Written by K. Thor Jensen in Automotive
Viewed by 5 readers since 07-13-2009
There’s no feeling that panics a driver more than a tire going flat. When you lose one of your wheels, your vehicle can spin out of control suddenly and dangerously. Even if you manage to get your vehicle to come to a stop safely, you’re still essentially paralyzed unless you can get the tire changed. And in these hard economic times, finding the cash to pay a mechanic to swap out your tire can be a difficult proposition. Thankfully, changing a tire on your car is an operation that a prepared motorist can handle themselves, given the proper tools and preparation. In this article, I’m going to give you a simple step-by-step process in changing a flat tire safely and with the minimum amount of fuss.
“Be prepared” is the Boy Scout motto, and that applies for changing a tire as well. Before you drive your car, you should make sure that you are carrying a jack, a tire iron and a spare tire in your vehicle. Most cars keep the spare under the trunk, but some mount them on the back of the tailgate or under the vehicle. Check your spare on a regular basis to make sure that it is maintaining air pressure. You don’t want to blow out and find that your spare isn’t good either.
The first indication that your tire has gone flat will be a thumping noise coming from one of the four quadrants of your car. It will also be accompanied with a decrease in steering responsiveness. At any of these signs, pull off the road into the breakdown lane as soon as it is safe to do so. Make sure you are parked on a flat surface, turn off your engine and make sure your car is in park and the emergency brake is engaged.
Use your tire iron to loosen – not remove – each of the lugs on the wheel. It is very important that you loosen them before using the jack to raise the car off of the ground. You want to minimize the length of time the car is elevated as much as you possibly can, as that is the most dangerous part of the procedure. By loosening the lugs, you greatly decrease that time. Once they are loosened, move the jack underneath the car to the nearest jacking point specified in the car’s owner’s manual. Do not position a jack anywhere but a designated jacking point – the structure of the car may not be able to support the lift.
Raise the car with the jack until the flat tire is completely off the ground. Once in position, complete the removal of the wheel lugs and set them in a safe place. Remove the old tire and place the new one over the wheel studs. Make sure it is sitting flush against the brake hub and re-insert the lugs, tightening them by hand until you can’t do so any more. Once it’s on and fitting evenly around the wheel, lower the jack to its starting position and remove it from under the car.
Finally, take your tire iron and tighten the lugs as well as you can. Place the old tire in the spare’s compartment, clean up your tools and head to the nearest service station – spare tires are not intended for full-time replacement usage. Pay attention to the top speed indicate on the spare’s sidewall and drive carefully until you can have a new tire installed by a mechanic.