There are few things more distressing than to hear the thump thump of a flat tire, especially since it only seems to happen when you are in a hurry to make an appointment or pick up someone. At one time changing a flat tire was so routine that everyone knew how to do it. As tire technology has grown tires wear longer and are more resistant to puncture and blow out so the need to change a flat is almost unknown. Yet there are still those times when it is a necessary skill to have. Changing a tire is not difficult in most cases but there are some precautions to observe to prevent injury.
- Pull your vehicle off the road as far as possible to a safe location. If you are on an interstate or freeway, try to pull off on an off ramp, public transportation park-n-ride area, or rest area. If none of these are available, pull off the shoulder as far as possible.
- If you are still on the highway, put out road flares to warn oncoming traffic. You can also set out fluorescent warning triangles and/or red flags.
Changing a flat tire
- Once your warning devices are properly placed, you need to find the jack, which, depending on your vehicle, may be under one of the seats, behind the front seat, in the trunk, fastened to the underside of the hood, or missing.
- Remove your spare tire from the vehicle. Some are underneath the vehicle at the rear and some are beneath the bottom of the trunk.
- Place your jack on level ground under the vehicle at the jacking location as described in the owner’s manual. If that is unavailable, place your jack under the axle or support arm inboard of the flat tire.
- Remove the wheel trim, hubcap, and/or lugnut caps.
- Using the jack handle or a lug wrench, loosen the lugnuts but do not remove them.
- Now, jack up the car carefully until the flat tire clears the ground.
- Remove the lugnuts and place them on the ground near the flat tire location.
- Pull the flat tire clear of the wheel hub.
- Pick up the spare tire and install it over the lug bolts on the wheel hub.
- While holding the spare tire in position with one hand, start a lugnut on a bolt with the other.
- Now, start all the other lugnuts and screw them down finger tight.
- Lower the jack until the spare tire rests firmly on the ground.
- With the jack still in position, tighten all the lugnuts with the lug wrench.
- Lower the jack all the way and put it back where it belongs.
- Install the wheel trim, hubcap, and/or lugnut caps.
If you cannot place your jack on a level piece of ground, drive somewhere that you can or find some pieces of wood that you can shim the jack level with.
If possible, lubricate the lugbolts with oil or grease before putting the lugnuts back on.
Many vehicles today have a nominal spare tire that is only suitable for driving a short distance at slow speeds to get you to a service facility where you can get a new tire or your flat fixed. Do not use this spare for driving at highway speeds or for going a long distance.
Ideally, you should also carry a vehicle stand to support your vehicle after jacking it up to prevent it from falling off the jack and causing injury.
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