Flat tires never happen unless it’s raining, you’re late for a meeting or you have 100 pounds of luggage covering your spare tire. While flat tires are always an inconvenience, they don’t have to be a disaster. If you don’t know how to change your own flat tire, don’t be ashamed. Instead, take a few minutes to read this short guide, and you can feel confident anytime, even when you hear that dreaded thump-thump-thump.
The ability to fix a flat in under five minutes won’t do any good if the spare tire is flat as a pancake. Every once in a while, check your spare tire to make sure it still has pressure. You’ll also want to make sure that your lug wrench and jack are still in your trunk. Because many auto shops tighten lugs too tight, it’s also a good idea to keep a pipe in your car. A pipe that snugly fits over your lug wrench can give you the leverage you need to loosen even the tightest lugs.
Park on a flat surface
While it is possible to change a flat on a hill, it is very dangerous and not recommended. To keep the car from moving while you change the tire, coast to a flat area, shift it in park, set the hand brake and put something behind the tire diagonally opposite of the flat tire.
Get everything you’ll need
If you’ve already prepared for a flat tire, you should know where to find everything you’ll need. Most cars have the spare tire, lug wrench and jack under the carpet in the trunk. Some other items that might be helpful are a flashlight, pipe, paper towels and extra clothes.
Loosen the lug nuts
The hardest part of changing a flat tire for most people is loosening the lug nuts. Many cars have lug nuts that are so tight that they seem almost impossible to unscrew without a torque wrench. This is where your pipe comes in handy. If you brought your pipe, simply slip it over the lug wrench, and you should have more than enough leverage to loosen even the tightest lugs. At this point, you don’t want to take the lugs all the way off, just loosen them enough to make them easy to remove when the car is jacked up. Remember, righty tightie, lefty loosey.
Jack the car
Put the jack in the designated jack spot underneath your car. This spot will probably be marked with two indentations near the wheel. If you’re not sure where your vehicle’s jack spot is, consult your owner’s manual. The jack that comes with your vehicle should have no trouble raising it from the ground. Jack your car enough to let the tire spin freely.
Remove the flat and put on the spare
Remove the flat tire, making sure you don’t let the tire, hub cap or lug nuts roll away. Now, put the spare tire on with the air valves facing out. Hand tighten the nuts, then lower the car. When tightening the lug nuts for the final time, work in a star pattern, attacking the nut opposite the one you just tightened. This will help you make sure the tire won’t fall off once you start driving.
When you clean up, make sure everything’s back in your car the way it was when you started. That way, your tools will be there when you need them, and they won’t clunk around in your trunk. When you drive on your spare tire, make sure you stay under the recommended maximum speed and travel distance. These details will be in your owner’s manual, and sometimes on the tire itself.