Hey there, you’re on the side of the road, aren’t you? We won’t waste any time – let’s learn how to change a flat tire by following 8 easy steps (make sure you follow them all carefully).
You’ll need some tools for this job. Hopefully, you already have them in your car, otherwise, maybe a friend can swing by and help. If all else fails, there’s always the tow truck, but we want to help you avoid that extra cost.
- A tire iron
- A jack*
- A spare tire*
- Optional: a flashlight
- Optional: a jack stand
- Optional: something to kneel so you don’t rip up your pants or knees
*These two items usually come standard in a car. They might be hidden – if you can’t find them, skip to the bottom of this article titled “how to find your jack and spare tire”.
8 Steps to Change a Flat Tire
Here are the 8 steps to change a flat tire.
#1: Take a Deep Breath and Go to Level Ground
Before you start changing your tire, take a second to relax. A spare tire won’t ruin your car, won’t cost you a million dollars, and it’s easily fixable. If you’re hyperventilating and trying to change your tire, you can run into some trouble.
After your deep breath is done, take a look at where your car is stopped at. You can’t change your tire on gravel or a sloped road. If you’re in either of these conditions look around you. If there’s a nearby level strip of asphalt, you can try carefully (and slowly) driving or pushing your car there.
If not, you might have to call a tow truck. Trying to change a tire on gravel or sloped ground can lead to your jack or jack stand slipping and your car crushing you.
#2: Take Out the Needed Tools
If you haven’t already, take out all the tools you need for the job. We like to lay an old hoodie in front of the wheel so you can save your knees a little bit during the process.
Take the tools over to the flat tire and lay them on the ground nearby.
#3: Crack the Lug Nuts
The lug nuts are the acorn-looking bolts that stick out of the middle of your wheel. They are arranged in a star pattern and you might have 4, 5, 6, or more lug nuts depending on your car.
You’ll need to “crack” the lug nuts while the car is still on the ground. How do you crack lug nuts? You turn a tire iron on the lug nuts counterclockwise until they pop out of position. The lug nuts should be really firm, so this initial crack will loosen them enough so you can fully loosen the nuts when your car is jacked.
You’ll want to crack them in a diamond pattern. This phrase is going to be used a few times in the future. A diamond pattern is when you do something to the top left, then bottom right, then top right, then bottom left, then top (if you have 5 bolts). It helps reduce the overall pressure and avoid big problems.
Keep in mind, you don’t want to take off the lug nuts now.
#4: Jack Up Your Car
It’s time to get jacked! Grab your jack and position it under the framework of your car. You want the jack to be near your tire, but along the middle part of your car. The mouth of the jack cannot go on the bodywork of your car.
If you lay on your back with a flashlight and look up at your car, you’ll notice there’s metal to the inside of the bodywork. The body of your car is sheet metal or plastic and it will bend really easily.
It’s very important that you position the mouth of your jack on the metal framework here.
Jack up the car slowly by either pumping or rotating clockwise the jacking mechanism. Each jack is different, but it should be pretty obvious which is which.
You want to jack up your car until the spare tire can fit without hitting the ground. When it’s at the desired height, we strongly recommend using a jack stand, so the jack doesn’t get bumped or roll away.
If you have a jack stand, insert it now and remove the jack. If not, then take the jacking mechanism out of the jack and be really careful not to touch the jack.
At this point until step 6, do NOT go in the car for any reason. Don’t even lean on the car. Moving the car can knock your car off the jack and can do a lot of damage to you and your car.
#5: Remove the Old Wheel
When the tire is in the air, you can loosen each lug nut the rest of the way. Use your diamond pattern here, again. By the end, you should have five lug nuts in your hand or pocket. Don’t lose these.
Take the tire off by gripping the rim or the tire itself. You want to pull straight towards you without letting it fall and hit the threaded rods going through the rim. When the flat tire is removed, set it on the ground next to you, out of the way. You’ll need this for later.
#6: Put on the New Tire
Now, grab your spare tire. You’ll want to hold it by the outside of the rubber and place it in the wheel well. Make sure the threaded rods coming from your rotor are going through the designated holes in the spare tire.
Push it all the way back so it’s flush with the metal component that sits behind the wheel. Put the lug nuts back on the threaded rods and tighten them in a diamond pattern by hand.
Grab your tire iron and finish tightening them in a diamond pattern until they’re a little firm (you’ll finish tightening them in a second).
#7: Remove the Jack and Tighten the Lug Nuts
If you are using jack stands, then put the jack back under the car like it was before, ensuring the top of the jack is in contact with the metal framework of your car.
Jack the car up until you can remove the jack stand. Slowly lower the jack until you can remove it.
If you’re not using a jack stand, then slowly lower the jack until you can remove the jack.
Grab your tire iron and crank down on the lug nuts, using the diamond pattern again. You want to tighten them until you let out a little grunt for each. Failure to tighten them completely can result in your tire coming off on the highway.
#8: Get a New Tire ASAP
There’s a rule of thumb when it comes to spare tires, and some people call it the “50s Rule”. A spare tire is not a permanent addition to your car, it’s a very temporary tire that is used to drive you to a repair shop.
You can’t go faster than 50 mph, and you can’t go further than 50 miles on a spare tire.
Talk to your local dealership to get a new tire as soon as you can. You might wind up buying 1, 2, or 4 new tires to replace this one.
Alternatively, you can take your old spare tire to a shop and see if they can patch it for you and save you hundreds of dollars.
How to Find Your Jack and Spare Tire
Almost every new car has a jack and spare tire included in it. If you have a compact car, there’s typically only one place that they’re hiding. For trucks, SUVs, and vans, consult your car’s manual.
Pop your trunk and remove all the items from your trunk. Remove the liner of your trunk (yes, it really comes out).
You should expose the metal-y underbelly of your trunk. You should also see an area that houses your jack and spare tire. Sometimes they’re together in the middle towards the rear. Sometimes the jack is hidden on either side of the trunk.
Your jack comes with a metal rod that you’ll need to jack the jack. A jack jacker, if you will.
Your jack and spare tire might also come with a tire iron that will help you take off the bolts in your tire.
Congratulations on changing your flat tire. If this was your first time doing so, pat yourself on the back. This is a crucial milestone in a car owner’s life. Don’t forget to get a new tire as soon as you can (refer back to step #8).