Flat tires happen to the best of us at the worst times. Luckily, AAA Roadside Assistance is available 24/7 to help stranded drivers in need, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know how to change a tire on your own. Who knows, your future self may thank you for getting out of a tight spot.
Follow along step-by-step to learn how to change a tire properly.
1. Evaluate your surroundings, then pull over when it’s safe to do so.
Driving with a flat tire can be difficult and cause some damage, but you shouldn’t pull over until you find a safe area to change your tire. You’ll need enough space to move around the vehicle without putting yourself at risk of getting hit by passing drivers.
Once you are safely parked, set your parking brake and turn on your emergency flashers so other drivers know to take caution as they drive past. We recommend placing reflective warning signs a few feet behind your car if you have any. But if you don’t feel comfortable for any reason, contact AAA for help.
2. Check your owner’s manual if you’re not sure where to start.
Your owner’s manual will tell you where to find your spare tire and tools if you don’t already know this information. Depending on the type of car you own, your spare could be mounted on the tailgate, under the cargo area or inside the trunk. Your tools will likely be stored in a compartment underneath the trunk floor.
The manual will also show you where the jack points are for your car. These are spots designed to properly hold the jack and safely raise your car to change a tire.
3. Get access to your flat tire’s lug nuts to loosen them.
Your lug nuts are either exposed and easy to get to, have caps on them that need to be removed or your tire has a hubcap covering them. To remove these caps or your tire’s hubcap, you’ll need a wrench. Oftentimes car jacks have a built-in lug wrench you can use, or you may find a useable screwdriver in your car’s toolkit.
Lug nuts are hexagonal or round in shape and will be located just below the hubcap. Once you have access to them, you’ll loosen them—do not remove them yet. Place your wrench on each nut and apply pressure counterclockwise. You’ll only need to loosen them about ¼ to ½ of a turn.
4. Use your jack to lift your flat tire off the ground.
Position the jack at one of the jack points along your vehicle’s frame your owner’s manual identified. Refer to your manual for exact placement details. Then, turn the jack’s handle clockwise by hand until your flat tire is several inches off the ground. Once you have enough room, place the jack’s handle under your car to hold it in place.
NEVER put any body part under your car during this step. You don’t want to get crushed if something slips.
5. Unscrew the lug nuts and remove your flat tire.
Remove the lug nuts you loosened with your lug wrench. Make sure to place them in a safe spot where you won’t lose them. Then, carefully remove the flat tire from under your car. Lay it on its side away from the road and your working space for the time being.
6. Mount your spare tire.
Slide the spare into place by lining up the holes with the bolts. Once you’ve placed it, put the lug nuts back onto the bolts and tighten them clockwise with your lug wrench. We recommend hand-tightening the lug nuts, too, to ensure that they’re tight enough.
If you’re worried the lug nuts are still loose, use the jack to lower the spare tire until it lightly touches the ground—without the full weight of the car resting on it. Now you have more leverage to put your weight into tightening the lug nuts.
7. Lower the car completely and remove the jack.
Turn the jack counterclockwise to lower your car completely so the full weight is now resting on your spare tire. Only remove the jack when the tire is securely on the ground. Now, feel free to use the lug wrench one last time to tighten your lug nuts. You’ll want the spare to be as secure as possible before you start driving with it.
8. Store your equipment and flat tire.
Place your jack, lug wrench, removed hubcap and flat tire back in the trunk of your car. Congratulations, you’ve changed a tire by yourself!
Need New Tires?
Remember, a spare tire is only a temporary fix. Most manufacturers recommend you stay under 50 MPH and drive no more than 50 miles with a spare. You’ll need a replacement very soon to continue driving safely.
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