June 22nd, 2020 by Fix Auto USA
It’s not a question of if but when you will get a flat tire. And yes, while you could use your cell phone in the case of a roadside emergency, what will you do if you are out of range or forgot to charge it?
The better option is to learn how to change a flat tire now. It will save you not only time and money but also a big headache down the road.
This blog will answer the most frequently asked questions on this topic, including how far can you drive with a flat tire, how long does it take to change a tire, and how to change a flat tire?
How far can you drive with a flat tire? Ideally, you shouldn’t drive any distance with a flat tire. If you have to drive with a flat tire, you should not go more than a few hundred yards, or you risk damaging your wheel.
How long does it take to change a flat tire? The good news is that changing a flat tire is not that difficult. But there are two must-haves. The first is ensuring you have the right tools in your car in the event of a roadside flat, and the second is making sure you are aware of the critical steps that are involved. It might take a little practice at first, but once you get it down, it shouldn’t take more than 15 to 30 minutes.
Tools and Equipment
The essential tools you need to change a tire should have come with your car when you bought it, including:
- A portable jack
- Lug wrench
- Fully inflated spare tire
- Vehicle owner’s manual
Check your trunk for these items, and if you can’t find them, purchase them as soon as possible.
Most cars have a spare tire well underneath the carpet of the trunk. You will also find that some vehicles mount the spare tire directly under the body in the rear or visibly on the rear hatch. Ensure that your spare has good tread and is fully inflated before you hit the road.
Also, these items listed below are also recommended to have in your vehicle:
- A pair of work gloves
- A tire pressure gauge
- An air compressor
Now let’s review the 13 steps in our comprehensive guide to changing a flat tire.
1. Find a safe location, apply your brakes, and turn on hazard lights
Once you realize you have a flat tire, gradually decrease your speed and look for a safe place to park your car. Seek a flat and wide space if possible and avoid narrow shoulders.
After turning off your engine, apply your parking brake to keep your car from rolling. Turn on your hazard lights to ensure other drivers can see you.
2. Install wheel wedges
Installing wheel wedges is another precaution to ensure your car doesn’t roll when you’re changing the flat tire. You can also use a chunk of wood or a rock, as long as they’re big enough. If the flat is on a rear tire, place the wedge in front of the front tires. If your front tire is flat, place the wheel wedge behind the rear tires.
3. Take off the hubcap
You need to get to the lug nuts, but the hubcap is in your way. Usually, you can take off the hubcap with the flat end of your lug wrench. Review your owner’s manual for the correct way to remove the hubcap for your vehicle.
4. Loosen the lug nuts
Before jacking up the car, use the wrench to loosen the lug nuts. The general rule is to turn them to the left, or counter-clockwise, to loosen them and to the right, or clockwise, to tighten them. This will give you a bit of a workout; use your foot and body weight to exert leverage. At this point you just want to loosen them, so be sure not to remove the lug nuts until you’re ready to take off your tire.
5. Put the jack under the car and raise the car
Start by identifying the jacking points, which are beneath the frame by the tire. Secure the jack and then raise your car until the flat tire is around six inches above the ground. During this process, be sure to avoid placing your body under the vehicle. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions on changing a flat tire.
6. Remove the lug nuts
Remember, you already partially unscrewed them. Now it is time to remove the lug nuts altogether; since they have already been loosened, you should be able to do this by hand.
7. Take off the flat tire
To remove the flat tire, hold it by the treads, and carefully pull it out of the hub.
8. Install the spare tire over the lug bolts
Mount the spare tire on the hub by lining up the rim with the lug bolts. As you place the spare on the hub, you should see the lug bolts through the rim of the tire.
9. Put the lug nuts back on the lug bolts
After putting the lug nuts back on the lug bolts, use your hand to turn each one to the right to tighten them. Don’t worry about using the wrench at this point.
10. Lower your car
Use the jack to lower your car to just above the ground, but do not remove the jack yet. Now grab the wrench and use your full weight to tighten each lug nut, turning clockwise, to the right. Then, lower the car all the way to the ground and remove the jack. Take the wrench and tighten the lug nuts a final time to make sure they’re as tight as possible.
11. Reinstall the hubcap
Now it is time to replace the hubcap, assuming the hubcap fits the spare. If not, put it in the back with your flat tire.
12. Check the air pressure
If you find that your spare tire is underinflated, before you do anything else, drive slowly and safely to a service station.
It doesn’t do much good to have a spare tire that is underinflated. Part of maintaining your car is to periodically check your spare tire to make sure that, in the event you get a flat, it is in safe driving condition
13. Clean up
After changing a flat tire, assemble all your equipment and tools – the jack, wheel wedges, your lug wrench, the flat tire, and anything else – and place them in your car before driving away.
What should you do once you’ve changed your flat tire? Remember, temporary tires are not intended to drive at high speeds or long distances, so exercise caution and get to an auto shop as soon as possible. A professional can then assess whether your tire can be repaired or requires replacement.
As you can see from our step-by-step guide, learning how to change a flat tire is straightforward, but it does require a decent amount of physical labor. If you have never done it before, it is worth practicing in your driveway a couple of times. In the event you do get a flat, you are prepared.
How long does it take to change a tire? We said earlier that, after some practice, you should be able to do it in 15 to 30 minutes. But speed should not be your overriding concern; instead, do it properly and safely.
That said, wouldn’t it be better to avoid the flat tire scenario altogether? That is a function of routine tire maintenance, which can extend the life of your tires and significantly reduce the likelihood of getting a flat tire.
Monitor your tires for excessive wear and be proactive about rotating them. Keep all of your tires, including your spare, properly inflated based on your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended PSI. Check your tires’ air pressure once a month and before leaving on a long trip.
Be careful out there!
This blog post was contributed by Fix Auto Palo Alto a leading industry expert and collision repair shop servicing all communities in the greater Palo Alto area from Redwood City to the north, to Mountain View and Los Altos to the South, as well as Portola Valley, and Woodside.