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May 24, 2022

How to Change a Flat Tire

If you drive a vehicle, at some point or another, you will have your own encounter with a flat tire. While you might have roadside assistance, it's important you know how to change a tire

Graphic of a person changing a flat tire
Written by

Matthew Oliver

Before you start

If you have not already done so, turn on your hazard lights and move your vehicle as far away from the road as possible. You will also want to apply your parking brake to avoid any vehicle rolling. Once you have isolated your vehicle from traffic you can begin gathering the items you need to fix the flat tire.

Items you will need to change a flat tire:

At minimum you will need the following items to change a tire:

  • A car jack
  • Lug wrench
  • Wheel wedges - if you do not have wheel wedges you can use large rocks or sticks as a replacement
  • Fully inflated spare tire

Most spare tires are kept in the trunk, under the trunk's base.

Some extra items that help include:

  • Working flashlight
  • Kneeling mat
  • Owner's manual
  • Tire gauge

Once you have gathered your items, take a deep breath and get ready to repair your flat tire. You got this.

Getting a flat tire is never ideal for anyone but being prepared with the right information and tools is key.

Get started

  1. Find a safe location for your vehicle.
  2. The goal is to find a safe spot away from oncoming traffic if possible see if you can pull off into a parking lot.
  3. Turn on your hazard lights.
  4. Even during the daytime, you want other drivers to be aware of their surroundings. If you have road flares or reflective indicators place them a few feet behind your car.
  5. Turn off your car and apply the parking brake.
  6. The parking brake reduces the likelihood the car will roll on uneven surfaces.
  7. Prevent the car from rolling.
  8. As another form of measurement to prevent the car from rolling, It is recommended to use wheel wedges. In the event you do not have any wedges, you can also use large stones, a large rock, or any other heavy object.
  9. You want to place wheel wedges or whatever item you are using, behind the tires opposite of the flat tire. So if you have a rear flat tire you would place your wheel wedges in behind the front tires and vice-versa.

Find the lug nuts

  1. If you can easily access the lug nuts, skip ahead to step 6. However, some vehicles have a wheel cover or hubcap covering that obstructs the lug nuts. Most hubcaps can be easily removed by hand, however, some may require special tools. If you are having difficulty, consult your owner's manual.
  2. Loosen the lug nuts.
  3. Using your lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts, you will want to turn the lug nuts in a counterclockwise direction to unscrew them. It is likely that they will be very tight so you may have to use your body weight to loosen them. You don't want to fully unscrew them yet but just loosen them enough until you can unscrew them by hand.
  4. Use a car jack to lift the vehicle.
  5. Place the car jack under the vehicle frame. You want to look for a sturdy point on the vehicle, typically a cleared metal area free of molded plastic. The placement of the car jack varies depending on your car, it is best to consult your vehicle owner's manual for specific instructions. Once you have found the correct placement of the jack point raise the vehicle off of the ground, about 6 inches.
  6. Fully remove the lug nuts and tire.
  7. In step 6 we loosened the lug nuts. Continue to turn the lug nuts counterclockwise to completely remove them. Make sure to set them aside in a safe place where they will not roll away. With the lug nuts removed you should be able to remove the flat tire.
  8. Mount spare tire.
  9. Using the lug bolts and rim as a guide, place the spare tire on the lug bolts.
  10. Apply and tighten the lug nuts.
  11. Start by tightening the lug nuts by hand, you want the lug nuts tight enough so the spare tire stays even.
  12. Lower the car and finish tightening the lug nuts.
  13. Lower the vehicle just enough so the spare tire is touching the ground but the full weight of the car is not on the tire. Next, you want to use your lug wrench to completely tighten the lug nuts. In order to keep the tire balanced, you want to tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern. Begin with one lug nut and tighten one full rotation. Then move to the lug nut directly across and tighten one full rotation. Repeat this pattern until all lug nuts are fully tightened, to ensure the lug nuts are fully tightened apply your full body weight when using your lug wrench.
  14. Lower vehicle and add wheel cover.
  15. Fully lower the vehicle and reapply your hubcap. If the hubcap does not fit on the space tire stow it away with the rest of your items.

Clean up

  1. Congratulations! You changed a flat tire! Before you hit the road again make sure you have stored all of your items. Double-check you have your wedges, lug wrench, flat tire, jack, and maybe a hubcap.
  2. Check tire pressure.
  3. The last step in changing a flat tire is to check the tire's air pressure. Spare tires or sometimes called mini spares typically require air pressure of 60 PSI or 420kPA.

Driving on a spare tire

When driving on temporary spares remember the rule of 50, drive no more than 50 miles and no more than 50 mph. Driving more than 50 miles can result in damage to other tires or other parts of the car.

Things that make changing a flat tire easier and safer

Getting a flat tire is never ideal for anyone but being prepared with the right information and tools is key. Consider keeping a safety kit in your car for all emergencies. A safety kit can help you not only change a tire but also in the event of a disabled vehicle. Local hardware stores such as Lowes or Home Depot sell roadside safety kits or you could DIY your own. Learn more about car ownership and auto refinancing with RateWorks and our insights!