Tips on How to Change a Flat Tire
Having a tire burst while you’re driving is a scary situation to consider. But what if you don’t have cell service and you can’t call for help while stranded on the side of the road? It’s a good idea to know how to change a flat tire and how to properly prepare for an incident like this.
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Be prepared ahead of time
More and more vehicles are being sold without a spare tire as a standard feature, so the first thing you’ll want to do is check that your car actually does have a spare tire. It can typically be found under the trunk cargo area by lifting up a mat, under the vehicle, or mounted to the tailgate. You’ll also need a vehicle jack and a tire iron, which you should keep in your vehicle at all times.
Get to a safe location
Before doing any work on the side of the road, you want to be sure your car is in a safe location to change the flat tire. If possible, move your car to a large shoulder or parking lot where you have enough room to crouch next to the vehicle without being in danger of any passing cars. You shouldn’t drive very far on a flat, though, as it could severely damage other components of the wheel and your car.
Prepare to lift the car
Before lifting the car, make sure it’s in “park” if you drive an automatic (or in gear if you drive a manual) and the emergency brake is in use. Use the tire iron to loosen the wheel lugs of the flat tire, but do not remove them completely. You can do this by turning the lugs counterclockwise.
Note: You should only jack up a car if it’s on a flat surface! Otherwise, the car could fall off the jack and injure you.
Jack the car up
Check your owner’s manual for the car’s proper jacking points and place the jack underneath the car. Start to raise the jack until it contacts the car’s frame and continue expanding it until the flat tire is raised off the ground. It’s important to follow the instructions to ensure that the car is stable during this entire process or else it could fall while you’re working. This happened when I was in high school and my friend’s hand got caught between the car and jack. Luckily, she only had to get a few stitches and she was a trooper.
Take the flat tire off
Remove the previously loosened wheel lugs on the flat tire and place them somewhere so you don’t lose them, such as in your pocket or inside the car’s cup holder. Carefully pull the flat tire off the wheel studs and set it aside.
Put the spare on
While it might seem like it’s easy, this is probably going to be the most physically challenging part of changing a tire. Position the spare tire over the exposed wheel studs, lining up the holes in the wheel with the protruding studs located on the brake hub. If you’re having difficulty lining these up, try balancing the tire on your foot for extra steadiness.
Replace the wheel lugs
Don’t forget to screw the wheel lugs back on. Start them by hand and make sure you don’t cross-thread them. Once each one is snug and you can’t tighten them by hand anymore, use the tire iron to finish the job. Make sure the wheel is fitting flush against the brake hub.
Lower the jack and finish tightening
Carefully lower the car by following the instructions in the owner’s manual regarding using a jack. Do not remove the jack until the car is entirely on the ground. Tighten the wheel lugs once more now that you’ve got the sturdy ground to help keep the vehicle in place.
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Knowing how to change a flat tire is a valuable skill to have and knowing how to drive on a spare tire is just as important. The general rule of thumb is to drive under 50 mph and go no further than 70 miles before replacing the spare. As long as you follow these tips, you should be able to handle a flat tire with ease.