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Changing a flat tire is not incredibly difficult, but the proper equipment and following the correct procedure can make the process easier and safer. You should be sure you have a spare tire, a car jack, and a tire iron or lug wrench to properly remove the tire and replace it with a spare. It is typically best to replace a tire on pavement, and you should be sure the area is flat. You can then use the jack to lift the vehicle, remove the flat tire, replace it with the new one, and lower the car before going on your way.
In order to replace a flat tire, you need to be sure you have the proper equipment, which you should always keep in your vehicle. Three things are essential to the process, and without any one of them you may find yourself calling a tow truck. You need a spare tire, either a compact spare or a full-size spare, a jack, and a tire iron or lug nut wrench. If you need to replace a flat tire, then the first thing you should do is pull to the side of a road and be sure you are not obstructing traffic.
You should also be sure to come to a complete stop on a flat, paved area, put your vehicle in park, and engage the emergency brake. Sloping ground can potentially lead to vehicle damage or injury from the vehicle rolling off the jack. Dirt is typically less effective for jacking a car up than pavement. You can begin by using the tire iron to loosen the lug nuts on the flat tire, but not completely remove them. This can be more difficult than it sounds, since these are often tightened by powered equipment, so you will likely need to put some real effort into loosening them.
Once you have the lug nuts loosened, you can then place the jack under the proper location for your vehicle. It is also advisable to use a large, heavy object, such as a brick, to block the tire opposite of the one you are replacing, to better avoid any chance of your vehicle rolling. You can determine the proper location for a jack on your vehicle by consulting the owner’s manual for your vehicle. Use the jack to raise your vehicle until the flat tire clears the ground.
You can then completely remove the lug nuts, which you want to keep handy, and pull the flat tire off. The spare tire then can be placed onto your vehicle by lining up the holes on the tire with the wheel studs. You should then put the lug nuts onto the spare tire, but do not tighten them excessively. Use the jack to lower your vehicle back onto the ground, and then tighten the lug nuts as much as you can. If you are using a compact spare tire, then it may be a bit smaller than your others and likely has a speed limit for driving on it; full-size spares do not have such a limitation and can be used like any other tire.
One thing I'd tell people about fixing a flat tire is that there's no clean way to do it. Loosening the lug nuts isn't too bad, and even getting the car jacked up can be done cleanly if you're very careful. But pulling off the old tire and sliding a new one onto the wheel studs is going to be a dirty and sweaty operation, assuming it isn't also raining or snowing.
Also, it pays to check out the condition of the spare tire once in a while. I had to change a tire for a driver stranded on the side of a highway one time, and she said she had one of those emergency "donut" spare tires in
the trunk. It turned out to be flat, since she forgot to have it repaired after the last blow-out. I ended up driving to a gas station to have the spare replaced, and then had to go back out to finish the flat tire repair. It was a long day.
Try not to make the same mistake I did when I tried to fix a flat tire for the first time. My car had a jack that had a metal base. The ratcheted part was supposed to fit in a hole in the middle of that base. I just put the ratchet on the ground near the tire and started jacking it up. I wondered why the wheel wasn't being lifted off the ground.
It turned out that I was really driving the bottom of the jack into the ground. Without the base attached, it was just a stake. I felt really dumb when I had to call my dad to the scene and he knew right away what I had done.
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