A flat tire is one of the biggest inconveniences you can experience on the road. If you don't have your cell phone handy to call a tow truck or aren't up for waiting, here's what to do.

STEP 1: find a safe spot

You cannot choose where you tire will flatten. You may be driving down a crowded city street, you may be speeding down a four-lane freeway, or you may be out for a leisurely trip on a backcountry road.

As soon as you realize that your tire is flat, you need to move to the side as quickly and safely as possible. On the freeway, you may need to get to the next exit or pull across the shoulder to get out of the way of fast-moving vehicles. Remember to check that you and your car are not hidden on a curve or behind a large sign that could prevent oncoming traffic from seeing you.

Choose a spot that is as flat as possible so that you can effectively use the jack to lift the car. Remember to set your parking brake, and if you have a manual transmission, leave the car in gear before beginning to change the tire.


STEP 2: warn other drivers

Changing a tire on a busy road or on the freeway is very dangerous, so one of the best things you can do is place a reflective triangle to warn other drivers that you have a disabled vehicle that is stationary on the side.

While placing one of these warning indicators is a great start to providing a safe area for your tire change, keep in mind that oncoming traffic, especially heavy trucks, create enough suction to pull you away from your vehicle if you get too close. Always leave a proper distance between yourself and the rest of the road.


STEP 3: loosen the lug nuts

Use the lug wrench to begin detaching the flat tire. The pry bar end can be used to help lift and remove the hubcap and gain access to the lug nuts themselves. Some vehicles require a manufacturer’s adapter to remove the nuts from the tire.

Place a floor mat from the car’s interior on the ground to more comfortably kneel next to the flat tire, and use the wrench to turn the lug nuts counter-clockwise until they are loose enough to remove.


STEP 4: jack up the vehicle

It is a good idea to begin by blocking the tire opposite from the one that you are replacing; this will help prevent the vehicle from moving while you are working on it. Once this has been done, you will need to read your owner’s manual to understand the correct location for the placement of the jack on your particular vehicle.

When the jack is securely in the proper place, pump the jack until the vehicle is about six inches off the ground so there is enough room to swap tires. 



STEP 5: remove the lug nuts and the flat tire

When the jack has lifted the car securely, use the lug wrench to completely remove the lug nuts. Keep these nuts (preferably inside the hub cap) nearby so that they will be easily put back in place when you change the tire.


STEP 6: install the spare

After all the lug nuts are off, the flat tire can be removed, and the spare tire can be installed. You will most likely find the spare in the trunk, on the back door of an SUV or even under the back end of the vehicle.

Place the new tire on the nuts by carefully positioning it over the wheel studs. A simple method for doing this is to use your foot to balance the tire while you maneuver the spare into the right location.


STEP 7: replace lug nuts

Begin replacing the lug nuts by hand-screwing them back into place, turning them until you physically cannot make them any tighter. Do not use the wrench while the car is lifted; over-tightening can rotate and damage the tire before it is back on the ground.


STEP 8: lower the car

Carefully lower the jack until the vehicle is back on the ground, and then remove the jack. This is the time to use the wrench to completely tighten the lug nuts; however, this tightening must be done in the order that is specified in your owner’s manual. Once this is complete, your spare tire is ready for travel, and you can pack your tools and the flat tire into your vehicle.



important tips for driving on a spare tire

A spare tire is not the same as an everyday one. It is a temporary solution to help you get home or to a place that can help you. Most spare tires should not be driven any faster than 50 miles per hour, although the exact speed is usually printed on the tire. Never exceed the specified limit.

The spare tire is also not intended to be a long-term solution; it will begin to fall apart at high speeds and mileages, especially if it is a compact spare tire. Get a full-size replacement tire as soon as possible.


 Article by: Alex Jefferson / Image courtesy of robmba on Flickr / CC BY 2.0.