When it comes to driving, knowing how to change a tire is a skill that can really come in handy. Most of the time you can call on professionals for help, but in some emergency situations you may have to do it yourself. That’s why knowing how to change a tire safely is so important. Read on to learn how in seven easy steps.
1. Prepare the required equipment
Before hitting the road, you need to make sure you have everything you’ll need to change a tire in case of an emergency. In addition to the spare tire, you’ll need a few other tools. Put together, they’re a sort of “first aid kit” for your car. A fully stocked kit should include the following:
- A jack
- A tire iron
- A reflective triangle
- A yellow or reflective vest
- A flashlight
Usually, you’ll find these tools under the floor of your trunk. If you don’t see them, read your car’s manual or check the manufacturer’s website to find out where they’re located. If you don’t have them, you’ll need to buy them so you’re ready in the event of a flat tire.
But these tools are just the start. Depending on the time of year, where you live, and how far you’re travelling, you may need to beef up your kit with some other accessories. In cold seasons, for instance, your car emergency kit should also include tools for dealing with the dangers of winter driving. These may include:
- A few bottles of water
- Blankets and gloves to keep you warm
- A shovel
- A basic set of tools
- Jumper cables
- Emergency flares
Once you have everything you need, you can hit the road with total peace of mind and change a tire with confidence if the situation arises.
2. Park your car safely
If you get a flat tire while driving, you need to park your car safely. Stopping on the shoulder of the highway is not recommended. If possible, look for a protected spot away from danger. That way you’ll be able to use your tools safely to change the tire yourself.
To make sure other drivers can see and steer clear of you, park parallel to the road on flat ground. You then need to apply your parking brake, use chocks or other objects to fully immobilize your car, and turn on your hazard lights. For added safety, place a reflective triangle behind and in front of your car and wear a yellow vest.
3. Install the jack
Now that the car is parked and ready, it’s time to take out all the tools you need to change your tire. It’s good to have everything you need close by—but never leave any tools on or near the road. For your safety and the safety of other motorists, you must never obstruct the lane.
Next you need to loosen the lug nuts while the wheel is still on the ground. This is important because it might take a lot of force to untighten the lug nuts. It’s also important to make sure your car is well balanced. If you have hubcaps, you need to loosen the nuts with the tire iron before removing them. If a lug nut is stuck, you may have to use your body weight to loosen it, but be sure not to completely remove the lug nut.
Although lug nuts usually come loose fairly easily, in some cases, especially if you have a rusty tire rim, your body weight may not be enough to untighten the nuts. There are a number of tricks for removing a rusty tire rim. But remember not to force the tire iron too much or you could strip the nuts. Follow these steps:
- Apply a rustproofing spray, if you have one
- Use lubricant
- Strike the outer edges of the wheel with a mallet and wood (for vibration)
Once you’ve untightened the lug nuts and removed the hubcaps, you can use the jack. Where you position the jack depends on the tire being removed: position it behind front wheels and in front of back wheels. Some cars have specific jack points you should use. Check the manual to find out where they are. Now it’s time to lift the car about 2.5 to 15 cm, keeping the jack nice and straight.
4. Remove the damaged wheel
Now you need to remove the wheel. Since you didn’t fully loosen the lug nuts, you need to do so now. You already did the hard part, so they should come off easily. If your lug nuts were rusty, a bit of lubricant can make it easier to fully remove the wheel. This may take a bit of force.
Keep the bolts close by and be careful not to lose them. Remember that the tire is very heavy and dirty. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises. For safety reasons, it’s a good idea to put the removed wheel under the car. That way if the jack were to give out at any point, the vehicle would land on the tire. You can now put on your spare tire.
5. Install the spare tire
Installing the spare is the easiest step. Be sure to place the new wheel in the same position as the one you just removed. Spare tires are often lighter and easier to put on. To make sure the jack stays balanced, do not fully tighten the lug nuts until after you lower the vehicle back to the ground. Just tighten the lug nuts with your fingers in this step.
6. Lower the vehicle
Once the tire is in place, you can lower the car. Just take it nice and slow. If you put the damaged tire under the car, you need to remove it before using the jack to lower the car. Just like when you were lifting the car, it’s important to always proceed with caution and keep the jack straight.
Don’t forget the lug nuts. Finish tightening them one at a time either in a star pattern or clockwise. Use all your weight to make sure they’re all securely tightened. If you have a rust problem, be careful not to strip the nuts. Once everything is secure, carefully stow away your materials.
7. Drive with the spare tire
You can now get back on the road, but there are certain things to keep in mind when driving on a spare. Not all spare tires can be used the same way. To find out how to drive on yours, you need to check what type of spare tire you have. Keep in mind that although spare tires are essential in most cases, they may not be legally required.
Runflat tires should not be driven on for more than 100 km or at speeds of over 60 km/h or 80 km/h depending on the brand of tire. The same goes for “donut” spare tires. Because they are smaller than ordinary wheels, they must be used with caution, like a runflat tire, until you get to the next garage.
Instead of a donut, your car may come with a full-sized spare tire. The difference here is that a full-size spare tire has a lighter rim than an ordinary tire. You might even have a spare that’s identical to your other wheels. If not, be sure to drive yourself safely to the nearest garage.
If you follow these steps, you’ll have no problem putting on a spare tire if you get a flat. If you have trouble, don’t hesitate to contact a garage to get professional help and breakdown service. Should a mishap occur, contact your car insurance representative.