Last updated: August 2023

How to Change a Flat Tire

Getting a flat is never convenient, but changing a tire by yourself is easier than you might think if you’ve never had to. You simply need to be prepared with the right tools and have this simple but necessary knowledge. Here’s our guide on how to change a tire, complete with helpful step-by-step instructions.

How to Change a Tire in 5 Steps

Before you’re ready to change a tire, it’s important to be prepared. You’ll want these items in your car when this unplanned annoyance occurs.

  • A spare tire that is properly inflated
  • Your owner’s manual
  • Tire sealant and inflator
  • Spray solvent to help loosen lug nuts
  • Carjack
  • Flashlight
  • Lug wrench
  • Reflective hazard triangle
  • Wheel wedges
  • Any additional tools that may be required depending on the make and model of your vehicle

It’s also important to be safe before you begin the process of changing your tire. If you find yourself with a flat tire, pull to the side of the road at a safe spot and turn on your hazard lights. Make sure you are visible to oncoming vehicles and that you are pulled off far enough to work on the side of the vehicle that has the flat tire without being in traffic. Put on your parking brake. Use wheel wedges on the front tires if you’re changing a rear wheel or on the rear tires if you’re changing one of the front wheels. Refer to your owner’s manual before you begin or call for help if you need assistance changing the tire.

Now you’re ready to change a tire.

Step 1: Remove the hubcap (if necessary) and loosen lug nuts with your lug wrench

Don’t be alarmed if this requires some force, and make sure not remove the lug nuts entirely.

Step 2: Place the jack in the appropriate position and lift the vehicle

Refer to the owner’s manual for the correct location of the jack. Once the jack is securely in place, raise the vehicle with the jack handle.

Step 3: Remove the lug nuts and the flat tire

With your vehicle off the ground and stable, it’s time to fully remove the lug nuts and flat tire.

Step 4: Mount the spare tire and replace the lug nuts

Line up the lug bolts with the spare tire’s frame, and push the tire onto the wheel. Hand-tighten the lug nuts, but do not use the lug wrench while the car is lifted.

Step 5: Lower the vehicle and tighten the lug nuts

Lower the vehicle and tighten the lug nuts (to the recommended level in your owner’s manual) with the lug wrench when your vehicle is back on the ground.

Remember, spare tires are designed for temporary use, so drive slowly and carefully. You’ll also want to get the tire permanently replaced as soon as possible.

Can I just fill up my tires temporarily?

Before you go through the hassle of changing a tire, you might be wondering if you can just top it off with air and carry on. Sadly, this isn’t always an option.

If you run over a nail or your tire blows out, it’s going to need at least a temporary replacement. Even if your tire has simply lost air pressure from the cold weather (Consumer Reports says tire pressure can fall 1 PSI for every 10-degree decrease in temperature), at a certain point it won’t be safe to drive.

Unless you have a higher-powered air compressor at home or in your car, most people find it easiest to air up their tires at a local gas station equipped with an air compressor. Some gas stations offer their air compressors for free, while others charge around $.50. So, if your tire is flat or damaged, you’re almost certainly going to have to change it first. Driving to the nearest gas station, even if it’s nearby, could put you in danger or cause more damage to your car.

How to Fill Your Tires

If your tire is simply a little low on air and you can safely drive to a gas station with an air compressor, here’s how to top off your tires.

1. Make sure your car is close enough to the air compressor so that the hose can reach all tires that need air.

2. Turn on the air compressor and remove all valve caps to the tires that need air. Put them somewhere safe, such as in your pocket.

3. Press the air compressor hose onto the valve stem, you should hear the air filling up the tire and feel it in the air compressor hose. Check the tire pressure on the gauge of the air compressor and fill until it matches the recommended PSI.

4. Return valve caps to the tires before driving away.

Play it safe with roadside assistance!

Still a little hesitant about changing your own tire? You could add a roadside assistance plan to your policy so you can get professional help when your tire is flat. Give us a call or visit your nearest Direct Auto location to learn more.

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