Project Guide

How to Change a Tire

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Find a Safe Spot
A car pulled over on the side of the road behind a safety marker.
  • Try to find the safest place you can to change a tire. Ideally, pull off to a quiet side street or a parking lot and park on a flat section of pavement.
  • If the tire blew out while driving, slowly reduce your speed, turn on your hazard lights and look for a safe spot to pull over away from traffic, such as the shoulder of an off ramp. If there is no exit nearby, locate a long straight section of highway and pull over in the emergency lane or on the shoulder of the road, as far away from traffic as you can.
  • If it is evening or late night, try to find a well-lit area and turn on the dome light inside your car.
  • Put the car in park and engage the parking brake to help keep the car from rolling.
  • Place wheel wedges against both wheels opposite the one that is flat.
  • Keep alert and aware of your surroundings when exiting your vehicle and during the entire process.

Raise the Car
A jack being used to raise a blue car.
  • Take off the wheel cover. 
  • With the wrench, loosen the lug nuts, but do not remove them.
  • Consult your owner's manual to find the proper placement for the jack and to operate it. Follow the instructions and place the jack under the vehicle frame next to the tire that is flat. Unless prohibited by the instructions, you can help stabilize the jack by placing a cut from a 2- x 6-inch piece of wood under it, then positioning it under the car.
  • Using the jack, raise the car until the flat tire has a clearance of six inches.

Safety: Do not place any part of your body under the car while you are changing the tire.

Remove the Tire
A man removing the lug nuts from the wheel of a car.
  • Remove the lug nuts from the wheel and place them all together in a safe place. The floor of the front seat or inside the door pocket are a good place to keep them while you work.
  • With both hands, take hold of the flat and pull it towards you until it slides off the hub. Set the flat tire aside.
Install the Spare Tire
A person installing a spare tire.
  • Line up the spare tire with wheel bolts and push it into place.
  • Replace each lug nut, turning by hand in a clockwise direction to tighten. Tighten the nuts in a star pattern - move to the next nut across, rather than one adjacent - to be sure the wheel mounts evenly.
  • Use the wrench for one turn if you need to be sure the tire is secure, but do not completely tighten all the bolts while the tire is in the air.
Lower the Car
A person using the jack to lower a car.
  • Lower the car with the jack so that the spare tire is just resting on the ground; the full weight of the car should not yet be on it. 
  • Use the wrench to completely tighten the lug nuts, following the same star pattern as before. Push down on the wrench with your full body weight to be sure the lug nuts are very tight.
  • Replace the wheel cover then lower the jack and remove it.
  • Check the tire pressure with a tire gauge. If needed, add air with a portable tire inflator, or if you do not have one, slowly drive to the nearest gas station.
Get Help
A car in air as the tire is repaired at a professional auto shop.

Once your spare is securely on your car, immediately drive to the nearest repair shop. 

Most spare tires in cars today are not full-size tires and should not be driven on for long distances or at high speeds. Get your tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible. Consult your vehicle manual for specific limits regarding your spare tire.

Roadside Assistance
A family waits while a service person performs roadside assistance.

Knowing how to change a tire is crucial and safety must always be a priority. In some instances, calling for emergency assistance makes more sense than changing your own tire. 

  • Personal safety:  Examine your environment before getting out of the car. If the area you are in doesn't feel safe, or you are unable to safely leave the car without walking into traffic, don't put yourself at unnecessary risk to change the tire.
  • Weather hazards: Harsh weather makes the job more difficult. Pouring rain, cascading snow, or even blazing heat might make conditions unsuitable. If your safety or health are at risk, consider calling a tow truck.
  • Road conditions: Consider the road conditions before you pull over. If traffic is heavy or fast, if the road is narrow, or you're unsure of the road, a professional service might be able to handle the work more easily.

Know Your Equipment

Periodically check your equipment to make sure you are prepared for an emergency. Be certain your spare is properly inflated and that your jack is in good condition. Make sure you have a flashlight that works and that any other safety equipment is good condition.