Every driver will get a flat tire sooner or later. Changing a flat on the side of the road isn't always easy, but the procedure itself is quite simple.
Preparation is the most important part of changing a tire. Before you take the car out of the driveway, you should have the following items in the trunk:
- Spare tire
- Tire jack
- Tire iron
There are two kinds of spare tires. One is the "50 mile spare," a smaller-than-usual tire that is only meant to be used until you can get to a gas station to replace it. The other is an ordinary tire that can replace the flat tire.
Your spare tire should be:
- Fully inflated and ready for the road
- In good repair
- Checked every four months to make sure there is still good air pressure in the tire
When you get a flat tire, there are three important things to remember before you start changing the tire:
- Pull completely off the road for safety's sake.
- Turn on your emergency blinkers or "hazard lights."
- Make sure you have enough room to change the tire on the side of the road so that you aren't working in the road itself.
It is very important to make yourself visible to drivers coming up behind your vehicle. Some drivers ride too close to the shoulder and may strike your car if they can't see you as they approach. Avoid parking on turns, curves or other blind spots. Don't panic if you get a flat tire; keep driving with your blinkers on until you can find a straight stretch of road to pull over on.
Setting Up the Jack
Once you've pulled over, get out the tire jack and tire iron. Before you set up the jack:
- Remove the hubcap, if needed.
- You can usually pop off the hubcap with the flat end of the tire iron.
- Use the tire iron to loosen the lug nuts, but do not remove them yet — it is not safe to do so until the car is elevated.
Next, set up the jack. Check your car's owner manual for recommended placement of the jack depending on which flat tire you have. If you don't have an owner manual:
- Place the jack in the space between the tire and the bumper of your car.
- Don't put the jack between the front and rear tires if you can help it.
- Always use the jack on level pavement and avoid using it on a slope.
- Never get underneath a vehicle when it is on your tire jack.
Changing the Tire
Using the tire jack, lift up the vehicle just enough to get clearance to remove the tire. You don't need to raise the car very high, just enough to safely remove and replace the tire. Once the car is elevated:
- Completely remove the lug nuts and put them in a safe place (you'll need them again).
- Remove the flat tire.
- Put on the spare tire.
- Make sure the air valve is pointing toward you when you put the spare on.
- Twist the lug nuts until they are snug but do not tighten them yet — it's not safe to do so until the car is back on the ground.
- Lower the vehicle back down to the ground with the jack.
Once the car is back on the ground you can tighten the lug nuts. Tighten them in a star-shaped pattern for best results. Put your hubcap on the spare or in the trunk. If you have a full-size spare tire, you can drive on it as long as it is in good repair. Never drive on the 50-mile spare longer than the recommended length. Get your car to a garage immediately and have a full-size replacement tire put on your car. Some 50-mile spares, also known as temporary spares, can only be driven at certain speeds. Check the sides of your spare, as some temporary spares have that information printed on the sides.