How to Change a Flat Tire on a Car

Unless you’re incredibly lucky, chances are you’re going to get a flat tire at some point in your life. With the right tools and a little know-how, a flat tire can be easily replaced with a spare, allowing you to continue on your merry way. Unfortunately, many drivers don’t know how to properly change out a flat, leaving them stranded on the side of the road while they wait for the tow truck to arrive. If you fall into the latter category and are unsure of how to properly change a tire, you’re in luck. By following these step-by-step instructions, you’ll be able to easily change out a flat tire in no time at all.

Step 1: Locate the Spare

Whether you get a flat while you’re driving or notice a flat tire when you go to get in your car and drive to work in the morning, the first step is to locate the spare tire, tire iron, and jack. If you have a car, the spare is likely located underneath a liner in the trunk. However, if you own a pickup, SUV, or minivan, it can likely be found underneath the back of the vehicle.

Step 2: Check the Tire Pressure in the Spare

After locating the spare, you should use a pressure gauge to check its tire pressure. If it happens to be flat, you might be in a little trouble. However, let’s assume you regularly check the condition of the spare and its pressure is just fine.

change a flat tire

Step 3: Secure the Car

Most people think they can just jack up the car and begin replacing the flat tire without securing the vehicle in place, but this can be a critical mistake. Before grabbing the tire iron, you should put the car in park, or in gear if it’s a manual, and set the emergency brake. The car should also be on flat ground. Then, it’s a smart idea to place a brick or a block behind the tire that’s opposite of the flat. This will help keep the car from moving when you begin jacking it up.

Step 4: Loosen the Wheel Lugs

Next, use the tire iron to loosen the wheel lugs, which will likely be very tight and require a little brute force to loosen. However, if you give it all you have and turn each one counterclockwise, they’ll loosen right up.

Step 5: Jack the Car Up

After loosening the wheel lugs, place the jack under the car at the proper jacking point and begin raising the jack. If you’re unsure of where to place the jack, the owner’s manual will tell you the ideal place for your car.

The screw-like scissor jack is one of the most popular types of jacks on today’s market. To use this type of jack, you simply use the metal hand crank to twist the knob located at the end of the car jack and raise the jack until the flat tire is at least three to four inches off of the ground. At this point, remove the loosened wheel lugs and securely set them to the side.

Step 6: Properly Position the Spare

Now comes the most physically demanding part of the entire process. After removing the wheel with the flat tire, the spare tire needs to be lined up and positioned over the wheel studs, allowing it to slide right into place.

Step 7: Put the Wheel Lugs Back On

Once the spare is sitting on the studs, simply begin screwing each of the wheel lugs back on by hand, taking special care not to cross-thread them. They should screw on rather easily. At this point, you simply want the tire to sit flatly and snuggly against the brake hub, but the lugs don’t need to be super-tight.

Step 8: Lower the Jack and Tighten the Lugs

Once the lugs of the spare have been firmly tightened by hand, it’s time to lower the jack and pull it out from underneath the vehicle. Lastly, take the tire iron and completely tighten the lugs.

Although wheel lugs are supposed to be tightened according to a specific torque rating, it’s impossible to know this by using a simple tire iron. Therefore, as a general rule, the wheel lugs should be tightened as much as possible.

That’s all there is to it. Just put the flat tire back in the place where the spare was located, place the jack and tire iron back in the vehicle, and you’re good to go. Just remember, however, that most spare tires, or “donuts” as they’re called, have a very limited top speed. That being said, with your spare properly in place, you should be able to safely arrive home or reach the nearest service station.