Changing a flat tire

How to change a tire

Changing a flat tire is an easy skill to learn, one that can help you out in a jam. After reading this short article, you won’t have to rely on roadside assistance to help you out. In just a few minutes, you’ll know the simple steps it takes to change a flat tire.

How to change a flat tire, step-by-step

Step 1: Make sure you’re in a safe area away from traffic 
Before you get to work changing your flat tire, you need to ensure you’re in a safe place. Get as far away from traffic as possible. A place that’s flat is definitely best, if available. Make sure your vehicle is in park if you have an automatic transmission. If you have a manual transmission, put your vehicle in first gear on level ground or heading uphill. Put your vehicle in reverse if you’re heading downhill.

Step 2: If you have steel wheels, remove the wheel cover 

Much like a can of paint, you can pop the wheel cover off with a flathead screwdriver. Some vehicles come equipped with a pry bar/socket combination tool.

Step 3: Grab your spare tire, secure your vehicle and loosen the wheel nuts 

Before you raise your vehicle, you need to make sure it’s secure. If you have an automatic transmission, put it in park, apply the parking brake and turn off the engine. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, apply the parking brake and turn off the engine after putting the vehicle in the appropriate gear for your conditions: first gear if the vehicle is level or heading uphill; reverse if the vehicle is heading downhill. After that, block your wheels at the opposite end from the flat tire, using bricks, rocks or wood. All of these steps will help to prevent your vehicle from rolling — very important. Next, grab your lug wrench. It’s the cross-shaped or L-shaped tool you see on TV or in the movies when someone is changing a flat. Use the lug wrench to loosen the wheel nuts, employing the “lefty-loosey, righty-tighty” method to turn the wrench counterclockwise. Just loosen the nuts at this point — don’t remove them. You’ll do that in Step 5.

Note: if you have wheel locks, you’ll need to find the lug key that goes with your aftermarket fasteners.

Step 4: Jack up your vehicle 

Be sure to place the jack in the location recommended in your vehicle owner’s manual. If you have a hydraulic jack, insert the handle and get ready to pump up and down. Bring it all the way down and repeat, making it easier on yourself by letting the jack do all the work. If you have a scissor jack, take the wrench or rod, insert it and crank it clockwise to lift the vehicle.

Step 5: Remove your flat tire 

Finish taking the loosened wheel nuts off by hand. Then, using both hands, take the tire by its sides and pull it toward you. It should slide along the lug bolts as you pull it off your vehicle. Roll the tire to the back of your vehicle.

Step 6: Lift your spare onto the lug bolts and replace the wheel nuts 

This is where it can get a little tricky because, well, tires are heavy. It might take a couple of tries to lift the spare into place on the lug bolts. Make sure to replace all wheel nuts and snug the nuts before lowering your vehicle. Use a star pattern when tightening the nuts to ensure the wheel is centered. Once in place, use your wrench to secure the wheel nuts, without fully tightening them. You’ll do the serious tightening in a second.

Step 7: Lower your vehicle and tighten the wheel nuts 

Follow the instructions for your particular style of jack to safely lower your vehicle to the ground. If you have a hydraulic jack, slowly loosen the release valve (“lefty-loosey”) to lower your vehicle. If you have a scissor jack, turn your wrench or rod counterclockwise to lower the vehicle. When your vehicle is on the ground, use the lug wrench to tighten the wheel nuts. Refer to your owner’s manual to find the proper tightness.

Step 8: Put your wheel cover back on if you have steel wheels and wheel covers 

With your hands, tap your wheel cover back into place. It’s best to avoid using a wrench, hammer or something heavy to do this step. You could dent or break your wheel cover

Step 9: Finish up 

You did it! All that’s left is to secure the flat tire in the trunk of your vehicle and head to the nearest Cooper Tire dealer. They’ll be able to inspect the flat to see if it can be repaired. Find a Cooper Tire dealer near you.