Replacing a flat tire is one of the few automotive chores that hasn't changed much in decades. But improvements in tires mean that many of us have had little or no experience doing it. If one of your car's tires goes flat while you're driving, stay calm. The car may seem unsteady or pull to one side, but don't jam on the brakes. Use the turn signal and steer out of traffic. Use steady, easy pressure on the brakes. If you stop at the side of the road, use the emergency flashers. The car should be on a solid, level surface. You can drive a short distance, very slowly, if necessary to reach a safe spot. Put the transmission in park (or, with a manual transmission, reverse). Set the parking brake. Locate the spare tire and jack. Your vehicle's owner's manual includes instructions for using the jack, and many cars duplicate the instructions on a decal near the spare.
Changing a Tire
- Take out the spare tire and jack. Put the spare by the flat tire.
- Most jacks must be placed at specific locations beneath the car, so be sure to consult the instructions that came with your car. Operate the jack so that it puts a little upward pressure on the car, but don't raise the vehicle yet.
- If you have them, use wheel chocks—small wedges of rubber, plastic, or wood designed to prevent your car from rolling or moving. Place them diagonally opposite the tire you're changing to block the wheel. Use bricks, rocks, or other likely chock substitutes if you need to.
- Take off the wheel cover so you can get at the wheel nuts.
- Loosen the wheel nuts one turn each while the wheel is on the ground. Don't remove them yet.
- Jack the car up so that the flat tire clears the ground.
- Unscrew the wheel nuts (put them in the wheel cover or they'll disappear); take the wheel and tire off. Put the flat tire and wheel under the side of the car; if the jack fails, the car won't fall far.
- Put the spare on.
- Put the nuts back on and tighten them as much as reasonable with the tire still off the ground. You'll notice that the nuts have a tapered end and a flat end. The tapered end should be facing the wheel; this helps center the wheel around the mounting stud.
- Take the flat from beneath the car, and lower the car until the spare just touches the ground.
- Tighten the wheel nuts securely using a crisscross pattern; that is, tighten nuts opposite one another rather than going from one nut to the one beside it.
- Lower the car completely; put the wheel cover back on.
- Remove the chock; put the flat and the jack in the trunk.