No matter how carefully you drive, youíll have to deal with the hassle of a flat tire sooner or later. Hereís how to properly change one.
The valuable techniques listed below are demonstrated on a clapped-out hooptie, but theyíre just as applicable to newer, nicer vehicles that sane people drive. Hopefully, you gain something from this step-by-step guide, even if itís just a new-found appreciation for rust and corrosion.
1. Be Prepared
Itís always a good idea to be prepared, whether itís keeping a first-aid kit in your vehicle or boots, a blanket and shovel on hand in winter months. A small amount of planning can mean the difference between reaching your destination and calling for an expensive tow, or worse.
Along with those items, itís also smart to keep a few basic tools in your trunk and an eye on your vehicleís spare tire. If applicable, check it periodically to make sure it has the appropriate air pressure and isnít flat, though this doesnít apply to all of cars. In a bid to cut weight, many modern vehicles lack temporary spares. Instead, they come with inflation kits or even run-flat tires.
The same is true for the rest of your rideís rubber. Keep an eye on all of its tires and try to check the pressure once a month, as they will naturally lose air over time. And of course, check them immediately if the tire-pressure warning light illuminates.
2. Find a Safe Place to Stop
But letís say one of your carís steel-belted radials has picked up a nasty piece of shrapnel and can no longer support itself. As soon as you feel the vehicle start to vibrate, shake, or slide around in its lane of travel, prime indicators that something is awry, pull over in a safe spot as soon as possible. Driving on a flat tire is not only uncomfortable and dangerous, but it can also destroy an otherwise repairable tire and even damage the rim, which could cost big bucks to replace.
When you do stop, itís best to find a parking lot or similar open area, but if thatís not an option, make sure to pull as far over as you can to lessen the likelihood of getting struck by other traffic. Also, itís smart to avoid steep hills, blind corners and busy interstates if possible.
3. Unpack and Undo
With your vehicle safely parked, you now need to unpack your jack and spare. If youíre prepared (see point No. 1 above), youíll already be familiar with the location of your vehicleís backup tire and the operation of its jack.
With the necessary hardware at hand, now is the time to remove any hubcap or wheel trim thatís blocking access to the lug nuts, though this does not apply to every vehicle out there.
Next, you want to break each lug nut loose BEFORE jacking. This puts the car or truckís weight to good use, preventing the wheel from spinning as you loosen things. Keep in mind, you donít want to completely remove the nuts, just loosen them so they come off easily once the vehicle is jacked up. Lastly, itís righty tighty, lefty loosey.
4. Lift 'er Up
With the lug nuts free, itís now time to lift the vehicle. But where does the jack go? Well, if youíre prepared (again, see point No. 1) youíll have already skimmed through your vehicleís ownerís manual to find out where the manufacturer recommends lifting from. But if you havenít done this all is not lost.
Generally, jacking from the welded seam running along the bottom of the rocker panels is perfectly fine, though many vehicles will have special jacking locations. If you drive a truck you can even use the frame, which is a rock solid spot. Control arms and axles are OK in a pinch, but itís smarter to use approved locations.
Wherever you decide to jack (get your mind out of the gutter), make sure itís in a sturdy place, both for safety and to avoid damaging any plastic trim that may be dressing up the lower portions of your vehicle.
While jacking your car or truck, make sure to lift it high enough that the wheel comes off the ground with plenty of clearance. If your vehicle has a full-size spare, the inflated tire will be larger in diameter than the flat one you just removed, meaning you have to lift it a bit higher to provide enough space.
Not that you should need to, but NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE crawl underneath the vehicle when itís only supported by a jack, especially a temporary one. They can slip, collapse or sink into the ground, all of which could crush you under tons of automobile ...