pack away your tools.  If your hubcap doesn’t fit on your spare place it, the wheel wedges, your jack, wrench, and flat in the trunk or other storage space of your vehicle.

Check the spare tire pressure. You want to make sure your spare is safe to drive on by checking its pressure. Mini or temporary spares usually need 60 psi. If your spare needs air, slowly drive to a gas station to fill it right away.

Fix or replace your flat tire. Don’t delay in replacing your flat tire. The temporary mini-spares aren’t made to drive at high speeds and shouldn’t be driven on for long. Cautiously drive your vehicle to a professional tire technician as soon as possible.  They can determine if the tire is salvageable or if it needs to be replaced.

Having the knowledge you need to change a tire is important, however, regular maintenance can go a long way in preventing a flat in the first place. Remember to always keep your tires inflated properly, watch for tread wear, and rotate your tires per the guidelines set in your vehicle owner’s manual. You may not be able to completely prevent a flat, but these things will certainly help to extend your tire’s life.

If you have any automotive concerns, please don’t hesitate to call on the experts here at Virginia Auto Service.  Call 602.266.0200 or schedule an appointment online.

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