How to Change a Flat Tire: The Key Steps to Take

Approximately 222 million people drive cars in the United States. But only 74% say that they know how to change a flat tire if they get one.

Being able to change a flat is an important skill that all drivers should have. Hopefully, you’ll never need it. But if you do, you don’t want to be caught unprepared.

You certainly don’t want to be stranded somewhere because you don’t know how to change your own tire.

If you’re one of that 26% that don’t know how to change a flat, it is time to learn.

The following helpful guide will show you the key steps to changing a car tire.

1. Get to a Safe Spot

Sometimes, you get the privilege of changing your tire in your driveway or garage. But more likely, your tire will go flat while you are out driving. Stay calm, and slowly get yourself to the side of the road.

Make sure you’re highly visible from both directions, and far enough off the road to not get hit by another car. You always want to park on a flat, even surface.

If the road you’re driving on doesn’t fit these requirements, slowly drive to the next spot that does. A parking lot is the best possible scenario.

It’s not good for your rims to drive on a flat tire, but getting to a safe spot is most important in these situations.

2. Locate Your Tire and Your Manual

It’s a good idea to start this process by locating your car manual. The tire changing process is very similar amongst different makes and models. But your car might have some particularities that you need to make note of.

If you don’t know where your spare tire is, or if you have one, your manual will tell you.

Locate the fully-inflated tire, your jack, your tire wedges, and your lug wrench.

3. Secure Your Car

What you are about to do will affect the stability of the car. So make sure your car is off and in the park position, and the parking breaking break is on.

If you are on the side of a road, turn on your hazard lights.

If you are changing a front wheel, place your tire wedges behind the back wheels. If you are changing a back wheel, place your tire wedges in front of the front wheels. If you don’t have proper tire wedges, use bricks or large rocks.

Now you are ready to get started.

4. Place the Jack

Place the jack flatly below the car’s frame. Your car manual will tell you exactly where to place the jack on your particular vehicle.

But as a rule of thumb, place it near the wheel you are changing.

Raise the jack until it supports the weight of the car, but doesn’t lift the tire.

Make sure that the jack is poised flatly on the ground throughout this process. If you need to lower it and readjust, do that.

For the rest of this process, make sure that none of your arms or legs are under the car, as a safety precaution.

5. Loosen the Lug Nuts

Remove your hubcap if you have one. Your manual will tell you how to remove it, but you can likely use the flat end of your lug wrench to pry it off.

Once your lug nuts are exposed, use your lug wrench to loosen each one slightly. Do not take them off all the way. You just want them loose.

If you try to do this when the tire is raised, you will have a hard time turning the lug nuts instead of the wheel.

6. Raise the Jack

Now you can raise the jack until your tire is lifted off the ground. Go slowly and carefully.

7. Remove the Tire

You can now go back to the lug nuts. They should unscrew by hand. Remove them.

Now you should be able to gently pull off the tire. If it is stuck, hit it carefully with something to break it free.

Pull off the tire and place it on its side under the vehicle. Now it can act as a backup for your jack.

8. Replace the Tire

Put the fully-inflated spare tire on. Screw on each of the lug nuts partially. You don’t want them tight yet.

Screw your lug nuts on in a star pattern. Start with one corner, and move to the opposite corner, tightening an equal amount each time. This will make sure your wheel is balanced.

9. Lower the Jack

Lower the jack until it is back in the support position, so the tire isn’t holding the full weight of the car. Now you can tighten your lug nuts the rest of the way. But still, make sure you are going in a star pattern to balance the tightness.

If you had to remove a hub cap, replace it now.

Now you can lower the jack the rest of the way and remove it. Give the lug nuts one more tightening if need be. You are almost done.

10. Check the Pressure

You want the spare tire to read at about 60 psi. If your tire is under-inflated, you shouldn’t drive on it. It would be better to call services.

But if your tire pressure is on point, you are good to go.

11. Take Your Vehicle to a Professional

Remember, spare tires are only there to make sure you make it home safe. You are not meant to drive long distances or at high speeds on your spare tire.

Take your vehicle (and your flat tire) to a professional as soon as possible. They will be able to tell you what went wrong, and if your flat tire can be fixed.

If not, they’ll be able to set you up with a brand new tire and send you on your way.

Now You Know How to Change a Flat Tire

Changing a flat is an important skill that every driver should have. But now that you know how to change a flat tire, you will be prepared in case it happens. For more information on changing flats, or for other advice about your car, click here.