We all know the classic image of a damsel in distress, but let’s face it — you’re just not that kind of chick. Rather than rely on someone else to help you with the most basic car task, you can learn to do it yourself, cutting down on time and embarrassment and maybe even saving money.
How to change
a flat tire
Identify the problem
Is your tire flat or just low on air? If your car is a 2007 model or newer, odds are you have an internal tire pressure–monitoring system (TPMS) that will tell you if tire pressure is low, says Mark Allen, owner of Virginia Auto Service in Phoenix, Arizona, and host of Bumper to Bumper Radio, a car show on the city’s news station, 92.3 KTAR. Pull over to a safe area and visually inspect the tire. If the tire is low, add air using this step-by-step tutorial. If the tire is punctured or otherwise flat, move on to step 2.
Make sure your car is on a flat surface away from traffic. Put an automatic transmission in park, or put a manual transmission in reverse and set the parking brake, Allen advises. Then, put a large, heavy object like a rock behind the right rear tire to increase stability and prevent rolling.
Locate the spare and jack
If you don’t already know it, the location of your spare tire and jack should be in your car’s owner’s manual.
“In most cases, you will find the spare tire and necessary tools underneath the mat in the trunk. However, if you drive a truck, [a] minivan or an SUV, the spare tire may be mounted underneath the vehicle,” Allen says.
Jack it up
Double-check your owner’s manual to ensure the jack is placed in the correct position on your car to prevent damage. Then jack the car up, “keeping pressure on the ground but not lifting the car up completely,” Allen says.
Start the removal process
Remove any hubcaps or center covers to access the lug nuts. With a tire wrench, loosen the lug nuts by turning them counterclockwise.
“If the bolts are too tight, you can try standing on the wrench for more power. Don’t remove the bolts — just loosen them about one-half of a turn,” Allen says.
Then, making sure the jack is stable, jack up the car enough to easily slip off the tire. Once you’re sure the jack is stable, remove the lug nuts and tire and set them in a secure spot out of the way.
Add the spare
Put the spare tire on the wheel. Then place the lug nuts in the appropriate position and tighten them with your tire wrench, turning clockwise. Make sure the lug nuts are tight but do not use excessive force. Too much force can knock your car off the jack. Once the lug nuts are in place, lower the car to the ground. Remove the jack and tighten all the lug nuts again in a star pattern. Now you can stand on the wrench to get a tighter fit. You’re done!
Don’t forget your manual, tire and tools so repairs can be made easily at the shop.