Anyone can replace a flat tire. In fact, in some places, knowing how to do so is one of the requirements to get a driving licence. In this guide, we cover the four simple steps it takes to replace a flat tire, whether safe in your garage or stranded in the middle of nowhere.
You'll need a spare tire, a car jack, and a lug wrench, so make sure you always have these items in your car. Once you make it home, you might be able to seal your punctured tire.
Step 1 - Park The Car Strategically and Loosen The Tire
If you're driving when you realize you have a flat, pull slowly to a safe place on the side of the road as soon as you can, and engage the emergency brake. Ideally, try to park on an even, paved surface, out of the way of any other drivers. If you can't get away from potential traffic, use road flares or alert lights to warn any motorists who might come your way.
Put on some gloves if you have them, and place some wheel wedges (again, if you have them) next to the three non-flat tires, so the car doesn't move while you're working. If you're safe in your garage, you might want to wear a dust coat to protect your clothes from dirt or oil.
If you have a hubcap covering the lug nuts on your tire, remove it now—it should pop right off. Using the lug wrench, turn each nut counterclockwise until it's loose, but don't completely remove any of them yet (you don't want the tire to rotate or fall off on you while you're lifting the car with the jack).
Step 2 - Lift The Car With Your Jack and Remove The Flat Tire
You can't remove the tire while your car is still on the ground, so now you'll use your jack to lift the vehicle near this wheel.
If you have one, place a 2x6 piece of wood near the tire, then place the jack on top of this, lining it up beneath a solid part of the car's undercarriage. Crank the jack to lift your car up until the flat tire is four to six inches off the ground.
Now remove the lug nuts by hand and put them in a safe place. Slowly remove the flat tire until it's completely of the hub. Don't use too much force, just pull it gently towards you, then lay it on its side nearby.
Step 3 - Mount The Spare Tire and Attach Lightly
Lift the spare tire onto the lug bolts (if one side of the tire hub protrudes out, that's the side that should be facing you) and push gently until all the bolts show through their rim holes. This move is more about precision than force.
Once you have the spare tire in place, put the lug nuts back on the bolts. Use your hands to place and tighten them. That's enough pressure for now.
Step 4 - Lower The Car and Tighten The Tire
Once you have the spare tire set in place, crank the jack the other way to lower the car slowly until the tire is supporting the vehicle again. Now use the wrench to tighten the lug nuts by turning them clockwise. This time, make sure the nuts are very tight.
Once you're confident the tire is firmly affixed, remove the jack and pack up your wedges, wood, and tools. Put the flat tire wherever your spare tire was stowed—on some cars that means affixing it to the back door with more lug nuts. Make a final sweep to be sure you don't leave anything behind!