Just about every driver on the road will experience the dreaded flat tire scenario at one point or another. You’re driving down the road with your girlfriend, and suddenly your car pulls to one side and you hear that awful flapping sound of a flat tire. You can usually rely on a roadside assistance service to come to your rescue, but it’s always best to know how to change that flat tire yourself.

Pre-Road Trip Planning

Before embarking on a road trip, it’s advisable to get your car serviced. Check the oil, hoses, fan belts and make sure the checkup includes a close look at your tires. Look for any unevenly worn spots, or thinning tread. If the tires are in questionable shape, invest in a brand new set. It’s better to begin your trip with new tires than experience a flat in a remote location.

It’s best to familiarize yourself with the tools you’ll use in the event of a flat tire, in advance of the actual flat. Most late model cars come equipped with an easy to use jack, a lug wrench, and a spare tire. Check your owner’s manual if you aren’t sure how to access these items.

Pull out the jack and the tire, and make sure the tire is in good shape. If your spare is flat, now would be a good time to get it fixed! It only takes a few minutes to make sure you have everything you need, and you’ll save yourself a huge headache later if you find yourself on the side of a dark, rainy road with a flat tire and a girlfriend who’s questioning your manhood.

Changing A Flat Tire

flat tire

Locate a safe spot to pull over. If you’re on the highway, consider taking the next exit, even if you have to drive a bit on that flat tire. If this is not an option, pull as far onto the shoulder as possible. Avoid parking in the middle of a curve where approaching cars can’t see you. Be sure to find a flat spot; jacking up your car on a hill can lead to much bigger problems. If you have a manual transmission, leave your car in gear and be sure to engage your parking brake!

Turn on your hazard lights. Retrieve the jack, wrench, and spare tire from the trunk of your vehicle, along with any other supplies you may need; such as a flashlight, and bring them over to the tire that is flat.

Loosen the lug nuts. Remove the hubcap, if necessary. DO NOT remove the lug nuts at this point; simply loosen them by turning the wrench to the left (counter-clockwise). If the lug nuts are on tightly, try placing the wrench on the nut and standing on the wrench arm, or hitting the wrench arm with a rock or heavy object.

Using the jack; lift the vehicle off the ground. Locate your jack using your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Place the jack securely in the correct spot and jack up your car until the tire is about 6 inches off the ground.

Remove the lug nuts and pull the tire off the car. Make sure to place the lug nuts in a pile that won’t get scattered, and pull the tire straight toward yourself to remove it from the wheel base.

Place the spare on the car. Line up the lug nut posts with the holes in the spare, and push the spare all the way onto the wheel base until it can’t go any farther.

Put on the lug nuts. DO NOT put them on tightly, just make sure they’re on enough for the spare to stay on the car once its lowered.

Lower the car back to the ground. Use the jack to bring the car back down to ground level. Remove the jack from underneath the car.

Tighten the lug nuts. With the car back on the ground, you can now tighten the lug nuts. Rather than tightening them one by one in order, start with one lug nut, tighten it about 50%, move to the opposite nut (across the circle) and tighten that one about the same amount. Keep tightening opposite lug nuts gradually in turn until each lug nut is as tight as it can be.

Put your flat tire and tools back in your trunk. Be sure you don’t leave anything on the side of the road.