a man fixing a flat tire

How to change a tire

On the Road 3 min read

Before changing your tire, Keith Meyers — a claims trainer and ASE Certified and I-Car Trained auto mechanic — advises that you consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Because every vehicle is different, the owner’s manual will inform you about changing a tire that is specific to your make and model of car. You’ll find information about where to find the spare tire and jack in the vehicle and where to position the jack to avoid damaging your car. The manual also includes important safety precautions to help you avoid injury to yourself and others.

Tools needed to change a tire

The tools you’ll need to change a tire most likely came with your vehicle. Ensure that these items are in your vehicle before you need them. The most basic tools to change a tire include:

  • A jack to raise the vehicle high enough off the ground to remove the flat tire.
  • A spare tire. Your vehicle should have one that’s often called a “donut,” as it’s typically smaller than the other tires on the vehicle.
  • A lug wrench. You’ll use a lug wrench to loosen and remove the nuts which fasten the wheels to the vehicle.
  • Chocks or wheel wedges to keep the vehicle from rolling.

How to take off a tire

Once you have consulted the owner’s manual and ensured you have everything you need, you’re all set to change your car tire. First, be sure to set the parking brake, turn the engine off, and if your car has a manual transmission, put the vehicle in gear. Locate the spare tire, the jack, and other tools the manufacturer may have provided. Remove them from the vehicle and place them close to the area where you’ll change the tire.

Follow these steps to change a car tire:

  1. If your car has wheel covers, you’ll need the proper tool to pry the wheel covers off.
  2. Use the lug wrench to loosen each of the lug nuts.
  3. You are ready to jack your vehicle up when you have all the lug nuts slightly loosened.
  4. Set the jack properly under the vehicle while following the directions in the owner’s manual to avoid damaging your car.
  5. Ensure that the car is on level ground to avoid rolling off the jack.
  6. Place blocks around the wheel diagonally opposite the one you are changing with a wheel chock or a piece of wood.
  7. Using the jack, raise the vehicle to the point where the wheels are above the surface of the ground.
  8. Loosen and remove the lug nuts and remove the tire from the vehicle.
  9. Put the spare tire on the car and replace all the lug nuts, tightening them slightly.
  10. Lower the vehicle to the ground, tighten the lug nuts firmly, and remove the jack.
  11. When you tighten the lug nuts, crisscross from one to the other rather than tightening them in a circular pattern.
  12. Put the jack, the old tire, and the tools back into the vehicle, and you’re ready to roll.

At the earliest opportunity, take your car to a professional mechanic to ensure that you have tightened the wheel according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

As a review, remember to keep these safety precautions in mind:

  • Be sure the parking brake is set, the engine is off, and — if your car has a manual transmission — put the vehicle in gear.
  • The car should be on level ground to avoid rolling off the jack.
  • Block the opposite wheel with a piece of 2×4 lumber or wheel chock.
  • Set the jack properly to the vehicle. Remember to do this according to the owner’s manual to avoid damaging the car.

Your vehicle can get a flat tire when you least expect it. Ensure that you are ready to face such a mishap by having the tools and knowledge of how to change a tire on your own. Now, you can learn what your tire pressure should be and where to place new tires when you replace your old ones.

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