How to Change a Flat Tire

How to Change a Flat Tire

No matter how carefully you drive, you’ll have to deal with the hassle of a flat tire sooner or later. Here’s how to properly change one.

The valuable techniques listed below are demonstrated on a clapped-out hooptie, but they’re just as applicable to newer, nicer vehicles that sane people drive. Hopefully, you gain something from this step-by-step guide, even if it’s just a new-found appreciation for rust and corrosion.

1. Be Prepared


It’s always a good idea to be prepared, whether it’s keeping a first-aid kit in your vehicle or boots, a blanket and shovel on hand in winter months. A small amount of planning can mean the difference between reaching your destination and calling for an expensive tow, or worse.


Along with those items, it’s also smart to keep a few basic tools in your trunk and an eye on your vehicle’s spare tire. If applicable, check it periodically to make sure it has the appropriate air pressure and isn’t flat, though this doesn’t apply to all of cars. In a bid to cut weight, many modern vehicles lack temporary spares. Instead, they come with inflation kits or even run-flat tires.

SEE ALSO: What I Learned at Performance-Driving School

The same is true for the rest of your ride’s rubber. Keep an eye on all of its tires and try to check the pressure once a month, as they will naturally lose air over time. And of course, check them immediately if the tire-pressure warning light illuminates.

2. Find a Safe Place to Stop


But let’s say one of your car’s steel-belted radials has picked up a nasty piece of shrapnel and can no longer support itself. As soon as you feel the vehicle start to vibrate, shake, or slide around in its lane of travel, prime indicators that something is awry, pull over in a safe spot as soon as possible. Driving on a flat tire is not only uncomfortable and dangerous, but it can also destroy an otherwise repairable tire and even damage the rim, which could cost big bucks to replace.

SEE ALSO: Why You Should Buy Your Next Car at Costco

When you do stop, it’s best to find a parking lot or similar open area, but if that’s not an option, make sure to pull as far over as you can to lessen the likelihood of getting struck by other traffic. Also, it’s smart to avoid steep hills, blind corners and busy interstates if possible.

3. Unpack and Undo


With your vehicle safely parked, you now need to unpack your jack and spare. If you’re prepared (see point No. 1 above), you’ll already be familiar with the location of your vehicle’s backup tire and the operation of its jack.


With the necessary hardware at hand, now is the time to remove any hubcap or wheel trim that’s blocking access to the lug nuts, though this does not apply to every vehicle out there.


Next, you want to break each lug nut loose BEFORE jacking. This puts the car or truck’s weight to good use, preventing the wheel from spinning as you loosen things. Keep in mind, you don’t want to completely remove the nuts, just loosen them so they come off easily once the vehicle is jacked up. Lastly, it’s righty tighty, lefty loosey.

4. Lift ‘Er Up


With the lug nuts free, it’s now time to lift the vehicle. But where does the jack go? Well, if you’re prepared (again, see point No. 1) you’ll have already skimmed through your vehicle’s owner’s manual to find out where the manufacturer recommends lifting from. But if you haven’t done this all is not lost.


Generally, jacking from the welded seam running along the bottom of the rocker panels is perfectly fine, though many vehicles will have special jacking locations. If you drive a truck you can even use the frame, which is a rock solid spot. Control arms and axles are OK in a pinch, but it’s smarter to use approved locations.

Wherever you decide to jack (get your mind out of the gutter), make sure it’s in a sturdy place, both for safety and to avoid damaging any plastic trim that may be dressing up the lower portions of your vehicle.


While jacking your car or truck, make sure to lift it high enough that the wheel comes off the ground with plenty of clearance. If your vehicle has a full-size spare, the inflated tire will be larger in diameter than the flat one you just removed, meaning you have to lift it a bit higher to provide enough space.


Not that you should need to, but NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE crawl underneath the vehicle when it’s only supported by a jack, especially a temporary one. They can slip, collapse or sink into the ground, all of which could crush you under tons of automobile.

5. Attach and Drop


Now that the offending flat tire has been removed, it’s time to reinstall the spare. Simply lift it up and push it into place, ensuring all the studs align with the rim’s openings. Next, run a lug nut down to hold it in place, taking care not to cross thread it. After this, you can put the rest of the nuts on and snug them up finger tight, then torque them down as much as you can with the wrench, though it won’t be much because the wheel will want to spin.


After this is done, ensure nothing is left underneath your vehicle, then carefully lower it back to terra firma. With the jack safely out of the way you can tighten the lug nuts in a crisscross pattern for even torque distribution. They don’t have to be He-Man tight, but try to make them evenly snug.




6. Mind your Speed


Finally, with everything put back, you can continue on your way. But be warned, many compact spare tires are speed limited to around 50 miles an hour, meaning it’s prudent to take things easy. These tires are designed for emergency use only, not sustained driving at Autobahn speeds. Additionally, with mismatched rubber, your car or truck may not handle or brake as securely as it would with four identical tires, so be aware of potential changes to the way it behaves. Also, now is a good time to look for a repair shop to see about getting the offending tire patched up. With any luck, it won’t need to be replaced.

Check out our Tips and Advice Section!

  • smartacus

    One thing i don’t understand is the unsafe low speed rating on temp spare donuts.
    50MPH is barely the minimum legal speed,
    and you can be ticketed for going “too slow for the conditions”.

  • craigcole

    It’s probably just another case of Americans being terrified of everything. I’d bet they’re perfectly fine at 100 miles an hour or more but the lawyers got involved …

« Back
SWEEPSTAKES – OFFICIAL RULES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. * is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of, 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked