By the Numbers

How to Change a Flat Tire

Roadside repair

It’s one of those things you hope not to have to do, but you never know when you might have to change a tire. Maybe you drive over a nail in a parking lot, hit some debris in the road or fall victim to a pothole – if you are on the road long enough, it is likely that you might find on the side of the road with a flat tire.

While it is true that you can call AAA or a tow truck for help, who knows where you’ll be when a flat tire occurs. You may not have cellphone service or too far away from the nearest tow truck. Knowing how to change a tire is a basic skill that every driver should know how to do.

Being prepared

First, check your vehicle for a spare tire. In recent years, many car companies have eliminated the spare tire and jack from their models. Take a few minutes to look for the spare tire; don’t wait until you’re on the side of the road to find out that you don’t have one. If your vehicle didn’t come equipped with a spare, consider purchasing a tire, jack and lug wrench for your vehicle.

Instead of a spare tire, some vehicles come with a repair/inflator kit, while some luxury vehicles are outfitted with run-flat tires that are designed to work for a certain number of miles after being punctured. Both these options have pros and cons. For instance, a repair kit may not be much help for a sidewall puncture. Explore your options and pick the one that you feel most comfortable using in a roadside emergency situation.

What you’ll need

Be sure that you have the following in your vehicle:

Basic RGB


Pull over to a safe spot


First you need to navigate your vehicle to a safe place to complete the repair. If possible, park your car away from traffic – a parking lot is an ideal spot. If you have to be on the road, pull as far over on the shoulder as you can. Turn on your hazard lights and set up your road flares or triangle reflectors.

Engage the parking brake


Apply the parking brake to reduce the chances of your car rolling away.

Gather tools


Locate everything you need and put them near the tire you’re changing.

Stabilize the vehicle


Secure your vehicle in preparation for raising it up by placing wheel chocks or blocks of wood behind the wheels on the opposite side of the flat. Large rocks work in a pinch. 

Take off the hubcap


If you have a hubcap or wheel cover, remove it. You can pry it off with the flat end of the lug wrench or use a screwdriver to remove it. Skip this step if your lug nuts are exposed.

Loosen the lug nuts

Loosen the lug nuts by turning the lug wrench counter clockwise. Don’t remove the lug nuts; you’re just getting them loose enough to remove them after you raise the vehicle.

Place the jack


Check your owner’s manual for the best spot to place the jack. Typically the best place is under the frame near the tire you’re changing. Be sure that the jack makes contact with the metal part of the frame. On many cars, you’ll find a mark on the frame indicating where the jack should be placed.

Raise the vehicle


Using the jack, raise the vehicle so the tire is about 6" off the ground. When lifting the car, if you sense any instability, lower the vehicle and move the jack to a more stable position.

Remove the lug nuts


Unscrew the lug nuts by hand and set them aside in a safe place. You’ll need these in a few minutes to secure the spare tire.

Take the tire off


Grab the tire with both hands and pull it toward you. Set the flat tire safely aside.

Position the spare tire


Align the spare tire on the lug bolts. Push it in place.

Screw the lug nuts


Grab the lug nuts and put them back on. Tighten them by hand as much as you can.

Lower the vehicle


Carefully lower your car to the ground, but don’t put the full weight on the tire. Using the lug wrench, tighten the lug nuts as much as possible.

Finish lowering the car


Complete the process of lowering your vehicle. Remove the jack and wheel chocks. Tighten the lug nuts one last time.

Put hubcap on


If the hubcap fits the spare, put it on. If not, put it in a safe place in your vehicle.

Check tire pressure


Take a moment to ensure that the tire pressure in the spare tire is up to spec.


Put tools away


Safely stow the jack, lug wrench, flat tire and any other tools you used.

Final thoughts

Your spare tire isn’t meant for long-term use, so your next stop should be the tire shop. The professionals will determine if your flat can be fixed or if it’s time for a new tire.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Spend some time practicing changing a tire in the safety of your driveway. This ensures that you’ll be ready when it counts.

Learn more about quality auto parts, find your car part, or find a local car repair shop today.

The content contained in this article is for entertainment and informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.