A flat tire typically shows up unexpectedly and catapults itself onto the top of your priority list. A flat tire can happen to anyone at any time. It doesn’t matter if you were already running late or if you’re wearing a cocktail dress. Regardless of your situation, the basic mechanics of changing a tire are the same whether you’re working with a car, truck, van, or SUV. Below, I’ve broken down how to change a tire in 10 simple steps.
1. Find a Safe Place to Pull Over
The ground should be solid and level to keep your car from rolling. If you’re on the side of the road, pull over as far possible. Avoid stopping near any bends in the road, as this reduces visibility for both you and other drivers. If you’re in a dark or unsafe area, carefully drive to a better spot.
2. Use Your Hazard Lights and Parking Brake
Use your hazard lights and parking brake to keep yourself and your vehicle safe by increasing your visibility and decreasing the vehicle's ability to roll.
3. Check for Materials
At the bare minimum, you’ll need a jack, wrench, and a spare tire. These three items should always be in your vehicle just in case a flat tire occurs. Additional items that can make tire changing a little easier include:
- Mat for kneeling
- Rain poncho
- Tire gauge
- Your vehicle’s owner’s manual
4. Loosen the Lug Nuts
If your vehicle has a wheel cover (also known as a hubcap), pry it off. Then, secure the wrench onto a lug nut, and turn it counterclockwise to loosen it. Repeat this process with each lug nut, making sure each one is loose enough to turn by hand.
5. Lift Your Vehicle Off the Ground
Place the jack under the metal portion of your vehicle’s frame. Do not place the jack where it will have contact with any plastic molding. The best jack placement differs depending on the vehicle. Consulting your owner’s manual is the best way to learn proper jack placement. Once properly placed, use the jack to raise the tire you’re
6. Remove the Lug Nuts and the Tire
Turn the lug nuts counterclockwise until they are all very loose. Next, remove them completely. Keep the lug nuts all together in a safe spot, as you’ll need them to secure the replacement tire. With the lug nuts removed, there is nothing keeping your tire attached to the vehicle. Securely grip your tire and pull it directly toward your body.
7. Place the Spare Tire on the Car
Line up the holes in the spare with the lug nut posts and place the spare on the wheelbase. Push the spare as far onto the wheelbase as possible.
8. Replace the Lug Nuts
Put the lug nuts on so the spare tire stays put. Don’t tighten them all the way just yet. It’s very important to tighten your lug nuts in a way that keeps the tire even.
9. Lower Your Vehicle and Begin Tightening
Using the jack, slowly lower your vehicle until your spare tire starts touching the ground. This holds the tire in place as you begin tightening the lug nuts. Tighten the lug nuts in increments, alternating every-other nut. For example, if you assign a number to each lug nut, tighten in this order: 1, 3, 5, 2, 4, 1, 3, 5, 2, 4, and repeat. This way you’ll keep the tire on straight.
10. Lower Your Vehicle Completely and Finish Tightening
Once the lug nuts feel equally tight, completely lower your vehicle to the ground. Once grounded, you may be able to tighten the lug nuts a little bit further. Continue your tightening in the same incremental order until they no longer budge.
Extra Tips for How to Change a Tire
Finish up by putting your old tire in the trunk and cleaning up any tools you used. Depending on what’s wrong with it, your old tire might be salvageable. Bring it to a trusted mechanic who can test and possibly repair it. Otherwise, you’ll need to invest in a new spare, which should be done immediately. It’s never a good idea to operate a vehicle without a spare tire; make sure to pre-check your spare tire and parts to make sure it is ready to use in case of an emergency.