Learning how to change a flat tire is important and something every motorist should know how to do. It’s frustrating when you’re in the middle of your daily commute, only to experience a flat tire. Maybe you unknowingly drove over a nail, or perhaps the tread was so worn that it could no longer contain the pressurized air. Regardless, tire blowouts are a common occurrence, with statistics showing that the average driver will experience almost a half-dozen blown or flat tires during their lifetime. Rather than waiting for hours on end for roadside assistance to show up, you can learn how to change a flat tire yourself to get back on the road fast.
The most important aspect of learning how to change a flat tire is safety. The moment you realize your tire is flat, turn on your hazard lights and start searching for a safe place to pull over. An empty parking lot is ideal since any traffic will be passing at slow speeds, but you can also pull over to the shoulder of a quiet road. The area should have a flat, paved surface so that you can easily jack up your vehicle. And if you’re going to pull over to a shoulder, make sure that’s not directly over a hill. Otherwise, passing motorists won’t be able to see you until they’ve driven over the hill, which could result in an accident.
After pulling over to a safe area, engage your vehicle’s parking brake and turn off the engine. Also known as an emergency brake, the parking brake is designed to prevent parked vehicles from moving. Without the parking brake engaged, there’s a higher risk of your vehicle rolling forwards or backwards while you are attempting to change the flat tire. For added protection against rolling, you can also place wheel wedges underneath the tires.
Now it’s time to get to work by gathering the tools needed to change your flat tire, including your spare tire, a lug wrench and a jack. If you are unfamiliar with your vehicle’s jack points — the four areas on your car’s undercarriage from which you can safely lift it — find your vehicle’s owner’s manual as well. This manual should reveal the location of your vehicle’s jack points, which is where you should place the jack when lifting your vehicle. Placing the jack anywhere else could damage your vehicle’s undercarriage, so always use the jack points.
It’s easier and safer to change a flat tire by loosening the lug nuts before lifting your vehicle. Place the socket end of your lug wrench into each of the lug nuts and turn it counterclockwise. You’ll probably have to push hard to turn the wrench, especially if it’s been a while since you last changed the tire. If the wrench is stuck and you can’t seem to turn it, place it horizontally and step on it with your foot. Using the weight of your body, you should be able to turn the wrench and loosen the lug nuts from the lug bolts to which they are attached.
Your vehicle’s undercarriage should have at least one jack point next to each tire. To lift your vehicle so that you can remove and replace the tire, place the jack underneath the jack point closest to the flat tire. Most jack points are constructed with a thick, metal-reinforced frame. You won’t find jack points on the exhaust system, suspension, oil pan or other, weaker areas. With the jack in place, proceed to lift that corner of your vehicle about 6 inches off the ground.
There are different types of car jacks, each of which uses a different mechanism to lift. If you have a floor jack, for example, you must slide it under your vehicle’s jack point and then pump the long lever up and down. Scissor jacks, on the other hand, require the insertion of a small, separate rod that lifts your vehicle when turned. Floor jacks are easier to use but are larger and heavier than their scissor jacks. Therefore, more motorists keep the latter in their vehicle.
With the corner of your vehicle lifted, place the lug wrench back into the lug nuts of your flat tire to completely remove them. Don’t just lay them on the ground, however. You’ll need the lug nuts to install your spare tire, so place them in a secure area where you won’t lose them, such as your pockets or the inside of your vehicle. Once the lug nuts have been removed, pull the flat tire and its hubcap or wheel cover horizontally until they come off the lug bolts.
Mount your spare tire by placing it through the lug bolts from which the flat tire was removed. Once mounted, place the lug nuts on the lug bolts and tighten them by hand to secure your spare tire in place. You won’t be able to completely tighten the lug nuts by hand, and that’s okay. For now, you just need to tighten them enough to hold the spare tire in place.
Use your jack to lower your vehicle so that the spare tire is just barely touching the ground. You can now tighten the lug nuts using the lug wrench. Place the wrench into the lug nuts and turn them clockwise using as much force as possible. Do this at least twice for each of the lug nuts holding your spare tire.
After fully tightening the lug nuts, completely lower your vehicle to the ground and remove the jack. Check to make sure the lug nuts are tight one last time using the lug wrench. Assuming the lug nuts don’t budget, place the flat tire and your tools back into your car, at which point you can hit the road. Just remember to drive cautiously until you’ve replaced your spare tire will a full-sized tire.
Changing a flat tire may sound exhausting, but it’s pretty easy once you’ve familiarized yourself with the steps. From start to finish, it shouldn’t take any longer than a half-hour.
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