REPAIRING MY CAR > Changing a Flat Tire

Changing a Flat Tire

Why do flat tires always seem to happen on dark rainy nights?

I want to cover what to do should your car get a flat tire while you’re on the road. I will discuss safety and the step-by-step method I use. The big thing is, don’t panic – use your head. In this post I will cover the steps to change a tire from jacking the car up properly to bolting on the spare.

O0ps, There Goes the Tire

How do you know you have a flat. Well, the car will do several things. It may pull to one side, the flat can make a strange noise or the car may just feel like it is bouncing down the road. What to do first?  Pull over to the right shoulder of the road. Only get out of the car if you can pull safely and completely off the roadway, in an area wide enough where you can work on the car and as far away from oncoming cars as possible. Don’t forget to turn on your emergency flashers. Your personal safety is the most important factor. I know that the first time this happened to me the road sure felt narrow!

If it doesn’t feel safe this is a situation you may want to call a tow truck for help. These folks don’t just tow cars. They will change your tire too (they can also unlock your car, give you a jump start and some can even bring you some gas). If you have roadside assistance I suggest calling the company.If you chose to tackle the job yourself I recommend beginning by reading your owner’s manual. You want to find the location of your spare tire, lug wrench and the jack. Follow the instructions on where to place the jack. I only feel comfortable doing this myself if the car is on flat ground. If it’s on a hill I would call for help.

Preparing to Change a Flat Tire

To start things off make sure the car is in park and the emergency brake is set.  Next, position the jack in the proper location. Before raising the car off the ground use the lug wrench to just slightly loosen the bolts. Next, jack up the car until the tire is about five to eight inches off the ground. Do not place any part of your body under the car or the tire.

Now take the car’s lug wrench and remove the lug nuts – these are the lugs that are holding the tire on. Remember, lefty loosie, righty tightie. This takes a little force but the wrench will give you some good leverage. Remove the flat tire.

Replacing the Tire with the Spare

Now you need to attach the spare tire. I like to put the tire in place and hand screw the lug nuts onto the bolts then snug them down with the wrench. Lower the jack until the tire is just in contact with the ground. This holds the tire in place for the next step. Next, take your lug wrench and start tightening the bolts all the way. I was told by my mechanic grandfather that you want to tighten the bolts in a crisscross pattern. This is supposed to insure that the tire is attached flat to the hub.

Once you have tightened the bolts as firmly as you can there is one last step you can do. I like to put the wrench back on the nuts in a horizontal position. I then use my foot/leg to give the nuts a little bit of extra torque. I don’t want the wheel to be loose. Simply step down on the wrench to turn the lug.

With the bolt tightened you can lower the jack. Once again keep all parts of your body out of the way of the lowering tire and from under the car.

Being a little bit OCD I always take one last step when I have changed a tire. I drive straight to the nearest tire store or auto repair shop. I have the mechanics check to make sure I have tightened the lug nuts to the proper torque, i.e., used enough force to attach the wheel to the factory setting. I also have them check the air in the tire to make sure it is inflated properly. One last thing to consider is cases when your car comes with one of those thin emergency spare tires. I have found that it is recommended to drive at a top speed of 50 miles per hour. Have a new tire mounted or the flat tire repaired as soon as possible.

These are the steps I follow in changing a flat tire. Remember to start by reading your owner’s manual or proper instructions for your car. Only pull over and change a tire if it can be done in a safe area away from oncoming traffic. We have learned the steps I follow from jacking up the car, loosening the lug nut, removing the tire and attaching the spare. Also, raising and lowering the car safely. I have always felt that my personal safety is the most important thing in this situation. I have had a few flat tires in my day and I have changed some myself and have also used my roadside assistance program as well. Remember, safety is the first consideration.


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