Nobody likes the possibility of being stranded by a flat tire. However, these are situations that sooner or later can occur, so it is best to be prepared for it, instead of being at night, on a lonely road with no signal on your phone.
Do you think we are exaggerating? Unfortunately, these "horror movie" situations happen more often than many imagine.
For this reason, we have prepared this article, in which we review, step by step, how to change a flat tire.
Quick Questions Before Starting
Ready to change that flat tire? Not so fast. Let's go over some basic questions before we get started.
How Difficult is This to Complete?
Changing a tire is considered an easy task, even for people with little experience.
How Long Does it Take to Complete?
Approximately 30 minutes
Depending on your skill in these types of tasks, changing a flat tire can take you 15 to 30 minutes.
How Much Do Materials Cost?
Most vehicles come with a spare tire and the necessary tools to change a flat tire. Nevertheless, if your vehicle does not have the minimum essential materials and tools, you will have to spend between $190 and $205 to get them. However, this sum could be increased by an additional $114-$236 if you choose to add optional tools to facilitate this type of task.
Items Needed to Change a Flat Tire
In the previous section, we mentioned that some essential items are needed to change a flat tire. In theory, your vehicle should have all of them even if you buy it second hand. Yet, for your reference, we will list them below along with their estimated price.
1. Car owners manual (included). If you don't have the printed version, you can download it online at the automaker's website.
We also mentioned earlier that you could incorporate some optional tools to make this task considerably more straightforward. We have a non-exhaustive list of these tools below.
- Emergency rain poncho ($1-$8)
- Multi-purpose impact and abrasion-resistant gloves ($8-$18)
- LED flashlight or headlamp LED flashlight ($8-$15)
- Wheel wedges ($8-$10)
- A 4-way lug wrench or telescoping power lug wrench ($19-$27)
- 12-volt electric impact wrench and socket ($35-$45)
- Portable hydraulic trolley floor jack ($45-$60)
- Portable air compressor/tire inflator ($25-$80)
How to Change a Flat Tire
After you've gone over the basics as well as the necessary tools, it's time to learn how to change a flat tire correctly.
1. Turn on the Hazard Lights
As soon as you realize that you have a flat tire, turn on your vehicle's hazard lights. This precautionary measure is recommended to alert other drivers about the emergency and make sure your car stands out even when it is on the side of the road.
2. Park in a Safe Place
Don't rush or get nervous. Slow down the vehicle by taking your foot off the accelerator (avoid braking if possible) and try to find a safe place to park. Ideally, you should avoid parking on curves or steep slopes. Once you have found an appropriate location, brake gently and set the wheels straight.
3. Locate the Tools
Once the vehicle has come to a complete stop, your first task is to locate all the materials and tools needed to change the flat tire. Position them close to the work area but in such a way as to leave enough room for the flat tire once it is removed.
4. Place Reflective Warning Triangles on the Roadside
Our recommendation is to place the pertinent emergency signs before carrying out any task. This safety measure is vitally important at night as it allows other drivers to realize the danger before it is too late. Our recommendation is to place the first warning triangle 10 feet directly behind the vehicle close to the roadside. As for the second and third warning triangle, as a rule of thumb, you should place them 100 feet and 200 feet to the rear of each other.
If your vehicle doesn't have these warning triangles, just do your best to be as far away from traffic as possible.
4. Secure the Wheels
It is advisable to secure the wheels by using either wheel wedges or small cuts of wood. This precaution is no longer optional and becomes mandatory if you have had to park on a slope.
5. Get Access to the Lug Nuts
The next step has to do with having access to the lug nuts. To do this, you must remove the hubcap/wheel cover using a flat screwdriver or the flat end of your lug wrench. Some hubcaps are more complicated to remove than others; in case of doubts, we recommend consulting your owner's manual to avoid damaging them. Once you remove the hubcap/wheel cover, put it in a place that does not interfere with your work, our suggestion is to store it in the trunk.
6. Loosen the Lug Nuts
Loosen the lug nuts on the flat tire by turning them counterclockwise using the lug wrench. It is not unusual for the nuts to be stuck, so keep in mind that this may be one of the most demanding steps. It is at this point that having a 4-way lug wrench, a telescoping power lug wrench, or better yet, a 12-volt electric impact wrench comes in handy. Our suggestion is not to remove all lug nuts to prevent the wheel from coming off when you lift the vehicle.
7. Locate the Support Points
Consult your owner's manual to locate the recommended support points for your car. This step can save you from a possible accident caused by placing the jack at an end that does not support the vehicle’s weight.
8. Lift the Vehicle
Once the jack is positioned on a secure support point lift the vehicle, slowly, until the bottom of the tire is approximately four to six inches off the ground. Keep an eye out for any unbalance or strange movement of the jack, as it may be an indication that you have not placed it correctly. As a precautionary measure, never get under the vehicle during or after lifting it.
9. Remove the Lug Nuts
Once the vehicle is lifted, you can unscrew the lug nuts and remove them from the wheel. Do not be overconfident in this step, as the wheel could come off and injure you. Take your time, starting with the lug nuts at the top of the wheel and working your way down. It is not recommended to spin the wheel to prevent it from coming off suddenly.
10. Remove the Flat Tire Off the Vehicle
Take a firm grip on the tire and carefully pull it towards you. The use of gloves is highly recommended to prevent your hands from slipping, especially in snowy or rainy conditions. Once the tire is completely free from the hub, put it aside. Be sure to do so in a way that it does not roll or get in your way when fitting the spare tire.
11. Mount the Spare Tire
Keep in mind that like step 6, this task can require considerable physical effort, so having the help of another person may be necessary, especially in the case of heavy tires such as those found in full-size SUVs and pickup trucks.
Once ready, lift the spare tire and align the rim holes with the lug bolts. Usually, this operation requires several attempts, as it is difficult given the tire’s weight. As soon as you get the tire on, put a lug nut or two to prevent it from coming off.
12. Put the Rest of the Lug Nuts
After all the physical effort made so far, it is time to take a break. This is one of the most straightforward steps. Put the rest of the lug nuts back on the lug bolts and tighten them by hand. There is no need to tighten them with the wrench for now.
13. Lower the Vehicle
Make sure all lug nuts are hand tight, and then lower the vehicle. Do this slowly, watching for any unexpected jack movements. Once the vehicle is secure on the ground, remove the jack and put it away.
14. Tighten the Lug Nuts
Use the lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts as much as possible. Then place all materials, warning signs, and tools as well as the hubcap in the trunk.
15. Double-Check Everything You Have Done
Before continuing on your way, you must double-check that all the lug nuts are tight and that you do not forget anything on the road. Only after this last check is it safe to leave.
Tips and Safety Considerations When Changing a Flat Tire
You should never lose sight that changing a flat tire is a task that must be done following the proper safety parameters. Below we share a list with the most relevant tips and safety considerations in that regard.
- Never overlook the use of proper emergency signs such as hazard lights and warning triangles. Alerting other drivers from your situation can prevent serious accidents, especially at night or during adverse weather conditions.
- Always have all the tools and materials you need to change a flat tire in one place. This can simplify the entire process in an emergency.
- Never put any part of your body under the vehicle during or after lifting the vehicle with the jack. Hundreds of people a year are injured by a jack slip or failure at the wrong time.
- Consider practicing the procedure of changing a tire at home. This can be of great help in emergencies as you will not be under pressure to perform an unfamiliar task.
Changing a flat tire may seem like an easy task to some. However, simple as it may seem, you should never lose sight of the fact that you can put your safety at risk if you do not do it properly. In this article, we have reviewed in detail the correct procedure to complete this task. Moreover, we have highlighted some tips to keep in mind during this task so that both experts and novices can change a flat tire safely.
People Also Ask
Do you still have doubts about this exciting topic? Don't worry. We have compiled the most frequently asked questions regarding how to change a flat tire.
What is a Run Flat Tire?
A run-flat tire is a special type of tire designed to be used even when flat. In general, run-flat tires allow you to travel at a speed of 30-50 mph for 10-50 miles until you find a suitable spot to change the tire safely.
Can You Patch a Run Flat Tire?
No, you cannot patch a run-flat-tire. This is because their design prevents you from noticing that they have lost air and therefore end up suffering irreparable internal damage.
Can You Drive on a Flat Tire?
Aside from the inherent risk of driving with limited control over your vehicle, driving on a flat tire even at low speeds will likely damage the tire beyond the possibility of repair. Moreover, if you go on a flat tire, you can also damage the wheel and other suspension components.
What To Do If You Have a Flat Tire and No Spare?
In the unfortunate event that a tire goes flat and you don't have a spare, you can resort to alternative methods such as using a tire sealant (like Fix-a-Flat) or using a small tire inflator to restore tire pressure, at least until you reach a safe destination.
How Long Can You Drive on a Tire With Fix a Flat?
As a rule of thumb, you can drive up to 4 miles on a tire with Fix-a-Flat. However, to some extent, that figure depends on several factors, including but not limited to weather conditions, vehicle weight, type of tire, and more.
How To Tell If Tire is Flat or Just Needs Air
A clear sign that your tire is flat is when you can see the rim touching the ground. Formally speaking, there is still some air in the tire until that happens, so it should not be considered "flat.” In practice, if you do not have a tire pressure gauge at hand, you can firmly press your finger against the tire’s sidewall. If you manage to sink your finger, even a little, it is a sign that your tire requires higher air pressure.
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