How to change a Flat TireHow to change a Flat Tire

1. Find a Safe Location Away from Traffic

Prioritize safety, drive a short distance on the flat tire to reach a safe location away from moving traffic. Position the vehicle so that the flat tire is on the opposite side of traffic.

2. Turn On Your Hazard Lights and Prepare Your Vehicle

Apply the Parking Brake: This reduces the risk of your vehicle rolling.

Secure the Car Adequately: Besides the handbrake, consider placing heavy objects like large rocks behind the other wheels as an additional precaution.

Place Wheel Wedges: Place these either in front of or behind the tires to further ensure the vehicle doesn't roll.

3. Get Out the Owners Manual and Tools

Every vehicle is different, and it's crucial to consult your vehicle owner's manual for specific instructions on changing a flat tire. The manual will provide step-by-step guidance and safety precautions tailored to your vehicle's make and model.

Locate Your Spare Tire, Jack, and Lug Wrench: These are usually found in the trunk under the mat and might be secured with a bolt or a clip.

4. Locate and Identify the Spare Tire

Full-Size Spare Tire:

This is a regular sized tire that matches the size and specifications of the other tires on the vehicle. It provides the same performance and handling characteristics as the standard tires. Full-size spares are often found in trucks and SUVs.

Compact Spare Tire (Donut):

This type is smaller and lighter than a full-size spare. It is designed for temporary use only and has a limited speed and distance rating. Compact spares are commonly found in smaller vehicles and are stored in the trunk or under the cargo area.

Inflatable Tire Kit:

Some modern vehicles come with an inflatable spare tire kit rather than a physical spare. These kits typically include a sealant and an air compressor. The sealant is injected into the tire to seal punctures, and the compressor is used to reinflate the tire. See here for instructions on using an Inflatable Tire Kit.

Run-flat tire:

Some vehicles come equipped with run-flat tires, which are designed to allow the vehicle to be driven for a limited distance (usually around 50 miles) after a loss of air pressure. Run-flat tires have reinforced sidewalls that support the vehicle's weight even with low or no air pressure, eliminating the need for a spare tire.

5. Remove the Hubcap

If your vehicle has a hubcap covering the lug nuts, it's easier to remove the hubcap before lifting the vehicle with the jack.

Removing Stubborn Hubcaps: Some hubcaps need a different tool or technique to come off, check your owner's manual for guidance.

If your hubcap is of the snap-on type, use a flathead screwdriver or your hands to gently pry the hubcap away from the wheel. Start at one edge and work your way around, applying even pressure.

Place the hubcap in a safe location like the trunk.

6. Loosen the Lug Nuts

Using the lug wrench, turn the lug nuts counterclockwise. You may have to use force, and that’s okay. Loosen them about ¼ to ½ of a turn, but don’t remove them completely yet.

Dealing with Rusty Lug Nuts: If the lug nuts are rusted or stuck, a spray of penetrating oil can help loosen them.

7. Identify Your Jack & Jack Your Vehicle

Identify your type of jack, typically found in the trunk or storage compartment of the vehicle. Ensure the vehicle is on a stable surface before using any type of jack.

Scissor Jack:

  • Position the Scissor Jack: Identify the vehicle's recommended lifting points (often indicated in the owner's manual).

  • Place the scissor jack under the designated lifting point.

  • Crank the Jack:

    • Insert the rod or handle into the scissor jack.

    • Turn the handle clockwise to raise the jack.

    • Lift the vehicle until the flat tire is off the ground

Hydraulic Floor Jack:

  • Position the jack under the recommended lifting point.

  • Pump the handle of the jack to raise the vehicle.

  • Lift it high enough for easy removal of the flat tire.

Bottle Jack:

  • Place the jack under the lifting point.

  • Use the handle to pump the jack and raise the vehicle.

The right place for the jack is usually beneath the vehicle frame alongside the tire that’s flat. Many vehicle frames have molded plastic on the bottom with a cleared area of exposed metal specifically for the jack.

Correct Jack Use: Never use bricks, stones, or other unstable objects to prop up or replace a jack.

Vehicle Should be about Six Inches Above Ground

8. Remove the Lug Nuts and Tire

Now that the car is lifted, remove the lug nuts all the way. As they come loose, make sure you keep them in a pile that won’t get scattered.

9. Remove the Tire

Grip the tire by the treads and pull it gently towards you until it’s completely free from the hub behind it. Place it on its side so that it doesn’t roll away.

10. Mount the Spare Tire

Align the spare tire's rim with the wheel bolts, then put the spare on the hub by lining up the rim with the lug bolts. Push gently until the lug bolts show through the rim.

11. Put Lug Nuts on Bolts and Hand Tighten

After placing the spare tire on the hub and aligning the rim with the wheel bolts, start by hand-tightening each lug nut onto its corresponding bolt. This ensures that the lug nuts are threaded correctly and prevents cross-threading.

12. Lower the Vehicle

Use the jack to lower the vehicle so that the spare tire is resting on the ground but the full weight of the vehicle isn’t fully on the tire.

13. Tighten the Lug Nut

Now that the car is lower to the ground, you should now use the lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts as much as possible. Tighten them in a crisscross or star pattern by going in a diagonal sequence rather than a circular order.

For example:

  • Tighten the first lug nut.

  • Move to the lug nut opposite to the first one (crisscross).

  • Continue this pattern until all lug nuts are snug.

Tighten gradually, applying even pressure to each one. Avoid fully tightening one lug nut before moving to the next. This helps ensure an even distribution of pressure on the spare tire.

Repeat the star pattern until each lug nut is fully tightened and all lug nuts are securely in place.

After tightening all the lug nuts, double-check each one to ensure it is properly seated and tightened. This extra step is crucial for safety, as loose lug nuts can lead to wheel instability.

14. Lower the Vehicle Completely

Bring the Vehicle All the Way Down: Use the jack to bring the vehicle back down to ground level. Remove the jack and give the lug nuts another pull with the wrench to ensure they’re as tight as possible.

15. Inspect and Securely Store the Flat Tire

Before stowing it away, take a moment to inspect the flat tire for any visible damage or the cause of the flat (e.g., puncture, sidewall damage). This information can be helpful when consulting with a tire professional.

Place the flat tire in the trunk or designated storage area of your vehicle. Ensure it is securely stored and won't move around during transit.

16. Store All Equipment

Put all your tools and the flat tire back in your vehicle. Make sure the jack, lug wrench, wheel wedges, and flat tire are securely stored.

17. Take Your Flat Tire to a Technician

Temporary spare tires aren’t made to drive long distances or at high speeds, so drive cautiously until you’re able to visit a tire technician.

Once the original tire is repaired or replaced, ensure that your spare tire is returned to its designated storage location, properly inflated, and in good condition for future use.


  • The steps provided are standard and widely recommended in vehicle maintenance literature and are consistent with safety guidelines issued by organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Automobile Association (AAA).

  • Specific procedures may vary slightly depending on the make and model of the vehicle, so always refer to the vehicle's owner manual for any specific instructions related to your vehicle.

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