How to change a car tire is as important as learning how to drive safely. A flat tire can show up at the least expected times and can make driving a hazard.
With the right tools, you can easily change a car tire. Just remove the hubcap and lug nuts and then raise your car safely to remove the flat tire. Mounting the spare tire requires you to align the tire rim with the nut bolts, tighten the nuts and lower the car to the car.
Knowing how to change a car tire is a necessary skill for all drivers. You cannot always rely on your phone to call for roadside assistance, particularly if you forget to charge it, leave it at home, or are out of range. In addition, it can also be quite costly, especially if you take into account the added expense of a tow truck. This guide can help you find out the correct way of replacing a flat tire without the least amount of hassle.
As seasoned drivers who have owned multiple cars throughout the decades, we are pros when it comes to changing flat tires on the fly. That is why we have compiled this step-by-step guide below for novice car drivers. Print it out and keep it in your car’s glove compartment so that you can access it during car emergencies.
Things You Need to Change a Car Tire
To remove the punctured tire and replace it with a new one, you will need to have a few tools and equipment on hand. These include:
- An inflated spare tire
- Carjack for lifting the car off the ground
- Lug wrench (if it is not in the car jack)
- Wheel chock or wheel wedge
- Wheel nut key
- A car owner’s manual
It is also a good idea to keep a few other things in your car because flat tires can occur at any time of the day and in any weather. Hence, you should also consider carrying:
- Reflective jacket
- Warning triangle
- Tire pressure gauge
Preparing to Change Your Tire
Before you start the process of replacing your flat tire, you need to make a few preparations for your safety and the safety of other drivers. Here is what you need to do:
Turn on the Hazard Lights
As soon as you figure out you have a flat tire, turn on your flashers to let the other drivers on the road know you are experiencing an emergency and that they should steer clear of you. To avoid an accident, you should turn them on as quickly as possible while slowing down your speed.
Finding a Safe Location
Do not make a turn abruptly to the side of the road or press on the brakes. Instead, gently reduce your speed and give a quick scan to look for a wide shoulder of road or an empty expanse of land. An empty parking lot is the perfect place to park your car and get to work on its wheels. Make sure that your car is on level ground as it will prevent it from rolling. Straight long stretches of roads are safer locations than curvy roads since the oncoming traffic will be able to see you.
Do not try to change your tire on a narrow shoulder, particularly when there is traffic. Keep your car moving slowly until you find a safe location. Although driving on a flat tire may damage your rim, it is better than being hit by another driver.
Applying the Parking Brake
Once your car has come to a stop at a safe location, make sure that you apply the parking brake. This will prevent your vehicle from inadvertently rolling forward or backward when you are fixing your tires.
Placing the Reflective Warning Signs
Reflective warning signs are essential if your tire has broken down at night. You can place a warning triangle or a reflective sign around your car so that oncoming traffic will keep away from it. it is also a good idea to don a reflective jacket, if you have one, so that other drivers may see you clearly, particularly if you are working on the shoulder of a road.
Changing Your Car Tire
Now that you are adequately prepared, you can start on the actual changing of the car tire.
Positioning the Wheel Wedge
Wheel wedges or wheel chocks prevent your car from rolling forward while you are fixing the tire. If you are fixing a rear tire, place a wedge in front of its opposite front tire. If you are replacing a front tire, place the wedge behind the opposite rear tire.
If you do not have a wheel wedge, you can use rocks or bricks for the same job. Just make sure that they are large and strong enough to stop your car from rolling.
Removing the Hub Cap
The first step to removing the tire is to remove the hub cap, also known as a wheel cover. To do that, insert the flat side of your lug wrench into the space between the hub cap and the tire. Apply slight leverage to the entire circumference of the hub cap until it loosens and comes off easily.
There are some hub caps that keep the lug nuts exposed. In this case, you do not need to remove the hubcap and can skip this step. Some vehicle needs a different tool to remove the hub cap. If this is the case with your car, consult the car manual to see the right way to remove the car tire.
Loosening the Lug Nuts
To loosen the lug nuts, place the lug wrench over the head of the lug nut and turn it into a counterclockwise motion until they become loose. If your lug nuts have been screwed on tightly, you may need to apply some force and that is alright. You can use your foot and your body to rotate the lug nuts, if necessary.
Loosen the lug nuts until they roll freely, but do not remove them before you have jacked the car. This is very important as you do not want to risk injury or damage to your car.
Raising the Jack
To raise your car, you need to find the jacking points on your car’s body where the jack can engage. These are reinforced metal ribs that are designed to lift up the car safely without risking damage to its body.
Once you have located the jacking points, you can slip your car jack’s slot onto it. Slowly turn the jack handle until the flat tire comes off the ground. Make sure the jack is lifting your car straight up so that its weight is evenly distributed on the jack and it does not come off balance. Raise the car until the tire moves freely, but do not raise the tire more than one or two inches from the ground.
Removing the Lug Nuts
Once your car is raised, you can now safely remove the lug nuts all the way. You can use your lug wrench to do this but your hand can do the job safely as well. Place the lug nuts in a place where you will not lose them like your pocket or in a cup.
Removing the Flat Tire
Once the lug nuts are off, your tire is unsecured. You can now remove the tire by gripping it by its threads and gently pulling it away from the rim until it comes completely free. Lay down the tire on its side so that it does not roll away.
Mounting the Spare
To place the spare tire on the hub, you need to align the lug bolts with the rim. Gently push the tire until the lug bolts appear through the rim completely.
The hard work is now done.
Tightening the Lug Nuts
Take out the lug nuts from their safe place and put them back on the bolts. Use your hand to turn them clockwise and tighten them as much as you can. Later, you will need to use a lug wrench to tighten them some more.
Lowering the Car and Tightening the Nuts
Use your carjack to lower your vehicle back to the ground until the spare tire is touching the ground but is not yet supporting the full weight of the car. Use the lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts by turning it clockwise. To make sure the lug nuts are secure, you can push down on the wrench with your foot or the full weight of your body.
Put the hub cap over the tire and it will snap right into position. You should also refer to your car’s manual if you have any trouble with the hub cap.
Lowering the Car Fully
Use the jack to bring your car all the way down to the ground. Once done, you can then safely remove the jack. Give your lug nuts another crank with the wrench to make sure they are as tight as can be.
Checking the Spare Tire Pressure
A tire pressure gauge is an important tool to keep in your car. Once you have replaced a flat tire with a spare one, you should use the tire pressure gauge to determine whether your spare tire is fully inflated. If you do not have a tire pressure gauge, you can slowly drive your car to a fuel station nearby and use the air pressure gauge there.
If your spare tire has low air pressure, use the pump there to bring it to the recommended pressure. Also, do a visual check of all the other tires to make sure their condition and air pressure look good.
After you have replaced your tire, some people are so relieved that they often forget to pack some of their essential tools back in their car. Make sure you pick up your flat tire and place it in the car's trunk securely. Pick up all your tools including the wedge and the jack and put them away in your car's toolbox.
Go around the car and check under your car to make sure you are not leaving behind any of your tools and belongings. An item left accidentally on the road can cause a road accident or a flat tire on someone else's car.
Getting Your Flat Tire Repaired
After you have swapped your flat tire for a spare one, do not forget about it. You need to get it to a garage or a car workshop at the earliest opportunity and get the punctured tire looked at. The professionals will let you know whether your tire needs to be repaired or will have to be replaced.
Do not drive on your spare tire for too long. These tires are only designed for temporary use in case of emergencies and to save on space. Make sure you get your wheel fitted with your old tire when it is repaired or another regular tire.
How Long Does it Take to Change a Car Tire?
The entire process of changing a car tire should not take you more than 15 minutes to half an hour. If you have been driving a car for decades and have had practice with changing your tires, it can take you an even shorter time than that. Just make sure you do not skip the essential steps written above.
If you have never changed a car tire in your life, it is a good idea to change a tire in your home’s garage and driveway to get some practice and make sure you are ready for any car emergencies.
How to Avoid Having a Flat Tire
Although it is important to learn how to change a flat tire, it is even more important to maintain your tires regularly. In addition to learning this step-by-step guide, you should also remember to do the following to prevent or at least reduce the risks of tire punctures.
Checking tire pressure monthly: The correct pressure of your tire should be mentioned on the driver’s doorjamb or in the vehicle owner’s manual. It is important that you check the tire pressure each month regularly since heat building up in the tire can change its pressure. Driving on a low-pressure can result in a flat tire and can increase your risks of accidents.
Checking the pressure of the spare tire: It is just as important to check the air pressure of the spare tire as it is to check the pressure of your regular tire. Your spare tire will be of no use in emergencies if it is underinflated.
Check for tread wear: Make sure you check the condition of your tires regularly and keep an eye out for wear signs, rips, tears, and punctures.
Pack an emergency kit: Make sure you keep an emergency kit in the trunk of your car that consists of tools that can help you change your tire in an easy and safer way. A bottle of water, some snacks, a phone charger, and a warm jacket can add an extra measure of comfort if your car breaks down on a cold night.
There is never a good time for a flat tire. However, you can make your life easier by investing in high-quality tires and keeping in mind the above tips in case your tire does experience an emergency. Also, make sure you regularly maintain your tires so that they always remain in good condition on the road. These small precautions can make your driving that much more enjoyable and hassle-free.
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding