Changing a Tire: A Comprehensive Guide
Imagine cruising down the highway at night and you suddenly feel your steering wheel tightening up, followed by bumps and wobbles. By this point, you’ve realized that you have a flat.
Sounds scary, right?
And to make matters worse, you have no cell coverage to call a friend or AAA, no one is stopping by to help and there is nothing but an empty stretch of road as far as you can see.
Well, you have no other option than changing the tire by hand – but don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds.
Here, we’ve compiled a detailed guide on how to fix or change a flat tire; the tools you will need and the steps to actually changing the tire.
Mandatory Equipment To Keep In Your Car’s Trunk
Car tires are prone to wear and tear, which is why they need to be well maintained. Apart from the four tires mounted to your car, a spare wheel needs to be available at all times.
Depending on the type of car you drive, a spare tire may be stowed in the trunk or in the case of some SUVs’, it may be placed on the back of the trunk.
Spare wheels need to be properly inflated without the slightest of leaks; they should also be examined on a regular basis so if your tire goes flat, you can easily substitute it for the spare wheel.
Alongside the primary component, i.e. the spare, you should carry the following tools needed to change a tire:
- A flashlight
- Wheel wedges
- A jack
- A wrench for lug nuts
Apart from the first three, a new car comes with the tools you require – but if you have misplaced any of the above, you’ll have to purchase them so you can be prepared for any tire-related uncertainties.
If followed to the T, the following instructions will ensure that you will never find yourself stranded on account of a flat tire.
Instructions For Changing A Flat
If you have all the necessary tools at your disposal, you can get back on the road within 15 to 30 minutes. We have jotted down all required steps to change a tire which can be easily followed by a layman.
- Find A Safe Place To Park Your Car
If you are halfway to your destination and your tire is acting up, what should be your first move?
You should keep on driving but on a slower pace; abrupt stops should be strictly avoided and you should pinpoint a place with level ground to eventually stop your car.
Potential stopover options include parking lots, wide shoulders without blind spots and low traffic areas – you should also avoid parking on hilly inclined roads and areas without a hard surface.
- Precautionary Measures
Safety should always be prioritized; once you find a decent place to park, switch on your hazards, pull the hand brake and put your car in parking mode so it does not roll.
You should always avoid changing your tire on a narrow shoulder or on curved roads as other drivers cannot spot you from a distance.
- Place Heavy Object Or Wheel Wedges
To ascertain that your car will remain in place when you change the tire, you need to put wheel wedges on both sides of the tire.
If you are replacing the front tire, then the wedges should be placed on the back tire and vice-versa. If you do not have wheel wedges, then stones or other heavy objects can be used to restrict motion.
- Remove Wheel Cover Or Hub Cap
A hub cap or wheel cover shields your tire’s lug nuts; the flat end of the wrench can be utilized to remove the cover, unless the ones installed on your tires require a special tool.
If your car does not come with a wheel cover, you can move towards the next step.
- Loosen The Nuts
All cars come with a tire changing kit – the tools within the kit are sized as per the factory fitted tires.
The sizes are universal and may work for most tires but if you changed your rims, you may require a different lug wrench. In short, make sure that the tools you carry are appropriate for your wheel size.
Next, start by loosening each lug nut by placing the wrench on it and moving it counterclockwise – you just have to loosen them at this point, not remove them completely.
- Properly Dock The Jack In Place And Raise Your Car
Properly placing the jack is extremely important for you and your vehicle’s safety – if the jack detaches midway, it can cause serious problems.
All vehicles have an assigned place for the jack to be properly placed; this may be a molded plastic with metal sticking out. The right place to dock the jack is mostly in-line with the flat tire
Your emergency tool kit comes with a lever with a U shaped hook that should be connected to the Jack. Then start moving the lever clockwise and only stop when you can see light passing from beneath your tire, which is approximately 5 to 6 inches from the ground.
- Completely Remove The Lug Nuts
The lug nuts have already been loosened – it’s time to go all the way by rotating them counterclockwise with the provided wrench or you can use your hands.
- Position The Spare Tire
By now, you have completed the hard part, i.e. removing the punctured or flattened tire. The next step is to remove the spare wheel from its compartment.
The placement of the spare may depend on the type of car but in a majority of vehicles, there is a screw in the center to keep it in place.
Unwind the screw, remove the wheel and then place it on the area left behind by the flat.
- Tighten The Nuts Clockwise By Hand
Now, comes the part when you screw the lug nuts on top of the spare wheel – this should be done by hand in a clockwise motion.
Remember, you should not use the wrench until the jack is safely removed.
- Lower Your Car
Very carefully, start lowering the jack by moving the lever counterclockwise. Once the car is back on its four tires, remove the jack from underneath.
- Tighten The Lug Nuts With A Wrench And Replace The Hubcap
The final step is to completely tighten all the lug nuts with a wrench – once tightened by hand, stand on the wrench to apply some added pressure. This step is very critical as a loose tire can lead to many potential hazards.
Once the tire is well-mounted, replace the hub cap or wheel cover.
Things To Do After Installing A Spare Tire
After completing the above process, you should put the needed tools back in their designated place – most cars have different compartments within the trunk to stow them away.
To ensure proper safety, you need to put the flat tire within the spare wheel compartment and make sure it does not budge by mounting it with a screw. If the tire is not properly positioned within the trunk, it will move and distract you while driving.
Clean yourself up and dust yourself down – changing a popped tire can leave you with grease ridden hands and dusty clothes. This is why it is always wise to wear a pair of gloves and keep a mat on the road to avoid dirtying your clothes.
If you want to know how long can you drive on a spare tire and how fast can you drive on a spare tire, the answer is simple; it depends on the condition of your tires. Typically, it is recommended to drive on a low speed of 50mph and for not more than 70 miles.
Once back on the road, your first detour should be a tire repair shop that can fix the flat tire:
- If it’s punctured, get it patched
- If it’s low on air, get it filled
- If it’s beyond repair, replace it with a new tire
The key takeaway here is – you should not drive without an extra tire.
What If You Don’t Have A Spare Wheel?
If your car is recently purchased, chances are that it won’t have come with a spare. For the past few years, manufacturers do not provide owners with a spare – rather, they provide you with a tire repair kit.
The same is the case if you have been negligent since a previous flat tire and failed to replace the mounted spare after getting your flat tire fixed or replaced. In such a case, chances are that your trunk still holds a flat tire which is of no use in an emergency.
The bottom line is that if you face a similar issue – have no fear, there are still ways to get you back on the road until you reach the nearest repair shop.
- Tire Repair Kit
A good tire repair kit comes with a sealant solution and a small air compressor that can be easily used to fix flat tire.
Locate the incision and clean the surrounding, then apply sealant on the puncture. The next step is to fill it up with the provided air compressor – though this is a temporary fix, you can easily reach a safe destination where you can get your tire properly patched up.
- Purchase Run-Flat Tires
Run-flat tires are designed to drive up till 50 miles at a lower speed of about 50 mph – but you need to constantly monitor if they are low on air.
These tires can keep the car stable after a blowout plus they are better alternatives to repair kits.
- Road Side Assistance
So you are out of solutions and require assistance?
If calling a friend is not possible, there are many other options; for instance, AAA roadside assistance is one of the top roadside assistance providers in the US. After you contact them, they will send someone to tow your vehicle or fix it if it’s fixable.
Similarly, roadside assistance apps such as HONK can also help you out in a timely manner.
Where Can I Buy A Spare Tire For My Car
There are many local and online tire sellers where you can buy tires. If you need a spare tire, you can opt to buy secondhand or used tire with minimal wear and tear.
How Far Can You Go On A Flat Tire?
It is readily advised not to drive on a flat tire, but if the circumstances are such that you need to drive a bit further, then be sure to lower your speed and drive on 20 mph or so.
How To Maintain Your Tires
To get the most out of your tires, you need to keep them properly maintained over their life span. You should get your tires inspected after 5 years if your car is regularly used but if you are using the same tires for the last decade, then replacing them would be a wise call.
Here is how you should maintain your tires properly:
- Check if they are properly inflated every month – extreme weather may affect your tire pressure; you need to reinflate them if such is the case.
- Rotate your tires on a regular basis – a safe bet would be to rotate them when you refill your engine oil and replace the oil filter
- Get wheel alignment done on an annual basis – if the alignment is not at par, your car will automatically move towards one side on a straight road
- Get the car’s suspension fixed if you feel your ride is becoming extra bumpy
Why is Tire Maintenance Important?
The National Highway Safety Association has reported that more than 78,000 accidents are caused due to flat tires and tire blowouts, and around 10,000 people are seriously injured.
Caring for your tires is very important to ensure your safety and the safety of other drivers and pedestrians on the road. As such, your tires should be always well kept and replaced when they have reached the end of their recommended life.