Knowing how to change a flat tire is essential (Pt. 1)

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The driver's front side of a giant Army all-terrain delivery vehicle is elevated on a jack so that the huge mud tire can be changed.

Know how to change a flat tire? It will typically be much easier than this with your daily commuter. (Photo:

If you know how to change a flat tire, you’ve achieved one of the basic steps in automotive literacy and have my permission to pat yourself on the back for a moment. If you don’t know how to change a flat tire, however, there’s no time like the present to learn. Most us aren’t driving on run-flat or gel tires, so when a puncture occurs, one of our tires is going to go flat and make safe driving next to impossible. Take a few minutes to learn how to change a flat tire, and you’ll feel much more confident when you’re on the road.

How to change a flat tire: Be safe first

Let’s begin your crash course in learning how to change a flat tire. If you notice the flat while driving, put on your vehicle’s hazard blinkers and slowly work your way toward the outer shoulder of the road. Get your car off the road and into a safe position away from traffic. If you aren’t on an expressway, simply pull off the road, whether it’s into a parking lot or on a wide shoulder. If you are on an expressway, try to either exit as soon as you can safely do so or find a stretch with a wide shoulder. It is very important to park on ground that is paved and as flat as possible so the vehicle won’t be prone to shift radically during the procedure.

Once you’re reasonably certain you aren’t in physical danger of being struck by another vehicle (you’re far enough away from traffic), move on to “changing a tire” process outlined below.

Gathering the proper tools

You’ve already assembled a good car emergency kit ahead of time, right? Hopefully so, because you’re going to need:

  • A working jack
  • A full-sized spare tire mounted on a wheel that isn’t flat and has good air pressure
  • A tire iron
  • A can of WD-40 or similar spray lubricant
  • Wooden blocks to help secure the other tires (optional)
  • A towel to kneel on (if you’re headed for work and don’t want to mess up your nice pants)
  • Hand cleaner (again, if you’re dressed in your Sunday best)

First, find your spare tire. It may be in the trunk, mounted on the tailgate or actually under the car (forget about keeping your clothes clean in that case). Typically, you’ll need your tire iron wrench to remove the spare from its housing. Next, use your tire iron to pry off your tire’s hubcap if it doesn’t have its own locking and unlocking mechanism. Be patient here or you can crack the hubcap, particularly if it’s made of plastic and has sat in the sun for years. Work your way around the hubcap, prying a little at a time until it comes off.

NEXT, let’s deal with the nuts and bolts! And if you need an auto loan, click the button…


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