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With AAA and other emergency roadside services, it may feel unnecessary to know how to change your own tire. But especially on road trips, knowing how to change a flat can save you hours of waiting and worry. Here is your guide to changing a tire, from blowout to back on the road.

Graphics of jack, lug wrench, spare tire, and owner's manual.
To change a flat tire, you’ll need a jack, lug wrench, a spare tire, and your owner’s manual.

Items you’ll need

  •                 Jack
  •                 Lug wrench
  •                 Spare tire
  •                 Vehicles owners manual

(Your vehicle should already come with these items check your trunk for them before you go out and buy anything.)

Stop the car

When you realize your tire is flat, do not abruptly brake or make sharp turns. Instead, slow your vehicle and try to pull over to a safe location away from heavy traffic.

Try to find a flat space to park. Do not try to change your tire on an incline. The level ground keeps your car from rolling while you change your tire.

Hazard lights and E-brake

A big red button in the middle of the dash.
Your hazard lights should be a prominent red button on the dash, with a white triangle in the middle.

Once you realize you have a flat, turn on your hazard lights. Especially if you’re in fast-moving traffic, four-ways let others know you’re not moving normal speed and they might need to slow down or go around you. Leave them on while you’re changing the tire if you’re parked near moving traffic.

When you park, apply your parking brake. This will minimize the risk of your car rolling away while you’re trying to change your tire.

Wheel Wedges

A rubber wedge set under a car tire.
Place a wedge or something heavy behind your wheels to keep your car from rolling while you change the tire.

Place a heavy object like a brick, wheel wedge or wheel chocks in the front of, or behind, the tires to further ensure the vehicle doesn’t roll while you fix the flat.

If you’re changing a rear tire, put these in front of the front tires. If you’re changing a front tire place them behind the rear tires.

Remove hubcap or wheel cover

If your vehicle has a hubcap covering the lug nuts, it will be easier to remove the hubcap before lifting the vehicle with a jack.

You can use a screwdriver to pry the hubcap off. Just insert the point of the tool where the edge of the cover meets the wheel and apply a little force. The hubcap should pop off.

This works for most cars, but if it does not for yours, refer to your owner’s manual for the specific tool you should be using. You can also take it off with your bare hands if you need to.

Loosen the lug nuts

A person in jeans and white work gloves works to loosen the lug nuts on a black vehicle.
Loosen the lug nuts using a lug wrench.

Using the lug wrench, find which measurement fits the lug nuts on your car. Once you’ve gotten the wrench onto a lug nut, use your weight to turn the wrench counter-clockwise.

Do not take the nut all the way off; you’ll want them just loose enough that you can take them off with your hands after you jack the tire.

Jack up the vehicle

A jack lifts up a silver car with a flat back tire.
Lift your car using a jack.

Place the jack securely under the car. The correct spot on each vehicle may vary, so consult your owner’s manual for the exact spot to place the jack.

Once you have the jack properly placed, pump the jack up and down. Your car should start to lift, giving you the opportunity to change the tire.

Removing the tire

Completely remove the lug nuts by hand and put them in a safe place. Grab each side of the tire and pull it straight toward you until it completely slides off. Place the tire on its side so it doesn’t roll away.

Placing the spare tire

A red car with a small donut spare tire on the back wheel-bed.
This is a donut spare. It’s usually small and not meant for high speeds; if you’re driving with a donut, take care to drive slowly and safely.

Pick up the new tire (it may be heavy), line it up with the rim and place it on the car. Grab the lug nuts and place each one back on, tighten them as much as you can by hand.

Lower your vehicle

Use the jack to lower the vehicle so that the spare tire is resting on the ground, but the full weight of the vehicle isn’t on the tire. Take the lug wrench and tighten all the lug nuts as much as you can going clockwise. Put all your body weight into tightening the nuts.

After all the lug nuts are as tight as possible you can remove the jack.

Replace the hubcap (optional)

If your spare tire is a full-sized tire (instead of a donut), you can go ahead and put the hubcap on. Put the hubcap in place the same way you removed it initially. If you have a donut spare, it probably won’t fit, or be worth messing with until you get your permanent tire.

Drive cautiously

Donut spare tires aren’t made to drive long distances, or at high speeds, so drive cautiously until you’re able to get a new tire replacement.

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Back to basics: How to change a flat tire
Back to basics: How to change a flat tire

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