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How to Change a Tire

The steps for how to change a tire are relatively simple to learn and put into practice.

Simple tools allow any motorist to change a tire. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Simple tools allow any motorist to change a tire.

How to Change a Tire

Even in this age of cell phones, knowing how to change a tire on ones car is an important skill for every driver to have. Sometimes people get flats in the most inopportune places, such as areas without dependable cell phone signals; and having the ability to take care of the job and get back on the road is important.

The first thing one needs to keep in mind is the importance of being prepared long before a tire goes flat. This means knowing where the spare tire is in the automobile or truck (usually under a mat in the trunk or, in the case of an SUV, on the back of or underneath the vehicle), how to access it, and, last but not least, ensuring that the spare tire is properly inflated, since the only thing worse than getting a flat tire is getting a flat tire and then finding out that the spare tire also is unusable.

Getting Started

With those basics in place, getting a flat tire on the road does not have to ruin ones entire day. The first thing to do upon realizing that a tire is flat is to pull off to the side of the road on a flat, rather than an inclined, stretch of pavement. That way the jack will be secure and the car will be less likely to roll forward or backward. After making sure that the car is in gear (or park) and the emergency brake is set and being careful to watch for oncoming traffic upon stepping out of the car -- one should locate the jack, tire iron and spare tire.

Once the spare tire is removed, one can proceed to the hardest part of the job, taking off the old tire. In its Guide to Changing a Flat Tire, Edmunds.com suggests that one should start by placing a brick or other heavy object behind the tire that is opposite the tire to be removed. For example, if the passenger front side tire is flat, the brick should be placed behind the driver side rear tire.

Removing the Tire

If the car has hubcaps, those will need to be removed. Then, using the L-shaped or X-shaped tire iron, one should begin by loosening, but not yet removing, the wheel lugs. An article entitled How To Change a Flat Tire, published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, suggests that the best way to remove the lugs is in a star-shaped pattern in order to prevent damage to the rim of the tire or to the screws that hold the tire on.

The State University of New York at New Paltzs, The New Paltz Oracle suggests having penetrating oil handy in case the lug nuts are initially too tight to remove. Simply squirt the oil, wait a few minutes, and resume the removal procedure.

Once the lugs are loose, one should proceed to place the jack underneath the car, being sure to consult the owner's manual to ensure the jack is placed in a proper jacking point. This is essential to prevent injury or damage to the car. Raise the jack, which is usually accomplished by turning the crank, thus expanding the jack.

Once the flat tire has been lifted completely off the ground, one should finish removing the wheel lugs, and then place them in a safe spot where they cannot get lost, kicked to the shoulder, or otherwise roll away.

Putting on the Spare Tire

Once the flat tire has been removed, the next step is to place the spare tire over the studs of the wheel. While holding up the tire, the holes in the wheel must be lined up with the studs. When this is done, each of the wheel lugs should be screwed back on, starting by hand, and then continuing with the tire iron until the lugs are snug.

One should continue by lowering the jack and pulling it away from the vehicle. Then, the person changing the tire should finish tightening the lugs. Since the car is now back on the ground, the tire will not turn or rotate, which makes the tightening job easier and more secure.

Finishing the Job

Once that work is done, all that remains is to place the flat tire where the spare tire was located in or on the car, then to put the tools away, including the brick or rock, and check the work area to ensure that nothing is being left behind.

The driver then should proceed to the nearest service station to get the flat tire fixed and re-mounted to the car, since it is unsafe to drive too far or too long on a spare tire (assuming that the replacement tire is a spare tire or donut-type tire; and not a regular full tire).

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