Everyone who drives a car should know how to change a tire. Unfortunately, most drivers don't. When people are asked if they could change a flat tire, they often say, they'll figure it out. Or just pay someone to do it. The problem with that is many drivers will find themselves stranded with a flat tire sooner than later and there's a very good chance there won't be anyone available to do it, even if they'll get paid. Find out what you need to know about changing your tire.
Can I just jack up the car to unscrew the nuts and remove the tire?
No. That is a difficult and dangerous way to remove a tire. Loosen the lug nuts while the car is still on the ground. Place the lug wrench on the nut with the handle pointing to the left or straight up. Push or pull the wrench counter-clockwise to loosen the nut one turn. If you don't have enough arm strength to loosen the nut, position the wrench with the handle pointing to the left and carefully push down on it with your foot. Loosen each nut one turn.
Where should I put the jack when I have to jack up my car?
Cars have a special space or slot for the jack. If you feel with your hand along the rocker panel below the door or side of the car, you may feel a flatter or slightly indented section. That is the jack slot. The location of each jack slot is listed in your owner's manual.
How do I jack up my car with a car jack?
The two types of jacks that commonly come with a car are scissor jacks and hydraulic jacks. If your car has a scissor jack, it will come with a crank rod that slides through the center of the jack. Insert the long, straight end of the rod through the center of the jack, slide the jack under the car in the appropriate spot then turn the crank to raise the jack. If your car has a hydraulic jack, it will have a rod handle that is used to raise the jack. Slide the jack under the car in the proper place then pump the rod handle up and down to raise the jack. Drive the car to a flat section of road before changing the tire. Put the emergency brake on and wedge a brick or piece of wood behind the rear tire before you jack the car up to keep it from rolling back.
Do I have to take the lug nuts off my car wheel before I jack it up to change the tire?
Loosen the lug nuts one turn before jacking up your car. After the car is jacked up about 6 inches, finish unscrewing the lug nuts. Place them in your pocket or a small container, if you have one with you, so they won't get lost or kicked into the brush along the side of the road.
Where are the lug nuts located on my car tire?
The lug nuts are located on the metal rims or wheel of the car. If they aren't readily visible, your car probably has hubcaps. Just place the head of a flat-head screwdriver in the groove around the edge and twist the screwdriver to pop the hubcap off. After you change your tire, hold the hubcap in place with one hand and firmly hit the edges with the heel of your other hand to pop it back in place.
How do I get the flat tire off my car to put the spare tire on?
After you jack the car up, finish removing the lug nuts by hand. Always loosen them one turn while the tires are firmly on the ground. Set the lug nuts aside. Place one hand on either side of the tire and hold it firmly while pulling the tire toward your chest. Pull it straight off the lug bolts. Wear heavy work gloves to remove flat tires if you have a pair with you. If not, carefully feel the tire with your hand before you grab it. There may be broken wires sticking out of the tire. Roll the flat tire to the rear of the car so that it is off the road and out of the way.
Do I have to clean the wheel bolts before I put a spare tire on?
No, there's no need to prepare the lug bolts before putting the spare tire on. Roll or carry the spare tire to the side of the car. Some cars have actual tires for spares, but many of the newer cars just have a small donut tire that is only designed to last for 50 to 70 miles. Roll the tire into place, squat down, place a hand on either side toward the bottom of the tire then lift it up. Line the holes up with the lug bolts and slide the new tire onto the bolts.
Do I have to tighten the nuts all the way before I lower the car when I change my tire?
No, you won't be able to safely tighten the nuts all the way if it isn't on the ground. Screw the nuts onto the lug bolts as far as you can by hand then lower the car. After it is firmly on the ground, use the lug wrench to tighten the nuts fully.