Flat tires. They almost always come out of the blue – you’re driving down the road, your jam on the radio turned up (or NPR…whichever you prefer), and then you hear it. That unsettling and sudden POP and the following FLOP FLOP FLOP that, in my mind, can only be equated to how I imagine a fish sounds if were to be beaten senseless with another fish, and then your car begins to swerve. Or, not as bad, you come out of the mall and your car has an interesting tilt to it, as if it had been drinking.
You, good person, have a case of the flat tire. Find out how to fix this problem.
NOOOO!!!! WHAT DO I DO?!!
Have no fear, this article will help you step by step in how to change a flat tire. If you’re in a bit of a rush, though, you could always get some Fix-a-flat at Amazon. In fact, having some in your trunk will help you avoid a lot of the issues of breaking down on the side of the road.
First, a brief side note:
If you have roadside assistance through your insurance company (you lucky badger), feel free to use it in a case like this and disregard this article on changing a flat tire. And no, we aren’t judging you and seething with jealousy or anything. No. Really. We aren’t. Promise….
So. You need to change a flat tire. For the sake of writing this article, I have physically changed my tire with the help of my grease monkey friend Shane. I have changed smaller tires (dirt bikes and what not), but never a large vehicle. I wanted to have first-hand experience so I can relate how to go about it instead of regurgitating information.
Now, onto the changing of the flat tire.
First thing is first – when your tire blows, please get to a safe location. The shoulder of the road, a parking lot, a field…wherever you can safely land your car is best. Safely parked now? Put on your hazard lights and move on to the step-by-step instructions on how to fix your flat tire.
The Necessary tools to get rid of a Flat Tire
Shane has told me that there are three no-brainer things you need to make sure you have in your car for changing a flat tire: your spare tire, a jack, and a tire iron – otherwise known as a lug wrench (he said the x shape is better…more on that later). If you vehicle doesn’t come with a tire iron or jack, definitely think about getting your own and keeping them in the trunk of your car or the bed or your truck.
I also think a few other things would be a good idea to have in a bag or box, as part of an emergency kit. Some things to consider included: flashlight (with extra batteries), gloves, something that is brightly colored to use as a makeshift warning cone or flag for people driving on the same road as you, and if you want to get really fancy tire blocks.
Okay, got your supplies? Awesome. Let’s get medieval on a flat tire.
I say medieval because force is needed in changing a flat tire. Between prying off the hubcaps, to removing the lug nuts, to man handling both of the tires, you’re going to be able to win grand champion at an arm wrestling tournament after all is said and done. This is really where Shane’s advice about using an X shaped tire iron makes sense. I didn’t realize just how FREAKIN stuck the lug nuts were on my tire (rust and what not), and I can tell you using an X tire iron is wonderful. Since it has four long arms, you get more torque behind your twisting actions, as you can see in the image (remember: righty tighty, lefty loosy). If you don’t have a universal lug wrench and are relying on a crappy lug wrench that came with the donut tire, I can’t recommend upgrading highly enough. Check out this Powerbuilt universal lug wrench at Amazon.
Plus, most tire irons have a handy dandy little hook or what looks like a flat head screwdriver bit on them so you can pry off the hubcaps if you have them on the tire (PROTIP: put your lug nuts in the hubcap so they do go rolling about…otherwise you’ll have a headache on your hands the likes of which you don’t want to deal with when you’re already dealing with a flat tire.
After all my talking here, let’s get down to business. Here is, verbatim, Shane’s instructions (or as verbatim that my chicken scratch note taking can make it be) for replacing a flat tire:
Instructions to get rid of a flat tire
1. Loosen lug nuts. Remove the hubcap if you have to. Don’t totally take off the lug nuts at this point. Just loosen them (remember, righty tighty – lefty loosy). If the lug nuts are really tight, try and standing on the wrench arm to use your full weight on it.
2. Use jack to lift the vehicle off the ground. Make sure that you put the jack on the frame of the car. You can usually tell what’s the frame – it’s almost always a darker color than the rest of the body. Once the jack is in place, jack up the car until the tire is about 6 inches off the ground. No need to go crazy.
3. Remove lug nuts and pull the tire off the car. Keep the lug nuts together, and pull the tire straight toward yourself to remove it from the wheel base.
4. Place spare on the car. Line the lug nut posts up with the holes in the spare, and push the spare onto the wheel base until it can’t go any farther.
5. Put on lug nuts. Don’t put them on tightly, just make sure they’re on enough for the spare to stay.
6. Lower car back to the ground. Bring the car back down to ground level. Remove jack.
7. Make sure lug nuts are tight. With the car back on the ground, tighten the lug nuts. Don’t tighten them one by one. Like, ever. Start with one lug nut, tighten it about half way, move to the opposite nut (across the circle) and tighten that one about the same amount. Keep tightening opposite lug nuts until each lug nut is as tight as it can be. Standing on the iron can help really get them tight.
8. Put the flat and tools back. You just changed a tire!
All in all, it wasn’t a painful experience…sweaty, but not painful. It took Shane and I about 45 minutes to change the tire (but that might be because I had to make him stop so he could repeat things as I scribbled in my notebook).
They say you can always see the truest form of a person during a stressful situation – whether it be the good, the bad, or the ugly. Having to change a flat tire is definitely one of those moments. But, keep this article in your back pocket and you’ll be set and you will be able to stay as cool as a greaser.