Last Updated on August 26, 2020 by Tim
It’s happened to us all. You’re driving down the road, when suddenly the balance on your vehicle feels a bit off. Perhaps the steering is a bit wobbly as well. You turn down the music in the car and you can hear a repetitive thumping, so you pull off to the side of the road and there it is: one of your car tires is flat.
Of course, this might cause you to be a bit late for work, but it shouldn’t take all morning to quickly and safely change a tire. As long as you have the proper tools in your trunk, you can get your tire off and the spare on in a few minutes. Here’s how to change a tire on your car or truck.
Tools You Need to Change a Tire:
- scissor jack or floor jack
- tire iron
- wheel chocks (or something to wedge under a tire on the opposite axle)
- lug nut lock adaptor (for cars with wheel locks)
Prepping the Car
First, always make sure your car is in “Park” and make sure the vehicle is located on a flat surface. If possible, do it in a parking lot or somewhere away from direct traffic. If you’re on the freeway, place your hazard lights on, pull over to the shoulder as far away from traffic as possible, and set up a reflective emergency triangle if you have one in the back of your trunk (it’s a good idea to have one of these).
Now, if possible, take something and place it under the tire diagonally away from the one you need to remove. For example, if you need to replace the driver’s side front tire, place something like a block of wood, a brick, a rock, or something of similar size and wedge it under the back, passenger side tire.
More weight is placed onto this tire (the tire diagonal from the one you are jacking up) when the car is lifted, so there is a greater chance it rolls. By locking the tire into place, it prevents the tire from rolling at all. Personally, I keep a pair of wheel chocks in the trunk for this very purpose.
Jacking Up the Car
Most cars come with a simple scissor (screw-type) jack and tire iron. If you want, you can invest in a small lightweight aluminum floor jack for your vehicle to make jacking up your vehicle faster and safer. Obviously, a 3-ton steel floor jack is most likely too big and heavy to keep in your trunk at all times. A normal scissor jack will do when you’re out on the road. It will simply take a bit more effort.
Before you start to jack up the car though, you want to use the tire iron or lug wrench to loosen up the lug nuts in a criss-cross pattern on the wheel first. This way, you are not putting a good deal of weight into your turns while the car is elevated. Whatever kind of jack you have, there are different locations where you want to place the jack.
Check your owner’s manual to know for sure the location best served for the jack. Some vehicles have a bolt that fits into the top of the jack to lock it into place, while others simply have a thick strip of metal. Once you have determined the appropriate location, elevate the vehicle so the tire is free of the ground.
Remove the Tire
With the tire elevated, remove the lug nuts with the correct lug nut socket size and slide off the wheel. If you have aftermarket rims, you may also have wheel lock nuts. Make sure you have the lug nut lock adapter in your trunk at all times. If you can’t find the adapter, you you will most likely need to have the vehicle towed.
With the tire off, slip the new tire on and tighten the lug nuts back into position. First tighten them lightly while the wheel is elevated. Now, lower your vehicle back to its normal height and finish tightening the lug nuts (again in a criss-cross pattern) until they are fully secure. Make sure these are tight as you don’t want anything coming loose while driving.
Then place everything back into your trunk. You can now drive a decent ways before you need to take your vehicle in to have the tire patched or possibly replaced, depending on what the exact damage is.
It’s a bit different when dealing with changing a flat on some SUVs or trucks but good writeup overall.
I found out the hard way I forgot to put the wheel lock adapter back in my trunk a couple weeks ago. So… if you have aftermarket wheels, don’t do what I did.