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First-Time Flat Tire? Here's How to Replace It

Updated: Feb 16

Knowing how to change a tire is a necessary skill for all drivers. If you rely on a cell phone to save you in a roadside emergency, there’s always that chance you will forget to charge it, be out of range, or leave it at home. Flat tires can happen anywhere, and a cell phone is no substitute for knowing how to change a flat tire.

First thing's first, never try and change a tyre if your personal safety is at risk or if you do not have the correct tools.

Let's start!

These items should have come with your vehicle:


Lug Wrench

Fully inflated spare tire

Step by Step Guide:

Step 1: Park somewhere safe

As soon as you realize you have a flat tire, do not abruptly brake or turn. Slowly reduce speed and scan your surroundings for a level, straight stretch of road with a wide shoulder. An empty parking lot would be an ideal place. While driving on a flat risks ruining your rim, replacing a rim is better than being hit by an inattentive driver. Never attempt to change your tire on a narrow shoulder near oncoming traffic.

Your hazard lights or “flashers” will help other drivers see you on the side of the road. To avoid an accident, turn them on as soon as you realize you need to pull over.

Step 2: Locate your spare tire and tools

Now that you've pulled off the road, take your spare tire out from the trunk. You'll also need to have your jack handy before you start. Most models store these two items in a compartment underneath the floor of the trunk. Find a safe and level area to place your flat tire on, preferably with grass or dirt instead of asphalt. This will protect you from oil leaks that can stain your clothes when changing the tire back onto the car. Remember to shake any debris out before placing it down! Carefully place the spare tire on the ground in close proximity to the flat tire.

Step 3: Loosen the lug nuts

If your vehicle has a hubcap covering the lug nuts, it's easier to remove the hubcap before lifting the vehicle with the jack. This will work for most vehicles, but some hubcaps need a different tool to come off. Consult your owner's manual for proper hubcap or wheel cover removal procedures.

Secure the wrench onto a lug nut, and turn it counterclockwise to loosen it. Repeat this process with each lug nut, making sure each one is loose enough to turn by hand. You may have to use force, and that's ok. Use your foot or all of your body weight if necessary. Loosen the lug nuts about ¼ to ½ of a turn, but don’t remove them completely yet. Save that for when it's time to remove your tire/wheel from the vehicle.

Step 4: Align scissor jack under jacking point

The right place for the jack is usually beneath the vehicle frame alongside the tire that’s flat. Many vehicle frames have molded plastic on the bottom with a cleared area of exposed metal specifically for the jack. To safely lift and avoid damage to the vehicle, follow the instructions for jack placement in your vehicle owner’s manual.

Never put any part of your body under the vehicle during or after raising the vehicle with the jack. To prevent the jack from coming off balance, place a small cut of 2x6 wood beneath it. This tactic is especially helpful on asphalt. With the jack properly positioned, raise the vehicle until the flat tire is about six inches above the ground.

Step 5: Remove the wheel

Almost there! Take the lug nuts completely off by hand and put them in a safe place. Grasp the flat tire with both hands and pull it straight toward you. Carefully remove the flat tire from under the car. As you pull the flat off, it should slide along the bolts until it clears the end of the bolts. Roll the flat along the ground to the rear of the vehicle to get it out of the way.

Step 6: Put on spare tire

Now, place your spare tire onto the wheel by lining up the holes with the bolts. If your car has hubcaps, place the hubcap against the wheel and whack it into place with the heel of your hand. If it has a delicate finish, the owner's manual should provide instructions for replacing it. Cushion your hand with a soft rag first so that you won't hurt it. Use your hand to ensure the lug nuts are tight enough before you proceed.

Step 7: Lower your vehicle

Using the jack, slowly lower your vehicle until your spare tire starts touching the ground. This holds the tire in place as you begin tightening the lug nuts. Tighten the lug nuts in increments, alternating every-other nut. For example, if you assign a number to each lug nut or use the using a star pattern, tighten in this order: 1, 3, 5, 2, 4, 1, 3, 5, 2, 4, and repeat. This way you’ll keep the tire on straight.

Step 8: Lower the vehicle and tighten the lug nuts again

Use the jack to lower the vehicle off of the jack by turning the handle in a counterclockwise fashion, so that the spare tire is resting on the ground but the full weight of the vehicle is still not fully on the tire. Tighten the lug nuts just one more time with the wrench as much as you can to ensure they are tight enough before lowering the jack and removing it from under the car.

Step 9: Place your tools and flat tire back in trunk

You have before you a jack, a lug wrench, wheel wedges, your flat tire, and possibly a hubcap. Don’t forget to put all of them in your vehicle before driving away.

Step 10: Drive to your local car service department

You should check the tire pressure of the spare tire to make sure that it is safe to drive on. “T-Type” temporary spares, also called “mini-spares,” require 60 psi (420 kPa).  If the tire needs pressure, drive (slowly) to a service station immediately. Temporary spare tires aren’t made to drive long distances or at high speeds, so drive cautiously until you’re able to visit a tire technician. A professional should be able to determine whether your tire needs a repair or if it’s time to replace it.

Knowing how to safely change a flat tire is something every driver should know. It can turn a bad situation into something not as bad and can also save money and time. We would love to offer you some tips on how to change a flat tire. Stop at Gordon Chevrolet and speak to our trained staff. Always make sure you pull to the side of the road and engage the emergency brake. Get the tools you need from the trunk. Loosen the lug nuts slightly and jack up the car. Remove lug nuts, take off flat tire, put on and tighten lug nuts, and lower the car back to the ground. Make sure lug nuts are fully tightened, and you’re all set to go. After driving the car about 50 miles, double-check the lug nuts.




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