It’s the stuff that cheap horror film plots are made of.
You’re cruising along when suddenly, you hear a loud noise and your vehicle no longer handles the way it should. You hit your hazard lights, pull over to the side of the road, and when you get out to check on things, your worst fears are realized: you’ve blown a tire.
Though there’s not likely to be a creepy chainsaw-wielding villain waiting for you in the bushes, being stranded with a flat tire can still be a scary experience, especially if you happen to get the flat during a nighttime drive. The good news is that changing a tire is relatively straightforward, and if you know what you’re doing ahead of time, it should only take 15 – 30 minutes.
The first step is to make sure that you have the necessary equipment. This may seem like an odd thing, but “almost one-third of new vehicles sold in North America don’t come standard with a spare tire” according to a 2017 survey from the American Automobile Association (AAA). So if you have a newer vehicle — think anything after 2006 — you might want to double-check before heading out on a long road trip.
Familiarizing yourself with your vehicle is generally a good idea anyway, as the design of your jack and the location of your spare may vary, and knowing where everything is before you need it will really help save on time.
– A jack
– Spare tire
– Tire iron
Once you’ve located the necessary equipment, you’re ready to change that flat tire
1 – Safety precautions: Ensure that your hazard lights are on, especially if it’s dark outside.
Put the vehicle in park and apply the parking brake (if you drive stick, put it either in first or reverse).
If you have anything that can act as a wheel block, place those in front of the front and rear tires.
2 – Place the jack:Place the jack under the frame near the tire you will be changing.
Raise the jack until it is supporting the frame, but not lifting the tire off the ground.
Most vehicles have specific areas along the frame intended for this purpose, and using the jack just anywhere can cause serious damage to your vehicle (if you’re really stuck, consult your driver’s manual for where to place the jack).
3 – Loosen the lug nuts: If you have a hubcap, remove it. Using the tire iron in a counterclockwise motion, loosen the lug nuts, but do not remove them completely.
4 – Raise the jack: Raise the jack until the flat tire can spin freely. A small gap between the tire and the ground will make it easier to install the spare, but raising the jack to its fullest extent is generally unsafe.
5 – Remove the lug nuts and flat tire: Again in a counterclockwise motion, completely loosen and remove the lug nuts. Be sure to keep the lug nuts together and somewhere safe after you remove them. Once the lug nuts are off, you may remove the flat tire by simply lifting it off the wheel bolts.
6 – Install the spare: Align the rim of the spare tire with the wheel bolts (make sure it isn’t backwards by ensuring the valve stem is facing outwards). By hand, tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern, going one full clockwise turn at a time, so that each is tightened equally.
7 – Lower the jack: Gently lower the vehicle so that the jack is once again supporting the frame, but not lifting the tire off the ground. Using the tire iron, again in a clockwise motion, tighten the lug nuts in the star pattern as much as possible.
8 – Remove the jack: Once the lug nuts are as tight as you can get them, finish lowering the jack and remove it from beneath the vehicle. Replace the hubcap if necessary.
9 – Clean up: Find a spot for your flat tire, either in the backseat or the trunk. Place the jack and tire iron back in your vehicle where you found them (this way you can easily find them again, should you need them).
10 – Return to the road: Keep in mind that most spare tires are not the same quality or size as your standard tires and should not be driven at speeds greater than 80 km/h. If you must use a highway to get to your destination, keep your hazard lights on and stay in the far right lane. Spare tires are generally only good for approximately 100 km, so be sure to get your flat tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible.