Quick refresher course time: Flat tires always happen at the worst times – on your way to work, while out on a date, or when you already really have to use the bathroom. Auto Clubs like AAA can be a huge help in these situations, but knowing how to change the tire yourself will get you back on the road in no time at all.
If a tire blows, don’t try to save it or its wheel by stopping immediately in a lousy situation. Changing a tire in the breakdown lane of a highway isn’t safe and should be avoided unless absolutely no other option is available. Hundreds of people are killed every year while trying to change a tire on the side of a busy road or highway! Aim to find a level, solid, well-lit surface away from traffic, even if that means driving a mile at low speed with your hazard lights on. Once you have found a secure place to pull over, prevent the car from moving by putting on the parking break and making sure that the transmission is in park (in an automatic) or in gear (in a manual). You may even want to put a solid object such as a rock or a log behind 2 of your wheels.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED TO CHANGE YOUR FLAT TIRE
Car jack, lug wrench, spare tire, and a screwdriver or wrench for removing the hubcap.
1. Find the safest place to pull over and park your car.
2. Use the car jack to lift the car using the jacking point nearest the disabled wheel so that the weight of the car is on the jack but the tire is still in contact with the road. Your car’s owner’s manual will give you all the information you need about where to jack up the car.
3. Remove the hubcap with a screwdriver or wrench in order to access the lug nuts.
4. With the tire still in contact with the road begin loosening the lug nuts (turn counterclockwise) but don’t remove them.
5. Jack the car up further until the tire is no longer in contact with the road and remove the lug nuts completely.
6. Take off the tire and wheel assembly and replace it with the spare.
7. Hand-tighten the lug nuts (turn clockwise) so that they are firm but not fully tightened, then lower the car so the tire is touching the ground (the car’s weight should remain on the jack).
8. Tighten the lug nuts further using a star pattern (around the wheel, skipping every other lug) to ensure that they are tightened evenly around the wheel.
9. Lower the car all the way onto the ground and remove the car jack. Make sure that the lug nuts are as tight as possible and then you’re good to go!
10. Get your tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible, and be careful when driving on your spare tire. Most spare tires (undersized “donut” tires) are not safe for long drives or speeds above 40-50 mph. Use the spare tire as little as possible to ensure it is ready for you should you need it again in the future.