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Roadside Assistance: How to Change a Tire

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Learn how to easily change a tire in this guide.

Keep Calm and Change Your Tire

If you’re reading this, you may be on the side of the road wondering how in the world you can change a tire having never done it before.  

Anyone can change a tire. It just depends on what tools you have at your disposal and if you’re willing to take the time to do it yourself. Many drivers now have roadside assistance programs like AAA but doing it yourself can save you time and you never know when a skill like this may come in handy. 

Let’s get to work. Are you ready to change your flat? 

Here’s What You Need:

  • Jack Lift
  • Wrench
  • Ready-to-go Spare Tire
  • Owner’s Manual for Your Vehicle
  • Parking Wedges
  • Small piece of wood (to secure your jack)

How to Change Your Tire: In 9 Easy Steps

Safety First

Changing your tire is going to take a little bit of time, so be sure you have parked your vehicle on the side of the road somewhere that’s safe. Always engage your parking brake to ensure your vehicle doesn’t attempt to roll away as you remove your flat tire. Then turn on your hazard lights to ensure that people can keep a safe distance from your car as you work.

1. Read Your Manual

Check your owner’s manual before leaving the car. Here you’ll find all the details you need to change your tire, but it won’t exactly be easy to hold the manual outside the vehicle if the wind is blowing and cars are rushing by.

Read as much as you can and digest the information, then read it again. Once you feel confident in what you need to do, step out of the car and get to work.

2. Secure Your Tires

With your parking wedges, secure whatever set of tires, front or back, that you are not changing. If you are changing a front tire, place the wedges behind the rear tires. If you are changing a rear tire, place the wedges in front of the front tires.

Optional: Remove Your Hubcaps

Not all cars have hubcaps that make access to the lug nuts difficult, but if your car has hubcaps that make removing your lug nuts a pain, be sure to remove the hubcaps first. Use the flat end of your wrench to remove the hubcaps before moving onto the next step. If your lug nuts are easily accessible without taking the hubcaps off, go ahead and move onto the next step.

3. Loosen Your Lug Nuts

Lug Nuts

Take the time to loosen your lug nuts now. It may be difficult to loosen them at first, as the carmanufacturer or mechanic tightens them as much as possible to ensure your tire stays attached to your vehicle. You may have to find a way to leverage the weight to get the lug nuts to turn. Either use your whole body, your foot or find a tool or device to help displace the tension. Be sure you are turning your wrench in the counterclockwise direction to loosen, as tightening the lug nuts will only leave you with more work. 

Only loosen your lug nuts about a quarter or half of a turn. You don’t want the lug nuts out of your tire just yet.  

4. Place Your Jack & Raise Your Vehicle

Car Jack

Putting the jack in the correct spot can be difficult. Some vehicles give you good indicators to where you should put the jack, but others can be deceiving. Often, you’ll find that an area of the car’s frame will be exposed which will indicate the right spot, but you should always consult your owner’s manual if you are unsure, as lifting the car in the wrong place can cause serious damage to your vehicle and be hazardous to your safety. 

Once you’ve determined the right spot to use the jack, it’s time to raise the car off the ground. Before you start using the jack to lift your vehicle, place a piece of wood under the jack to prevent the jack from enduring the weight all on its own. With the wood and jack in place, raise the vehicle about 6 inches off the ground to give you plenty of clearance to change the tire. 

NEVER slide your body under the car. Changing the tire should not require you to crawl under your vehicle at any time. If you cannot safely change the tire from the outside of your vehicle, call for roadside assistance or a tow truck. 

5. Take Off the Lug Nuts

Now that you’re ready for action, it’s time to remove the lug nuts one by one. You can do this by using your wrench and unscrewing the lug nuts counterclockwise again. It should be easy to do since you have already loosened them up previously.

6. Remove Your Tire

You can now successfully remove your tire. At this point, you should be able to gently remove your flat tire without much effort. If you feel like you are straining yourself, double-check that you’ve removed all lug nuts or other fasteners. You can peek back at your owner’s manual if you get hung up along the way. 

Set the flat tire on the ground safely and out of the road. Ensure that it won’t roll away as you get to work putting the spare tire on. 

7. Grab Your Spare and Secure It

Spare Tire

If you haven’t already, grab your spare tire from your trunk or under your vehicle. You may have a “secret” compartment where your tire is hidden, so if you are unsure where it’s located, look back at your owner’s manual.  

Once you have the spare in your hands, place it back on the hub where you removed your flat tire previously. Line up the rim with the lug nut bolts and push the tire gently back towards the car until the bolts show through the rim. 

8. Tighten the Lug Nuts

Just like you loosened the lug nuts before, you’ll tighten the lug nuts back up after putting your spare tire on. First, tighten the lug nuts up by hand as tight as possible. You will ensure the lug nuts are tightened after you lower the car back to the ground. Once you are sure that your lug nuts are as tight as you can make them by hand, use the jack to lower the vehicle back to the road.  

After this, grab your wrench and tighten the lug nuts as much as you can. By doing this, you’re ensuring that the tire is secure enough for driving on the road with the weight of the car on top of it.  

9. Secure the Hub Cap & Put Away Your Tools

You’re almost done! If you have a hub cap that you took off previously, be sure to secure that to the tire before jetting off. If the hub cap from your flat tire doesn’t fit the spare, no worries. Just stow the hub cap away with your tools and flat tire before heading to see a tire technician. 

Congrats! You’ve just changed a tire. Now that you’re done with your work, stow away your tools (jack, wrench, etc.,) back where they came from to ensure you know where they are in case a flat tire happens again. Be sure to pick up any debris from your blown-out tire to avoid leaving a dangerous mess in the road. 

Check the Air in Your Spare

Air Pressure

You’re almost ready to roll, but you should first look at the air pressure in your spare tire. If your spare is flat or nearly flat, it is most likely going to get you in the same situation you were just in. Hopefully, you’ve got a decently inflated spare tire which can take you into town without a hitch. But just to be safe, check to make sure your spare tire is inflated to 60 psi. If you are just under the recommended psi, be sure to drive extra carefully and very slowly to your nearest tire repair shop.

Make a Stop at a Tire Repair Shop

Before you head home, it’s important that you head directly to a tire repair shop. Instead of mulling around town on a spare, you should always get your old tire replaced and your spare tire inflated. Your tire technician will rotate the new tire back on the hub for you, so don’t worry about doing it again (unless you want to show off your new skills!). Driving on a spare tire will wear down your other tires and your spare tire if done for too long, so it’s best to get it fixed as quickly as possible.

How to Avoid Chaos When You Have a Flat Tire

Prep Your Tools Ahead of Time

Car Tools

Some items (jack, wrench, spare tire, and owner’s manual) should have come with your car at the time of purchase. If you find that you are short a few tools on this list, head to your local automotive parts store to find them. You always want to have these tools on hand in case of an emergency, so find a safe place to store them for when you need them next.

Check Your Tires & Owner’s Manual

Always keep your spare tire inflated in case you need to change a flat tire unexpectedly. You should check the air in your spare tire at least once a month and before you make long haul road trips.

It’s good to keep in mind that not all car tires are alike. You may have an extra step or two to do before removing a flat tire completely that will be listed in your vehicle owner’s manual. Always check the manual before using any tools on your tire to ensure you don’t injure the car, your tire, or yourself.

Practice Makes Perfect

If your vehicle has a particularly difficult tire changing process, you may need to practice prior to being in an emergency. Some Volkswagen cars require a special tool in order to remove the lug nuts, while Jeeps traditionally hang up their spare on the backend of the vehicle. Practicing how to change a tire before you need it will save you time, frustration, and confusion.

Stay Safe on the Roads

Flat tires are almost impossible to avoid, but there are some things you can do to hopefully prevent too many flat tires in your lifetime. Always maintain your tire tread and when it’s time for new tires, don’t wait an additional 6 months to change them out. Change your tires with the seasons to maintain tread and avoid chaotic situations on the road that may lead to a popped tire. Tires may be a big investment but being stranded out in the middle of nowhere isn’t exactly cheap, easy, or worth it. Stay safe on the roads and check your tires regularly to stay out of trouble.

What happened the last time you had a flat tire? Did you change your own or call for assistance? Leave us a comment below and tell us your story! 

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Erin Maxson

Erin loves nothing more than a good road trip. To her, getting behind the wheel is one of the biggest adventures you can take because it can lead to anywhere. Alongside her Toyota Tundra, you'll find her co-pilot pup, Rory, and a 1976 Airstream Argosy in tow. Her motto: Life is a scenic road, take your time and enjoy the ride.

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