So, you’re broken down on the side of the road and need to change a flat tire. Your cell phone service is lagging, and you’ve finally gotten a friend on the line long enough to call in some rescue troops. They’re about two hours out.
That can be an uncomfortable situation, as you are now sitting and waiting for someone to help bail you out of a frustrating situation. Many people forget this, but your vehicle manual contains everything you need to know about your car — including how to change a flat. Even without internet access, you now have all you need to know about your vehicle’s tires.
Still unsure how to change a tire? We’ve got you covered. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about the process, including why it might come up, the steps you need to take to get the process done, and who you can call for quick help when you don’t want to wait hours for a friend or family member.
How to Fix a Flat Tire: Your Car Manual’s Role
Your car manual, which you can find online if you’ve lost yours, explains every feature of your vehicle. When it comes time to fix a flat, your manual can tell you where to find your spare tire and walk you step by step through the flat tire repair process.
How To Change a Flat Tire
As long as you are in a safe location and in a good frame of mind, you can likely do a flat tire repair all by yourself. You’ll need to check to see if your vehicle has the following tools to get going:
- A jack
- A lug wrench
- A fully-inflated spare tire
- Your vehicle owner’s manual
A tire repair kit is relatively affordable and also helpful. If you don’t have one, consider popping one in your trunk the next time you experience a tire failure. The rest should all be in a compartment in the trunk, though you may need to consult your owner’s manual to find the exact location.
12 Must-Know Steps When Changing Your Tire
Now that your gear is ready, it’s time to tackle the tire-changing process. There are several things to remember as you take on this task, but walking through the following steps will help you succeed.
- Step 1: Make sure your car is in a safe place.
Before you do anything else, check that you’re completely out of the way of traffic. Your car should be on the shoulder or off the road completely.
- Step 2: Turn on those hazard lights.
Even after moving to a safe location, hazard lights are important to make yourself more visible to other drivers. You might even attract a passerby to help!
- Step 3: Put on the parking brake to stay safe.
The last thing you want is for the car to roll in the wrong direction or off the lift and slam down onto the ground. Apply the parking brake for added safety.
- Step 4: Apply wheel wedges if you have them.
There’s never anything wrong with putting extra safety checks in place. Wheel wedges are great for this, as they stop the car from rolling. If your car doesn’t come with them, we recommend buying a set and stashing it near your spare.
- Step 5: Remove the hubcap.
Use the flat end of your lug wrench or a flathead screwdriver to remove the hubcap. Some wheels have special keys to remove them, which can usually be found in your trunk. Pop the centerpiece off to give yourself access to the lug nuts.
- Step 6: Loosen the lug nuts.
Use a socket wrench to loosen the lug nuts (but don’t completely remove them), and don’t be afraid to put some weight into it. The first few turns should feel tough if the tire was installed properly.
- Step 7: Remove the hubcap.
Make sure to carefully remove the hubcap and set it behind the rear of the vehicle to minimize any risk of tripping on it or it rolling in the roadway.
- Step 8: Place the vehicle jack.
Position the jack on a level space on the road under your vehicle, taking care to place it exactly where the manual indicates. Then, use the jack to raise the vehicle a small amount.
- Step 8: Unscrew the lug nuts.
Now it’s time to take those lug nuts off completely. Once you do this, the tire should easily lift off of the bolts.
- Step 9: Replace the tire.
Mount the new tire and screw in the lug nuts nicely and tight. Secure the nuts in a star pattern to avoid problems with uneven tightening.
- Step 10: Lower the vehicle slowly.
Once the vehicle is lowered to the ground, double and triple-check the tightness of the lug nuts. If you haven’t tightened them enough, you run the risk of losing a wheel in the middle of the road.
- Step 11: Clean up and head out.
Completely remove the jack from underneath your car and place it back into your trunk. Collect any remaining nuts, bolts, and tools. Replace the hubcap and stow all your equipment in the trunk.
You’re ready to buckle up and slowly make your way to a tire shop. Try to avoid heavy highway traffic if possible. Most spare tires should not be driven over 55 miles per hour and should not be used for long periods.
Troubleshooting: 4 Flat Tire FAQs
Need some info to help you solve a flat tire issue? Read on to find the answers to some of our most commonly asked questions about flat tires and tire maintenance.
1. How do I know if a tire is leaking?
Some leaks are pretty obvious. If your car is making strange noises on only one side, shaking, rocking, or squealing on turns when it doesn’t normally do so, you are probably dealing with low tire pressure. Some other things to consider:
- If your car was made after 2007, you should have a warning light that indicates low tire pressure.
- If you suspect a puncture or air leak, first examine the tire tread for any obvious damage.
- In some cases, you might find a foreign object lodged in the rubber, which is the obvious source!
- You may also find a small hole or slit, which can be patched with rubber cement or other tire sealants to get your car safely to a tire shop.
Some damage is tough to spot, so you should still take the car in if you suspect a leak but can’t find a likely reason for it. With a jack and some expert advice, you’ll likely find the cause (or causes) of your wheel troubles.
2. Can heat cause my tires to burst?
The simple answer is yes, although it’s not likely so long as you’re careful. Hot air causes the air in your tire to expand, which can cause rips and leakage. Monitor your tire pressure closely in the summer, and remember that every 10-degree (F) increase in temperature equates to an additional pound of pressure on your wheel.
3. Is tire rotation important?
You should rotate your tires every other oil change or every 6,000 miles. Regular maintenance prevents tires from wearing unevenly in different areas of the tread. Wear is a major reason for tire ruptures, but rotating your tires when you receive other car services can prevent this.
4. How can I patch or plug my tire correctly?
If you have a portable tire repair kit, you can use a plug or an adhesive patch to seal a minor puncture. Some experts suggest you do both, but remember that driving around with a patched tire for a long time is not a good idea. You still need to replace the tire as soon as possible, or you might call a tow truck instead of a tire shop.
Call Us When You Need Roadside Assistance
At Geyers Towing, we’ve offered expert roadside assistance in Maryland since 1993. We take it seriously and want you to have all the information you need for any problem you encounter.
If you get a flat tire anywhere in Maryland or have more questions about flat tire repair services vs. DIY options, our team is here to help. You can always count on Geyers Towing to pull up, offer professional roadside assistance services, and tow you to safety if necessary.