Here is a basic guideline for changing a flat tire. Remember, this is basic. Refer to you owner's manual in all cases to ensure that you are using the proper procedures.
First, go to Autozone and get a good lug wrench that will fit your
lug nuts. The one that came with the car probably isn't long enough for you to
get good leverage to remove the nuts. While you are there get safety flares and
or safety reflectors to put by the roadside when you get a flat. Get warning
flags for daytime flat tires. If they have them get a set of wheel chocks to
block your car from rolling when up on a jack.
The first thing to stress is SAFETY! Consider where the car is located. If you are on a bridge or some other part of the highway where there is limited shoulder space then drive on, slowly, until you reach a safe area in the road with wide shoulders or a median which is wide enough to get you away from traffic. It is better to ruin a tire by riding on it for a mile or more than to risk getting killed by oncoming traffic! Pull off the roadway as far as possible to avoid getting hit by a car. Is the area well lighted if it is at night? Is there a curve in the road where oncoming traffic will not see the disabled car until it is too late? Consider two way traffic at night where lights from cars will blind oncoming traffic rendering you invisible until it is too late. Put warning flares or reflectors at least two hundred feet from the car in the direction of traffic that will endanger you. Put the four way flashers on. If headlights are on make sure they are on low beam setting or switch them off and use parking lights only.
Are you physically capable of hard work? Removing the lug nuts and jacking the car up requires physical strength. If you have any doubts of your ability to proceed then call for help. It is not worth the cost of a service call for you to injure yourself.
Next, consider the surface on which you have stopped. Is it firm? Or is it soft muddy soil? Jacking a car up with an unstable soil can result in the jack slipping and the car falling. Use anything that is strong and solid to support the jack or consider moving the car to a place where it is safer with more solid ground under the jacking area. Once you have covered all the safety aspects it's time to change the tire.
First thing to do is to block the wheels. If changing a front tire, block the rear wheels both fore and aft of the tire. Visa-versa if changing a rear tire. Put the car in Park if an automatic transmission and low gear if a standard shift. Set the parking brake.
Prior to doing anything else, open the trunk and find the spare tire. If it is soft or flat then go no further - call for help. No sense wasting your time jacking and lugging if the spare is not serviceable!
Remove the hub cap. Some hub caps or wheel covers require a special keyed wrench to remove the wheel cover. It is normally stored in the glove compartment or in the trunk where the spare tire is located.
Find the lug wrench - usually located in the trunk near the spare tire. Remove the jack and the spare tire now, while the car is still on the ground. Loosen all the lug nuts about a turn or two while the car is still on the ground. Some lug nuts will be very hard to turn especially if they have never been removed or if some do-dah in a gas station put them on with an air wrench and overtightened them. They normally turn counterclockwise to loosen.
Now comes the tricky part. You will need your owner's manual or you can refer to a diagram normally affixed to the spare tire cover to see how to use your jack. Most newer cars no longer use a bumper jack simply because there are no longer any bumpers on cars! They use a scissors jack that is placed under the car along the rocker panel (just behind the front tire or just in front of the rear tire along the chassis). MAKE CERTAIN THAT YOU PLACE THE JACK PRECISELY WHERE IT IS DESIGNED TO BE PLACED ELSE YOU WILL DO DAMAGE TO THE CAR AND RISK THE POSSIBILITY OF HAVING THE CAR FALL FROM THE JACK!
Place the spare tire nearby so that you can get it as soon as you are ready for it. You don't want the car supported on that jack for any longer than necessary to change tires. Operate the jack as described in the manual until the wheel is well off the ground. Remember that this wheel is flat so it will clear the ground with very little jacking but the spare will be fully inflated so it will need more room to fit on the axle.
HERE IS ONE VARY BASIC RULE. NEVER PLACE ANY PART OF YOUR BODY UNDER THE CAR WHEN IT IS ON A JACK. NEVER! If you need to retrieve something from underneath a jacked car use a long stick or get it after the car is on firm ground once again.
Since you loosened the lug nuts earlier it will now be a simple matter of turning them off the studs. Carefully place them in the wheel cover or hub cap so they don't get lost. Remove the flat tire by pulling straight out to slide the wheel off the studs. Set the flat tire aside and place the spare on the studs. Replace the lug nuts and tighten them finger tight. Lower the car by reversing the jacking procedure until the car is on the ground. Before doing anything else tighten the lug nuts securely using the lug wrench. Having a spare tire fly off the car at 55 miles per hour in rush hour traffic could really ruin your day!
Put the tools and the flat tire away and don't forget to retrieve those reflectors or other warning devices from the highway. If you used road flares put them on a sandy surface or on the shoulder of the road where they will burn themselves out. Stepping on a burning road flare might result in a hot-foot or a third degree burn. They are not easy to extinguish.
If your spare is one of those "donut" tires then heed the warnings as to speed limits and get your original tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible and return the donut to the spare tire compartment.
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Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 2006 by Bob Hewitt - All rights reserved