Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud!
Have you heard this sound before, while driving 80mph down the highway?
That’s the sound of your tire that just blew and not knowing how to change a tire on your own can make you feel helpless.
You may think that your cell phone will save you in a roadside emergency. But there is always a chance that you will be out of range or even forget to charge it. Flat tires can happen anywhere and to anyone, and a cell phone is not good enough for knowing how to change a tire.
Learning how to change a tire is a necessary skill for all individuals who own a car and frequently drive it. Sooner or later you will experience a flat tire at least once in your life and this tire service skill can make your experience a little less of a hassle.
Fortunately, changing a tire is an easy task, provided you’re prepared and willing to put in a little effort. With some knowledge and a few simple tools, you can do it yourself (DIY). Just adhere to the following guidelines and be prepared, just in case you face a flat tire in the future.
Tools Needed to Change a Tire
It’s better to be well prepared and have a range of tire changing tools and equipment in your car. In case you own a new car, the car’s manual should help you locate your tire changing equipment. It will also guide you with the proper procedures needed for tire service.
If you’ve bought a used car, it’s necessary that you check whether all the tools provided by the manufacturer are still in place. Don’t just assume they’re there. You’ll find a full list in your Owner’s book.
Tools that are needed for tire service includes:
1) Spare Tire
Spare tires are either full-size or temporary (often called “space saver” or “donut”). A full-size spare has an advantage as far as safety is concerned. But it is difficult to store a full-size spare, especially in compact cars. As it weighs more, it is harder to manage it on the wheel hub at ground level. A temporary or “donut” spare is easier to store and manage but it’s slightly less safe. You have to limit your driving speed to less than 50 miles per hour (80.5 km per hour) if you use the temporary one.
You have several varieties of jacks available in the market. These are:
- Scissor Jacks
- Floor jacks
- Bottle Jacks
- Bumper jacks.
Scissor Jack is most commonly used and uses a mechanical scissor mechanism in order to lift the car. Bottle Jack can be a powerful alternative which uses hydraulic fluid to lift the car. But the only problem is that it is less compact and hard to carry.
It can be a good idea to keep a small jack stand in the trunk. These are helpful in case the jack fails during the tire change. Having both a small jack and the normal jack will keep you safe in the event of jack failure.
3) Lug Wrench
A lug wrench is a large socket wrench with one end having a socket that matches the size of the lug nuts on your wheels, and the other end having a pry bar used to remove the hub cap. The handle’s length gives a mechanical advantage. You can exert more force on the nut if you have a longer handle. The pry bar is also used to pry the rim off the wheel hub if it’s stuck on with rust or dirt.
Try to keep the exact socket size for your lug nuts and a breaker bar in the trunk of your car.
4) A Locking Wheel Nut Adapter
Wheel nut adapters are a specially keyed lug nut socket designed to avoid thieves from stealing your wheels. It’s not a compulsion to use them, but good to have. There is a great chance that these locks get misplaced while changing the tire of the car. Remember to place them comfortably in your glove box so it won’t be lost.
5) Extension Bars for Lowering the Spare Tire
Some cars store the spare wheel under the car. The spare is lowered to the ground by turning a post that lowers the spare on a wire. This post is turned with an extension bar that’s also used to help drag the spare out from under the car.
In addition to the tire-changing tools mentioned above, we would suggest carrying the following as well for complete DIY tire service:
- Sheet of heavy plywood that acts as a stable base for the jack
- Tire pressure gauge
- Tire blocks to avoid rolling of the car
- Flashlight (with extra batteries)
- Reflective triangles
- Surgical gloves or hand wipes
- Tarp or mat to kneel on
- Plastic rain poncho if it rains
How to Change a Tire?
Autowagons brings you a 17 step process to learn how to change a tire on your own. Check it out!
1) Find a Stable and Safe Place to Change Your Tire
Do not abruptly apply brakes when you realize you have a flat tire. Slowly reduce your speed and scan the surroundings for a stable and flat surface, even if you have to drive on a flat tire. Never change a tire on an incline, soft ground or hill. Idea is to have a solid, level surface that will prevent the car from rolling.
2) Turn On Your Hazard Lights
Before you begin with the tire service, turn on your Emergency flashers or hazard lights that will help other drivers see you on the side of the road. Turn them on as soon as you realize you need to pull over in order to avoid an accident.
3) Apply the Parking Brake
If you have a car that has a manual transmission, then put it in first or reverse gear. This will minimize the vehicle rolling possibility.
4) Place Wheel Wedges, Chocks or a Heavy Object
Wheel wedges are used to ensure that the car doesn’t roll while you repair your flat tire. If your front tire is flat, put the wheel wedges behind the rear tires. If you’re changing a rear tire, place these wedges ahead of the front tires.
Bricks, rocks, concrete, etc. can also work as a replacement for wheel wedges. Just ensure those are large enough to stop the car from rolling.
5) Take out the Jack, place it under the car frame and support it
Place the jack below the car frame near the tire that you have to change. Ensure that the jack is in contact with the metal portion of your vehicle’s frame.
For most modern cars, there is a small mark or notch just in front of the rear wheel or behind the front wheel where the jack is supposed to be placed. This makes the entire tire service quick and easy.
Older cars have a frame instead of a notch. You should place the jack on one of the beams of the frame just in front of the rear tire or behind the front tire.
After correctly placing the Jack, raise it until it is only supporting the car. You should not intend to lift the car completely above the ground.
6) Pry off the Wheel Cover or Hubcap
Your car may have a wheel cover (or hubcap) that covers the lug nuts. Use a screwdriver or flat end of the lug wrench to remove the wheel cover. Insert the point of the tool where the edge of the cover meets the wheel. Apply little force and the hubcap should pop off. This task is more or less similar to prying the lid off a can of paint.
This works for most cars, but some wheel covers need different equipment to take it off. In these cases, it is advisable to check your owner’s manual for proper hubcap removal procedures.
If your wheel doesn’t have a hubcap and lug nuts are exposed, you can skip ahead.
7) Loosen the Lug Nuts
People also call this as breaking the lug nuts. No matter what you call this task, find the end of the wrench that fits the lug nuts on your car. A correctly-sized wrench will slip easily over the nut, but will not rattle. Loosen the lug nuts about ¼ to ½ of a turn. Don’t take them off completely; just break the resistance.
Also, ensure that you keep the wheel on the ground when you first loosen the lug nuts. The idea is to make sure that you’re turning the nuts instead of the wheel.
Sometimes it can be a tough task to break your lug nuts and a lot of force might be required. In this case, you can use your body weight on the wrench. However, be careful as you run the risk of stripping the lug nuts.
In case of alloy wheels, the delicate aluminum or chrome-plated lug nuts need to be handled carefully. They should never be loosened with ordinary tools that can scratch the delicate finish.
8) Raise the Vehicle about 6 Inches with the Jack
While lifting, make sure that the vehicle is stable. Lower the jack if you see any instability and fix the problem before fully lifting the car again.
To prevent the jack from failing under the weight of your vehicle, place a small cut of 2×6” wood beneath it before raising your car. You can also use jack stands to safeguard yourself and your car in the event of Jack failure.
Once your jack is properly positioned, lift the car until the flat tire is about six inches above the ground-level.
Never put any part of your body under the vehicle during or after raising the vehicle with the jack.
9) Remove the Lug Nuts Completely
Since you’ve already loosened your lug nuts, it would be easy to unscrew them mostly by hand. Don’t forget to turn them counter-clockwise and repeat the same with other lug nuts until all are removed. Put them in a safe place, maybe inside the wheel cover or hub cap, so that you don’t misplace them.
10) Remove the Tire
Grab the tire by the treads with both hands and pull it straight towards you. It should slide along the bolts until it is completely off and you find yourself supporting its full weight.
Place the tire under your car so as to safeguard yourself in the event of jack failure. The idea is that the car will fall on the flat tire, hopefully preventing an accident.
But if the jack is placed on a solid base with jack stands, then you shouldn’t have any problem. In this case, you can place the tire at the rear of the vehicle to get it out of the way.
11) Mount the Spare Tire on the Lug Bolts
Place the spare tire on the hub. Don’t forget to align the rim of the spare tire with the wheel bolts. Then put on the lug nuts.
Make sure that you install the spare tire in the correct way and not backward. Check if the tapered part of the nut faces the wheel when you tighten it down.
If your car uses acorn-style lug nuts, then it is possible to mount your tire backward as well.
Please note: If you’re not used to lifting heavy things, you may have a little trouble lifting the spare into place.
12) Tighten the Lug nuts by Hand
Put the lug nuts on the mounted spare tire and tighten them all the way by hand. Once done, check each of them again and ensure they are properly tightened as much as possible. Don’t use the wrench to tighten the nuts until the car is on the ground.
13) Lower the Car and Tighten the Lug Nuts with the Wrench
Use the jack to bring down the car so that the spare tire is resting on the ground but the entire weight of the vehicle isn’t fully on the tire. At this point, tighten the nuts as much as possible with the lug wrench in a clockwise direction. Apply full body weight on the lug wrench in order to completely tighten the lug nuts.
Now lower the car all the way to the ground level and remove the jack. Give the lug nuts another push and ensure those are tightened as much as possible.
14) Replace the Wheel Cover or Hubcap
If you had a wheel cover and removed it, place it on the wheel in the same way you removed it initially and thump it with the help of your hand. Never hit the wheel cover with a hammer or wrench — you’ll dent it. If it doesn’t fit, keep it aside.
15) Check the Tire Pressure
If you carry a tire pressure gauge, then check the pressure of your spare tire to ensure that it is safe to drive. “T-Type” temporary spare tires require 60 psi (420 kPa). If your spare needs more pressure, drive cautiously to the nearest service station immediately.
16) Pack All your Tools
Don’t forget to pack all your tools like jack, jack stands, lug wrench, wheel wedges, your flat tire, and maybe wheel cover (if it doesn’t fit in your spare tire).
17) Take the Flat Tire to the Mechanic
Spare tires are temporary and are not made to drive at high speeds or long distance. So drive slowly until you’re able to visit a tire mechanic. The mechanic would determine whether your tire needs a repair or if it’s time to dispose of it. If it’s a small puncture, then it can be repaired for less than $15. If it is not repairable, they can dispose of it and sell you a replacement.
Congratulations on your first DIY Tire Service!
You have successfully learned how to change a tire on your own!
Apart from knowing how to do a tire change service, regular tire maintenance is also very more important. In addition, you must also remember to do the following:
- Keep your tires inflated
- Monitor for tread wear
- Keep rotating your tires
How Long does it take to Change a Tire?
Aside from taking your tire to a mechanic, the above DIY tire service shouldn’t take more than 20 to 30 minutes to change a tire. Just be sure you don’t leave out any steps.
Time Required to Change a Tire
If you follow this guide correctly, you will extend your tires’ life and reduce the likelihood of a flat tire in the future. While there’s no way to prevent flat tires completely, proper care can ensure long lasting tires with improved performance.
Apart from the DIY Tire Service, check out our Car Maintenance Guide that will help you keep your car in the best condition. We’ve collected 20 basic car maintenance tips, both exterior and interior, that will make your life a lot easier if properly followed.