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How to Change a Tire

At some point, all drivers will experience a sinking feeling in their stomachs; the one that starts when their speed drops and hear the “thump, thump, thump,” of a flat tire. For some people, the only answer is to call their insurer for roadside assistance, then wait hours for the tow service to arrive. Others without such a thorough plan may simply find themselves stranded until a friend or family member can come pick them up. But those who are prepared can get themselves back on the road in no time! Here’s how to be a member of the third group.

Make Sure You Have the Right Stuff

You can’t change a tire unless you have the right equipment. You will need:

  • Wheel chocks
  • A jack
  • A lug wrench (also called a “tire iron”)
  • Spare tire
  • Vehicle owner’s manual

Those are the bare essentials. However, it’s a good idea to keep a few other things in your trunk to make things easier if there are additional difficult circumstances like rain, mud or darkness. Add the following items to your kit:

  • Road flares
  • Gloves
  • A poncho or raincoat
  • An electric lantern or crank flashlight

Before Anything Happens

As soon as you’re done reading this article, check your car’s owner’s manual for the proper placement of a jack, as well as the correct tightening order for lug nuts. You don’t need to memorize these details, but it’s good to be familiar with them before you need to be.

Get it Done

Pull well off to the side of the road where you’ll have plenty of space to work without worrying about other cars speeding by. Make sure to choose an area where the ground is level. Once you’re parked, set your parking brake and place wheel chocks around the wheels on the opposite side of the car. Pull out your spare tire and other equipment essential to the task at hand. If it’s night time, even though you’re parked safely away from the road, it’s probably a good idea to set off your road flares to alert other drivers of your presence.

Next, loosen your lug nuts on the deflated tire. Don’t unscrew them completely, just break the resistance of their grip. Place the jack underneath the correct point on your vehicle, and slowly raise the car. You should get the tire up about six inches from the ground. Remove the lugs and set them somewhere safe where they won’t roll out of sight. Take off the offending tire and then mount your spare. Replace the lug nuts and screw them on by hand.

Finally, lower the vehicle to the ground completely. Use your tire iron to tighten the lug nuts according to the crisscross order listed in your owner’s manual. If you don’t follow the correct order, your lug nuts may not be as tight as they need to be, and may come loose over time. Obviously, that would result in an extremely dangerous situation.

Put everything away, and check the air pressure in your spare to make sure it’s good to go. Spare tires aren’t meant to be driven on at high speeds, so take it easy as you drive directly to your nearest tire-replacement store.

Whatever you do, don’t be intimidated! Changing a tire really is a fairly easy process. If you feel nervous about it, take your car to a nearby parking lot and do a mock-replacement by removing and replacing your tire. You’ll never be stranded on the side of the road again!