Changing a flat tire has gone from being part and parcel of driving to something many find about as likely as building their own computer. Admittedly, the jack in your trunk hardly inspires confidence on first glance, especially the so-called “widowmaker” design favored by VW. So we call roadside assistance and wait a long time for someone to come do a task that takes a short time.
Here’s a short video that explains how to change a flat tire the best and safest way. It runs about 10 minutes, and that’s including me stopping to explain a lot of things. So assume a tire change is about a 7-minute job. There’s a list of the steps at the bottom of this article as well. Before you watch the video, I want to call your attention to a few pro tips:
- “All jacks are always about to fail.” They aren’t, but if you make that your mantra there’s nothing scary about changing a tire; You won’t be in harm’s way in the highly unlikely case that the car comes tumbling down off its jack.
- Keep some gloves and a kneeling pad in your car. These two things radically transform changing a tire from an uncomfortable, dirty process into an easy, clean one.
- Watch my tip on how to “knee jack” your car’s tire and wheel off the ground; they can be heavy and if you pick them up the wrong way and throw out your back, you’ll never warm up to changing a tire again.
The only thing better than changing a flat the right way is not having to change one at all: AAA says 30 percent of late-model cars don’t even have a spare, relying on either seal-and-fill kits that repair the tire while it stays on the car, or by using run-flat tires that you can limp to the nearest tire shop without air in them. Until you have one of those cars, watch the video.
Changing a flat in 10 steps
- Secure the car on a flat surface out of traffic; chock the wheel in the opposite corner.
- Loosen the lug nuts on the wheel with the car’s lug wrench.
- Place the car’s jack under the car where its label indicates.
- Jack up enough to get the wheel an inch or two off the ground.
- Finish loosening the lug nuts and remove the flat tire.
- Put the spare tire on.
- Thread the nuts on and tighten just enough to hold the wheel on without slop.
- Lower the jack so the car is back on the ground.
- Finish tightening the nuts with upper body strength on the lug wrench.
- Collect the flat, wrench, jack and anything you used to chock the car.