No matter how well you care for your tires, flat tires happen. While AAA Roadside Assistance is available 24/7 to help when needed, knowing how to change a tire could come in handy someday.
How to Change a Tire
1. Safety first
It’s essential that you only change a flat tire when it’s safe to do so. If you don’t feel comfortable for any reason, call AAA.
2. Get off the road
It’s not a good idea to drive too far with a flat because it can damage your wheel. If possible, try to find a rest area, gas station or other place away from traffic to pull over. If you have to pull over to the side of the road, put out warning triangles, flares and use your emergency flashers. Once you find a safe spot on level ground, set the parking brake before you get to work.
3. Pull out the owner’s manual
Although the process is similar in every car, it’s a good idea to reference your owner’s manual for instructions for your specific model. The manual is a great place to start because it also tells you where to find the spare tire and tools. Depending on the type of vehicle you own, the spare tire may be mounted on the tailgate, have a crank that lowers it from under the cargo area or be mounted inside the trunk. The manual will also point out the jack points for your car, which are spots specifically designed to properly hold the jack and safely raise the car to change a tire.
4. Access the lug nuts
Your car may come with a plastic wheel cover that pops off to reveal the lug nuts or there may be caps on each lug nut that need to be removed. Often there’s a screwdriver in the toolkit to help with this job. After this is done, loosen each lug nut slightly with a wrench. Then, use the jack to raise the car until the tire is about an inch off the ground and spins freely.
5. Remove the lug nuts
Once you can remove the lug nuts and put them someplace where you won’t lose them, go ahead and slide the wheel straight out and off of the car. Do not put any part of your body under the wheel while it is on the car or between the wheel and the car in the wheel well. If the car were to slip off the jack, you don’t want any body parts getting crushed.
6. Mount the spare
Now slide the spare tire in place. Put the lug nuts on and tighten them each slightly. Make sure the tire is flat against the brake rotor by pushing on the wheel. The lug nuts only need to be as tight as you can manage with your fingers to start. Once they’re all on, then lower the car until the tire touches the ground just enough to keep from spinning. Now you can put your weight into it and make the lug nuts good and tight. They need to be snug enough so they won’t come off when you’re driving, but don’t go crazy and stand on the wrench.
7. Lower the car
The tire is now on the car and it’s time to lower the car completely. Once the jack no longer supports the car, pack everything back up and re-stow your tools. This is also a good time to recheck that the lug nuts are tight. Make sure you have the jack, wrench, and screwdriver if it was a part of your tool kit. Also make sure you put the wheel cover or lug caps back on before you drive away. Stow your tire, too.
8. Head to the repair shop
Most spare tires are for temporary use and aren’t meant to be driven for long distances or at high speeds and can affect the vehicle handling and braking. Most manufacturers recommend keeping speeds at less than 50 MPH and limit driving to 50 miles. Head to a tire shop where you can get have the old tire repaired or replaced if necessary. Remember, you now have one tire on your car that doesn’t match the rest. It’s not an ideal way to drive so you need to do this as soon as possible to ensure your car is safe and ready for the road.
What’s your method for tire maintenance? Share it with us in the comments below.
AAA members can save on automotive replacement parts and accessories at NAPA.
Learn about all your AAA Roadside Assistance benefits here.