Do you know how to change your tires? Well unless you don't drive, you should know how to change a tire. Knowing how to change your tires is a vital skill, whether you actually end up changing your tires or not. You never know when a flat will happen and preparation is key.
Thankfully nowadays, if you have a newer model car, it will come with an indicator light that will alert you if your tire pressure is running low. But not everyone has a car with a tire pressure indicator light, and in rare cases even if your car is equipped with one, the air might be long gone from your tire by the time you notice it. Which is why it's important to know simple car fixes, one of them is being able to successfully change your tires.
I've been driving for ten years now. For much of those ten years, I didn't know a thing about cars. I just knew how to start, put it in drive, and go! And of course I knew how to gas it. But my father told me once that I should know more about cars. Something other than putting in gas and driving. He raised me and my siblings to be self-sufficient and to always be prepared.
So naturally, I was taught (forced) to watch him change tires to acquire the knowledge just in case. Today, if I had a flat in the middle of nowhere, I'd be able to change my tire, and you should too. While non-drivers can be excused, it wouldn’t hurt if you also knew how to change a tire as well. You never know when you can lend a helping hand.
Don't panic! First things first, you have to be prepared for the worst. It is important that your car has it’s spare tire and a car jack along with its tools. You also have to know where to locate them— it's usually stored inside your trunk, in the spare tire well. Some vehicles like SUV's for example, will have a spare stored in different locations, so refer to your owners manual on where to find it. Another good thing to have is a flashlight, as well as a roadside reflective warning triangle.
This is ideal if you ever have to change a tire in the evening because you want a flashlight to be able to see what you're doing, and a warning sign is good to alert other drivers of a breakdown ahead. Although optional, you also want a towel and gloves—because man, those screws are really dirty and oily. I've gotten my clothes dirty by just touching a tire, so you don't even want to imagine what your clothes and hands could look like after completing the process of changing a tire.
Another thing to note is that car jacks come in different styles. I've changed my tires three times, and I personally prefer a floor jack. A lot of cars come with a scissor jack which I'm not a big fan of. The floor jack is larger, more expensive, heavier, but covers more ground. Whereas the scissor jack is smaller and lighter, more compact, less expensive, and doesn't use as much space. You should decide which one will work best for you, but honestly having either is better than none at all. They both will get the job done.
Now that you’ve detected a flat you have to pull over to safety. Try not to panic, it's just a flat. Make sure your car is pulled over to the side of the road with your emergency lights (or hazard lights) on. Set your car into “park” and then turn your car off. For extra safety measures put on your emergency brake.
If you have a reflective roadside warning sign, now is the time to take it out and place it at least 10 feet behind your car. Having a reflective warning triangle on hand is great to alert other drivers to yield, especially if you're changing a tire on the side exposed to the road. But also refer to your states Department of Traffic regulations for proper placement of warning signs. You must be sure the road you're on is flat. Do not attempt to change your tires on a hilly road!
Loosen Lug Nuts
So your tire is flat, and it has to be changed. Most people start by making the lug nuts loose before jacking. Lug nuts are the screws that keep the tire connected to the wheel stud. In the trunk you should find the lug wrench or tire iron; both tools have fastening ends specifically shaped for lug nuts. With either tool, begin to loosen each of the five nuts.
Get the Tire Jack
Next step is to connect the jack to lift your car. It is very important you have a functioning jack, because you can't change your tires without one. Each car is different so you have to refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual to know where to locate the jacking points. Jacking points are metal-plated areas underneath your vehicle, specifically there to assist and facilitate jacking up your car. Once you can locate the jacking points, assemble the handle and turn it clockwise to secure it. Then begin to jack until the car raises about 6 inches off the ground. You want the tire completely off the ground so this gives you just enough space under so the tire can be removed with ease.
It should be noted that some people may jack the car first, then loosen and unscrew the nuts. I actually did it that way my first time. But it's best to loosen the nuts before jacking, because it's safer, and that way you have your car hoisted for a shorter time period.
Unscrew Lug Nuts
Now that the car is lifted, you can now finish loosening the lug nuts completely and carefully place them in a safe spot. Once they’re all unscrewed, you can remove the hubcap. If you have an L-shaped tire iron or lug wrench, use the claw end to remove the hubcap. If you don't have one of that shape, simply use your hands for removal or something with a pointed-end (like your key). With the tire no longer screwed to the wheel stud, the hubcap removed, you can now remove the tire and set it aside. The wheel hub should now be exposed, or in other words…the area where your tire should be is naked.
Install the Spare Tire
Get your spare tire from the spare well, and align it into the holes of all the wheel studs. If you have an SUV, your spare could either be found under the car, or on the back exterior of your vehicle. Once the spare is sitting evenly in the stud, begin screwing the lug nuts back one by one with the lug wrench. You don't have to tighten them until the car is lowered, and putting the hubcap back on is unnecessary.
Lower the Car
Now that the spare tire is in and the lug nuts are partly screwed, you can now lower the car with the jack. Slowly turn the jack handle counterclockwise and adjust it to lower the car safely back down to ground. Now after the car is down on the ground, you want to make sure the lug nuts are screwed on as tight as they can be. This assures your driving safety.
Congrats, You Know How to Change Your Tires
You're done! Put your damaged tire in your trunk or its designated place, and don't forget to take your hubcap, car jack, and other tools. Please note that unless your spare is a full-sized tire, keep your speed lower than 55mph. Most spares are not made for speed and are for temporary and short-distance use. When you get to the nearest tire shop the mechanic should let you know if your tire will need patching (mending a puncture damage), or if you need to purchase a new one. Once the repaired or new tire is installed, your spare should go back into your trunk for future use.
Unrelated to tire changing—but always keep your keys on you and don't leave them in the car. I locked myself out of my car whilst getting help changing my tire, adding on to things I had to worry about that day. So keep it with you at all times.
If you have to change your tires, you want to be ready and prepared for it. So being equipped with the knowledge to do so and having the necessary tools will have you set.
How do you change your tires? And what are some other must-haves items you recommend in preparation for changing tires? Share them with us!