You don't have to wait for a tow truck. Learn how to change a tire yourself and get back on the road.
Your car is a finely tuned machine. Car manufacturers use high-tech engineering software to create a vehicle that is as functional as it is beautiful. Modern engines last longer, run more efficiently, and are more reliable than ever. The standard safety features on almost any modern vehicle were unheard of twenty years ago, and the future of self-driving cars is approaching quickly.
Despite these advances, some parts of your car haven’t changed much over the decades, especially when it comes to changing tires. You may not be able to replace the alternator on new cars, but you can still change a tire yourself. All you need is a jack, a lug wrench, and a spare, and you can change a tire.
You can’t change a tire if you don’t have a functioning spare. Always make sure your spare tire is fully inflated and in good condition. It’s pretty disappointing to discover your spare is flat when you’re in the middle of nowhere on a dark night.
You should also have a jack and a lug wrench and the key for your wheel locks if you have them. Make sure these are always in your car and easily accessible.
While it’s never ideal to have a flat tire, the best case scenario is that it happens when your car is parked somewhere instead of having a flat or a blowout while you are driving. In either case, don’t put yourself in danger trying to change your tire. If you are driving, pull as far off the road as possible, preferably into a parking lot, quiet neighborhood street, or another area with limited traffic. If that isn’t possible and you are on the highway, try to pull over on a long, straight stretch so other drivers can see you as far in advance as possible.
Never try to change a tire on a busy or dark street. Wait for police or a tow truck so other drivers can see the emergency lights and know to be cautious.
Changing a tire
It isn’t difficult to change a tire yourself. Once you are in a safe area and have the right tools, it’s a very straightforward procedure.
- If you are driving, find a reasonably level surface to pull over.
- Turn your car off, set the parking brake, and turn on your hazard lights if you are on a road. If you can, place a large rock or block of wood against the tires on the opposite side of your vehicle to help keep it secure.
- Remove the jack, lug wrench, and spare tire.
- Remove the hubcap or wheel cover and set it face down near the flat tire. (This makes an ideal place to store the lug nuts while you are changing the tire.)
- Using your lug wrench, partially loosen all of the lug nuts before you jack up the vehicle.
- Correctly place your jack. Most vehicles have a built-in notch where the jack fits. If for some reason you are unable to find it, make sure your jack is on the steel frame underneath the car. Bumpers, body panels, and engine parts don’t count.
- Jack the vehicle up until the flat tire is off the ground. Never put your hands or feet underneath the car or tire while it is on a jack.
- Remove the lug nuts and place them in the hubcap lying near you.
- Grab the tire firmly, pull it straight off the rim, and place it behind your vehicle.
- Place your spare tire on the rim, aligning it correctly to replace the lug nuts. If the tire does not fit easily onto the rim, you may need to jack the car up another inch or two.
- Replace the lug nuts, tightening them with your hands. Do not use the lug wrench yet.
- Slowly lower your vehicle and remove the jack.
- Using the lug wrench, tighten the lug nuts. They need to be tight, so the chances of overdoing it are slim. Move in a star pattern, so the alignment is even.
- Place the jack, lug wrench, hubcap, and flat tire in your vehicle and get it repaired as soon as possible. "Donut" spares aren't built to last long.
When you change a tire yourself, you may occasionally run into some difficulties. The most common problem is finding a lug nut that is too tight to remove easily. First, make sure you’re turning the lug nut in the proper direction: left. Left is loose, right is tight. If you find trying to turn the lug wrench by hand isn’t working, you have a few other options.
You can “stomp” on the lug wrench to try to break (loosen) the nut. The closer to the end of the wrench you get, the more torque you will apply.
If that doesn’t work, you can try standing on the end of the wrench and lightly bouncing. Hold on to your car or another person just in case this works too well. You don’t want to end up lying on the ground.
Besides tires, another important part of your vehicle is auto insurance. Get in touch with your Pekin Insurance agent today to update your coverage, add a vehicle, or inquire about a new policy.