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How to Change a Tire

Flat tires happen. Fortunately, it’s easier than you think to learn how to change a tire.

how to change a tire

No matter how well you care for your tires, flat tires happen. They’re practically guaranteed to strike at the worst possible moment and they’re a huge inconvenience. Your AAA roadside assistance membership is there to help, but you can also learn how to do this yourself. Instead of waiting for someone else to do the job, follow these easy steps for how to change a tire.

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. Start by following the instructions for how to change a tire according to your owner’s manual. Also, make sure you’re someplace where you feel safe being outside your car and where you are not too close to heavy traffic. If it’s not safe, then use your AAA Roadside Assistance membership to get help.

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2. Get off the road

You need to pull well off the road and find a spot where the ground is level. It’s not a good idea to drive very far with a flat tire because it can damage your wheel, but it’s a worse idea to attempt changing a tire in the wrong conditions. A busy highway is a dangerous place, so try to find a rest area, weigh station, or other area away from traffic where you can do the job. Once you find a safe spot, 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 pull out the owner’s manual for reference on how to change a tire on your car. The manual is a great place to start because it also tells you where they’re hiding 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.

how 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 before you raise the car up off the ground. Once the car is in the air and the tire freely spins it can be difficult to get the lug nuts loose. Instead, loosen them on the ground, but do not take them off completely. Once they’re loose, 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 all you have to do is 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. 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. That’s all it takes to change a tire so what’s stopping you from learning how to change a tire?

8. Head to the repair shop

Spare tires aren’t meant to be driven for long distances or at high speeds. Keep it limited to 55 mph and 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.

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Comments
  • Andrew R.

    Sure, you CAN change a flat tire…but you probably shouldn’t.

    I recently had too much pride to call AAA. Instead, I struggled to change a flat tire on a Ford Explorer and ended up giving myself a hernia.

    Literally.

    What makes the situation worse is that I have worked for AAA for over a decade and know firsthand how impeccable their roadside service is.

    The car was sitting in my driveway, and I figured it would be a good chance to test my skills. It had been a bit since I changed a tire. I also might have been secretly overcome with ridiculous machismo, having to prove to my wife, my neighbors and myself that this AAA employee was capable of swapping out a flat tire with ease.

    My advice: Leave it to the experts at AAA. Some of these darn tires are heavy and awkward to lift. What could have been a five-minute phone call turned into a two-month recovery…and counting. I hope you learn from my silly mistake!

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