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How to Change a Tire

If you get a flat tire while driving down the road, you're not without hope. So long as you have the proper tools in place and a basic knowledge of how to do so, you can change your own tire and be on your way. There's no reason that you should be stranded or have to rely on a tow truck simply because you get a flat tire – we'll instruct you how to change a tire so that you can be proactive in such situations! Follow these simple steps:

Ensure Your Car Has the Proper Tools

Most cars come equipped with a jack and a spare tire. See that these items are in place before ever setting out on the road. If you purchased your car new, these items should be accessible in the trunk; in the rare instance that a spare is not provided, a can of tire filler should be. If you have purchased a used car, these elements might be missing. If so, be sure to replace them, either by sourcing the necessary components from a junk yard, off an Internet service like Craigslist, or from your local dealership. So long as you have a spare tire, jack, and lug wrench, you can change a tire.

NOTE: Be sure to keep your spare tire properly inflated!

Loosen the Lug Nuts

Changing a tire is easy. In fact, you're not actually changing the tire; in reality, you're replacing both the wheel and the tire with a spare. In order to do so, however, you first need to loosen the lug nuts or bolts that are holding the wheel onto the car. To complete this task, place your car in park (or in gear should your vehicle be equipped with a manual transmission), and using a lug wrench, loosen the lug nuts that are holding the wheel in place. To loosen the lug nuts, turn them in a counter-clockwise direction. Remember, righty tighty, lefty loosey.

NOTE: If you try this task after the wheel has been lifted off of the ground, you'll find that the wheel simply rotates with your lug wrench, making it difficult to loosen the lug nuts.

Raise the Car

Once the lug nuts have been loosened to the point where you can freely spin them by hand, raise the appropriate corner of the car into the air so that you can replace the flat tire (be sure to use a suitable jack point; reference your car's owner manual if need be). Most cars include a scissor jack as standard equipment, which can be used to lift the vehicle. To operate this device, which starts out flat and expands into a diamond shape as you raise the jack, you will need a jack handle (this should be included).

Insert the handle into the open slot on one end of the jack and turn in a clockwise direction. As you do so, a threaded bolt will force the jack to expand, which in turn, will raise the car. Once the jack has been raised to the point that it comes into contact with the car, take a second to check that it is stable before continuing. If everything looks good, raise the appropriate wheel entirely off of the ground, but only high enough to allow you to remove it. To prevent the car from rolling, be sure to place rocks or other obstructions in front of or behind the remaining wheels.

NOTE: Be sure to never operate under the car when resting on a jack – only operate under a car if it is resting on jack stands.

Remove the Wheel and Replace It

After the appropriate corner of the car is in the air, remove the loosened lug nuts and take the wheel off of the car. Place the flat tire and wheel in the trunk, and replace it with the spare tire. Once you have placed the spare tire onto the wheel studs, place the lug nuts onto the splines and tighten them by hand. This will keep the wheel in place until you can lower the car and tighten the studs. It's really quite simple: take one wheel off and put another wheel on.

NOTE: Make sure not to lose the lug nuts, as you will need them to secure the spare!

Lower the Car

Now that the spare tire is correctly mounted onto the wheel studs (on a typical car, there are four or five wheel studs on which to mount the wheel) and the lug nuts are in place, you can lower the car. As even just one corner of a vehicle can weigh hundreds of pounds, be sure that you and your passengers are well clear of the car while you are lowering it. To lower the car, simply reverse the procedure that you used to raise it; using the jack handle, turn the scissor jack in the opposite direction so that it lowers.

NOTE: Be careful when lowering the car. Go at a slow and steady pace until the vehicle is supporting its own weight.

Tighten the Lug Nuts

The final step in the process is tightening the lug nuts so that the wheel stays mounted to the car. The last thing you want is for your wheel to become loose while driving! To tighten the lug nuts, turn them in a clockwise direction using your lug wrench. Though ideally, you would tighten the lug nuts using a torque wrench to the indicated ft-lbs measurement in your car's owner manual, you likely won't have this luxury when changing your tire on the side of the road. However, most cars require 80-110 ft-lbs of force, which can easily be achieved through the use of a lug wrench.

NOTE: As a general rule of thumb, tighten the lug nuts until you can tighten them no longer! At the correct torque rating, the lug nuts should be difficult to loosen, even when using your lug wrench.

Drive Away!

Once you've completed these basic steps, you're free to go! You've just replaced your own tire without the help of a tow truck driver or police officer, and you're not stranded – you're moving! Now, drive immediately to the nearest tire shop so that you can replace your temporary spare with a new tire!


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