How to Change a Flat Tire
Fixing a roadside flat tire repair is becoming a lost skillset among current car owners. Because most people just call roadside assistance or google tire repair near me. But being able to change a flat tire on your vehicle will save you time and money throughout your life.
The first time you hear – thud thud thud thud thud – while driving down the road might cause you a bit of panic, but don’t worry you don’t need roadside assistance it’s simply a flat tire. Changing a flat tire can be resolved in under 20 minutes if you know what you’re doing and properly prepared. Which is what this “changing a flat tire guide” is for. Knowing how to change a flat tire is an important skill to possess for all drivers, and will save you thousands of dollars over the years. Because a flat tire can happen anywhere and at any time. Most likely during freezing temperatures in the middle of nowhere at night and all by yourself. Thankfully changing a flat tire is not complicated, and if you follow the steps below you’ll be back on the road in less than 20 minutes.
12 Steps To Fixing A Flat Tire
- Step One ~ Remaining Calm
- Step Two ~Find a safe, flat, level place to park out of the way of other traffic
- Step Three ~ Locate Your Tools, Jack & Spare Tire
- Step Four ~ Loosen the Lugnuts
- Step Five ~ Access Your Spare Tire
- Step Six ~ Jack Up Your Vehicle
- Step Seven ~ Removing the Lugnuts
- Step Eight ~ Remove the Flat tire.
- Step Nine ~Install Spare Tire
- Step Ten ~Lower your vehicle & Remove Jack
- Step Eleven ~ Secure Lugnuts
- Step Twelve ~ Put all tools back and drive away safely.
These are the twelve steps to changing a flat tire in under 20 minutes. If this is all you needed thanks for visiting our “virtual auto repair shop”, but if you need more details, tips and descriptions on flat tire repair you can find all of that below.
5 Tire Changing Tools You’ll Need to Fix A Flat Tire
- Vehicle Manual
- Fully inflated spare tire
- Lug wrench
- Wheel chocks or large rocks
There are 5 tire changing tools needed for roadside flat tire repair, and they are all pretty simple to operate. The only reason you’ll need the vehicle’s manual is to show you the secret sequence some vehicles require to release the spare tire. Some vehicles like my Nissan Pathfinder that I had as a kid required me to flip down my license plate. Locate the access shaft hole in my bumper. Then stick a 5 foot bar in this hole until you feel it lock into place, and turn it counter clockwise to release my spare tire. Which I learned from watching a Youtube video on the side of the road after 30 minutes of unsuccessfully trying to locate my spare tire. Let’s help you avoid the frustrations I had as a kid when trying to change my flat tire and locate my spare tire for the first time.
12 Detailed Steps of Changing a Flat Tire Yourself
Step One is Remaining Calm
You don’t get to choose when and where you get a flat tire, but tire replacement only involves loosening 4-6 lug nuts. First thing you will want to do is stay calm, reduce your speed and find a safe place to park. In a perfect world there will be a “pull off” area alongside the road, but we both know that is highly unlikely. So find a place that is solid, level, out of the way of traffic and within your comfort zone. Remember its ok to run flat tires for short distances at low speeds.
Don’t worry about wrecking a flat tire. I blew out both back tires down a jacked up dirt road 10 miles from cell service while hauling an over packed truck camper. I only had one jack and one spare tire. At 1 mph I drove 10 miles until I found cell service to call a tire repair shop near me. When its time to fix a flat you just do what you have to do to be safe and mount the spare tire. Because there is no such thing as free roadside assistance unless you do it yourself.
Let’s Review Step One of Changing a Flat Tire
- Reduce your speed
- Find a safe place to park out of traffic
- Park on solid flat ground (Avoid parking on grassy or soft ground to prevent your jack from sinking in. As well as sloped ground so that your vehicle does not roll while up on the jack.)
Step Two is Creating a Safe Environment to Change Your Flat Tire
Set yourself for success. Don’t compound the situation. Turn on your hazard lights while changing a tire to let others know something is wrong and to drive more cautiously. Apply your parking brake so you vehicle can’t unexpectedly roll away when changing a flat tire. If you have wheel chocks use them, and if you don’t know what wheel chocks are that’s ok. Find a big rock or log and wedge it under your tire/s so that your vehicle really can’t unexpectedly roll away. Remember Murphy’s law ~ Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Take precautions. Be proactive and set yourself up for success when changing your flat tire.
Lets Review Step Two of Changing Your Flat Tire
- Stay calm when you get a flat tire
- Turn on your hazard lights while fixing your flat tire.
- Apply your parking brake before getting your tire changing tools out
- Use wheel chocks, rocks or logs to secure your vehicle in its place when changing a tire.
Step Three is Locating Your Tire Changing Tools, Jack & Spare Tire
Now its time to locate all the things you will need to make changing a flat tire easy. Like your vehicles tire changing tools, jack and spare tire. These are all standard issued in today’s cars. If you are not familiar with where these items are located in your vehicle check your owner’s manual. It’s good practice to check every few months that these tire changing tools are in good working order, and that your spare tire is properly inflated. So that they are ready in an emergency roadside situation. If you don’t have the proper tire changing tools or a working spare you can’t change your flat tire, and will need to call roadside assistance to help you out.
***Pro Tip*** Check for these things when buying a used vehicle that
A) they are there
B) they are functioning properly.
You don’t want to find out in the middle of the night in February in the middle of nowhere that you don’t have a jack or a spare tire to fix your flat. If they are not there or not working properly use this to negotiate a better purchase price.
Lets Review Step Three of Changing Your Flat Tire
- Locate your vehicles tire changing tool set
- Find your car’s jack
- Find & check your spare tire regularly
Step Four is Loosening the Lugnuts To Begin Fixing A Flat
If you were able to locate your vehicles tire changing tools, car jack and spare tire you can now begin changing a flat tire yourself.
First thing you will want to do is locate your lug nuts. These are the big bolt looking things on your wheel.
Most vehicles will have 4-6 lug nuts that you will need to loosen before jacking up your vehicle. If you can not find your lug nuts they are probably hidden behind your vehicle’s hub caps.
If your vehicle has hubcaps remove them with the flat end of your lug wrench or with a flat head screwdriver. Be aware some hubcaps are held on by the lug nuts and should not be removed at this point.
There is also a chance your wheels may not have a hubcap at all. Hub caps can be plastic or aluminum, but if you can not see a bolt to loosen then you need to remove your hubcaps.
***YOU DO NOT WANT TO JACK UP YOUR VEHICLE UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE LOOSENED THE LUG NUTS!***
After removing your hubcaps and before jacking up your vehicle you need to break your lugnuts free. Use the tire changing tools that came with your vehicle to do so. One of these tire changing tools is called a lugwrench or lug nut wrench.
It will fit perfectly over your lug nuts, and you will need to turn it counter-clockwise until the resistance is broken. Remember lefty loosey-righty tighty.
Hold firmly and push down on the lug wrench. You may need to use force by using all your body weight or even your foot if necessary. Be sure to only loosen the lug nuts until the resistance is broken, approximately half a turn.
Do not completely remove the lug nuts at this time. Never pull up on the lug wrench as it may quickly release or even slip off which could cause you injury. At this point you just want to be able to turn your lug nuts with ease. You will be removing them after you jack up your car. For now you just want them loose.
Lets Review Step Four of Changing a Flat Tire
- Remove hubcaps
- Locate Lugnuts
- Break Lugnuts Free
- Loosen Lugnuts ¼ turn
Step Five is Accessing Your Spare Tire
After you have loosened the vehicle’s lug nuts now its time to get the spare tire. This may be tricky for a couple of reasons. Most car’s spare tires will be found in the trunk under a series of plastic flaps or doors. Most trucks & SUVs the spare tire will be found underneath the vehicle secured by a chain.
To release this you will need to use the vehicles tools to loosen the chain so that you can remove and use your spare tire. Sometimes this is impossible due to rust or broken access points. This is why you do not want to jack up your car or completely loosen your lug nuts. If you can’t release your spare or don’t have a spare you can’t change your flat tire.
Don’t make more work for yourself. Changing a flat tire happens in stages, and each stage is prepping for the next. This is why we didn’t take the spare tire out earlier. Because if you don’t have a car jack you can’t lift your vehicle, and if you can’t loosen your lug nuts you don’t need a jack. And you won’t be changing a popped tire unless you call the nearest tire repair or roadside assistance shop.
Lets Review Step Five of Changing a Flat Tire
- Access Spare Tire
- Release Spare Tire
Step Six is Jacking Up Your Vehicle
With the spare tire released and your lug nuts loosened now its time to jack up your car. Before placing the jack check your owner’s manual for proper placement for your vehicle.
Place the jack and raise your vehicle approximately six inches above ground level giving yourself enough clearance to put your fully inflated spare on.
Be sure never to put anybody parts underneath the vehicle as there is always a risk the jack could fail. Hopefully not in this case since we left the vehicle in drive, applied the parking brake, and used wheel chocks or something of that nature to wedge our wheels.
Lets Review Step Six of Changing a Blown Tire
- Check to make sure your vehicle is secure in its place
- Consult owners manual for jack placement
- Raise your vehicle 6 inches off the ground
Step Seven is Removing the Lugnuts
With your vehicle off the ground and secure in its place its time to remove the lug nuts so you can take off the tires. You can use the lug nut wrench or your fingers. Whichever you prefer is fine. Just be sure to keep any part of your body out from underneath the vehicle.
Since you have already loosened them you should be able to finish removing them by hand. Be sure to place the lug nuts somewhere safe so they do not get lost.
Lets Review Step Seven of Changing a Flat Tire
- Completely remove the lug nuts at this time.
- Store lugnuts (tire bolts) somewhere safe
Step Eight ~ Remove the Flat tire.
Hold the tire with both hands and gently pull it towards you until it is free from the hub behind it. Once removed be sure to place it on its side so that it does not roll away. If the wheel is stuck you can kick on the rubber to free it or use a liquid penetrate. Should you have a can of that in your vehicle somewhere. Most of the time a tire will just need some jolting to break it free from dirt and debris holding it in place.
Lets Review Step Eight of Changing a Flat Tire
- Jolt Tire Free from rust, dirt and debris to take off tires.
- Remove popped tire
Step Nine Time For The Spare
Time to put on your spare tire and be done with this flat tire mess. Set your spare in front of the wheel assembly hub by lining up the wheel well with the lug bolts before trying to lift the spare tire on. Once the spare tire is on replace each lug nut onto the lug bolts one at a time. Turn each lugnut counter-clockwise by hand as tight as possible.
The proper way to tightening lugnuts and securing your wheel to your vehicle is to tighten in a star pattern. For example, if you start out tightening the bolt on the left side the very next bolt you would tighten would be its counterpart on the right. See photo to get a visual of this. Use you lugnut wrench to tighten each lug nut enough to secure the wheel but don’t completely wrench down on them at this time.
Lets Review Step Nine of Changing a Flat Tire
- Line up your spare tire
- Lift spare tire onto matching lug nuts
- Tighten lugnets in a star pattern
Step Ten Lower your vehicle
Time to get the car on the ground and get you on your way. Lower your vehicle completely to the ground and remove the jack.
Lets Review Step Ten of Changing a Flat Tire
- Lower your vehicle to the ground
- Remove car jack
Step Eleven Secure Lugnuts
With your car on the ground now its time to really wrench down on your lugnuts. Tighten you lug nuts as tight as you can in a star shape. Some people have been known to stand on the end of their lug nut wrench and jump up and down to get their lug nuts super tight. I’ve done it, but its not necessary.
Just use the lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts completely. Use your body weight to firmly push down on the lug wrench getting them as tight as possible. Be aware that there is a proper sequence for tightening the lug nuts, and that sequence will be listed in your owner’s manual. But every auto repair shop or tire replacement shop tightens lug nuts in a star shaped pattern. Regardless of the sequence set out in your owner’s manual.
Lets Review Step Eleven of Changing a Flat Tire
- Securely tighten your lugnuts
- Be sure to securely tighten your lug nuts in a star shaped sequence
Step Twelve ~ Be Done
With your spare tire completely secure to your hub you can now safely continue driving down the road. Simply replace all your equipment to its proper place. Be sure to return your jack and lug wrench to their proper place so that they are available for future roadside emergencies. Keep your hub cap with your flat tire so that it may be returned once the tire is replaced. Remove your wheel chocks, rocks or logs so that you can drive away.
Lets Review Step Twelve of Changing a Flat Tire
- Put all the vehicle tools back in the proper place
- Save the hubcap your removed
- Save the tire your removed
- Remove obstacles in front of your tires
Aftermath of Changing a Flat Tire
It probably took you longer to read this than it actually took to change out your flat tire, but now your armed with the knowledge for next time. Be sure to turn off your hazard lights and drive cautiously away.
Check your spare tires air pressure as soon as possible. The psi(air pressure per square inch) is listed on the side wall of your spare tire. Generally for a mini-spare the psi is 60. Most spare tires are not full-size tires and are not intended to be driven at normal speeds or long distances. Sooner you can get you flat tire replaced the better.
Proactive Measures to Avoid Unwanted Flat Tires
No one ever plans to get a flat tire, and it always seems to happen when you least expect it. There are ways to avoid getting a flat tire, and all you have to do is follow the manufacture’s guidelines. By regularly rotating your tires.
Check for flat spots also known as bald spots from breaking to hard or sitting too long. Check for white chords on the edges of your tires. Slow down on streets full of pot holes and other obstacles. Release some of the air in your tires when driving down a jacked up dirt road. Check the PSI of your tires regularly. For example, every 4th time you fill up on fuel. Bring your vehicle to a tire shop to get your tires checked at the end or beginning of each season (fall, winter, spring, summer).