How To Change a Tire

By Austin Morris 11/30/2022 12:00pm

how to change a flat tire
  • You will need a jack, lug wrench, and spare tire to change a flat.
  • Changing a flat tire only takes a few steps and can be done in minutes.
  • Always change a tire in a safe, flat area away from traffic.

The last thing anybody wants to do is pull over to the side of a busy road and change a tire. However, knowing how to replace a tire is essential if you get a flat and can no longer drive safely. While roadside services can come in handy and will get you out of many situations, it’s always best to prepare for the worst as a driver. A dead phone battery or poor signal can prevent you from getting the help you need and leave you stranded on the side of the road.

It’s not fun, but all drivers should learn how to change a flat tire properly. Keep reading to learn the steps for changing a flat tire quickly and safely.

Required Equipment To Change a Tire

You can’t predict when you will need to change a tire, so it’s good to be sure you have everything you need at all times. Changing a flat tire requires a couple of tools that are probably in your vehicle already. You will need a lug wrench for loosening and tightening the bolts that secure the wheel, and a jack for lifting the car. These items should come standard in your vehicle. If they are misplaced, you can purchase a lug wrench for around $15. A basic car scissor jack costs about $30. Some jack kits have cranks that double as wrenches.

Be sure to refer to the owner’s manual to know the points for setting the jack. Improperly jacking a car can damage parts under the vehicle and may not be covered by your insurance.

The most important thing you need is a replacement spare tire, typically found under the carpeting in the trunk or cargo area. Larger SUVs and trucks with full-size spares may have an external storage bracket under the rear of the vehicle.

Tip: Get into the habit of checking your spare tire’s air pressure monthly, as they lose air over time. You can buy a new spare at a local tire store or auto repair shop if the tire is missing or damaged.

Not all cars come with a spare tire, so it is essential to check your vehicle to make sure you know if you have one and where it is. Instead of a spare, some models have an emergency tire repair kit or sealant in the trunk or cargo area. The sealant material allows you to patch your flat tire long enough to get to a tire shop. But this is a last-resort option, as the sealant can make the tire irreparable.

If there is no sealant, your car might have run-flat tires. These special tires can be driven on for about 50 miles after a puncture, which may be enough distance to get you to a tire shop.

What To Do When You Have a Flat Tire

Driver inspecting a car's flat tire

If you think you have a flat tire, safely pull off the road as soon as possible.

  • Gently apply your brakes and move to the shoulder, onto a side street, or into a nearby parking lot.
  • Never slam your brakes or make a sudden turn to get off the road because you could lose control of the vehicle with a damaged tire.
  • Ensure you have enough space in a level area to change the tire to minimize the risk of being hit by approaching traffic.

Always be aware of your surroundings and be mindful of your personal safety.

Steps To Change a Tire

steps to change a tire

Follow these steps to change a tire after finding a safe place to stop away from traffic.

  1. Turn on your hazard lights so that you are more visible to other drivers.
  2. Engage the parking brake to reduce the chances of your car rolling away.
  3. Place a large or heavy object behind the wheels to help keep the car steady.
  4. Get out all necessary tools: lug wrench, jack, and spare tire.
  5. Using the lug wrench, loosen the lug nuts for the wheel you’re replacing just enough so that they can be unscrewed with your hand. Some cars have a hubcap covering the lug nuts. If necessary, remove the hubcap to expose the lug nuts.
  6. Place the jack beneath the exposed metal under the vehicle near the flat tire and use it to raise the car. Reference the owner’s manual for the exact spot to set the jack. Lifting the vehicle in the wrong location could cause damage.
  7. Once you’ve lifted the car enough for the wheel to be off the ground, finish unscrewing the lug nuts. Take all the nuts off the vehicle and place them somewhere you won’t lose them.
  8. Remove the tire from the vehicle. Place it flat down so it won’t roll away.
  9. Place the spare tire onto the vehicle.
  10. Screw the lug nuts back on using your hand. Do not tighten them completely.
  11. Using the jack, slowly lower the vehicle so the spare tire lightly touches the ground. Do not put the total weight of the car onto the tires yet.
  12. Use the lug wrench to tighten all of the lug nuts. Tighten them in a star formation, not one by one in a circle.
  13. After tightening all the lug nuts, completely lower the vehicle.
  14. Replace the tools and put the damaged tire in the car’s trunk.

Remember that a spare tire is not a permanent tire. Once you replace the flat with the temporary spare, go to your local tire shop and have the original tire replaced or repaired.

Changing an EV Tire

2022 GMC Hummer EV pickup in white.

Electric vehicles (EVs) do not use the same tires as gas-powered cars of similar size. The heavy battery in the electric vehicle adds weight that a standard tire cannot withstand, leading to premature wear and tear. So, EVs use specific tires to withstand the extra weight of the car and handle the torque that comes with the instant power from the electric motor.

In theory, changing the tire of an electric car is identical to the process for a gasoline-powered car. However, most EVs do not come with spare tires. One reason is to provide more space for the battery pack. Another is to limit excess weight. Plus, many newer electric cars have run-flat tires that eliminate the need for a temporary spare.

Not all EVs lack a spare tire. For example, the Ford F-150 Lightning and the GMC Hummer EV are equipped with spare tires.

When To Replace a Tire

A puncture in your tire can happen any day and never at a convenient time. You might drive over a nail on your daily commute or dive into a pothole on your way to the store. The car suddenly shaking or pulling to one side may indicate a deflated tire. Safely pull out of traffic to check the tire for damage or objects stuck in it.

Sometimes you can see an object, such as a nail in the tire, but the tire isn’t deflated. Leave it in the rubber and go to a tire shop. However, if you pull over and see the tire looks flat, you will need to replace it with the spare.

Do not attempt to drive on a flat tire, even if a local tire shop is nearby. Driving on a flat is dangerous, and it may ruin the tire and can damage the rim.