Angie's How To Change a Flat Tire

Date Published: July 10, 2014

Time: 25 Minutes

Have you ever found yourself on the side of the road with a flat tire? If so, did you know how to change it?

Auto mechanics and tire dealers say many people no longer take the time to learn how to change their own tires.

They, instead, rely on AAA or another roadside assistance services to bail them out, sometimes even if they have a spare tire in the trunk.

“There are several factors that have contributed to this — the fact that we all have access to cell phones has made it much more convenient to call in a professional,” says Mike Fitzpatrick, marketing director with highly rated Hank’s Tire in Woodland Hills, California. “I don’t think people have the time for anything that is temporary anymore.”

But having a spare in your trunk and knowing how to change a tire is a skill highly rated mechanics say drivers should have.

“There’s definitely a benefit to knowing how to do it [yourself],” says Randal Regan, service writer with highly rated Marc Yount’s Tire Pros in Evans, Georgia. “You never know where you’re going to be when you break down. You could break down in the middle of the night, and it could take a long time to get someone out there. Down here, once you leave Augusta [Georgia], there’s nothing but tobacco and cotton land.”

Tools & Materials Needed 
Properly inflated spare tire
Lug wrench
Jack stand
Reflective vest
Tire block
Tire gauge
1Pull over

If you experience a flat, officials recommend safely pulling to the side of the road where you’re still visible to other drivers, and putting the flashers on. Try to find the flattest spot to park your car, if possible, and avoid hills or slopes so the car doesn’t roll or shift while you’re changing the tire.

2Loosen the lug nuts

Before applying the jack, loosen the lug nuts (counter clockwise) with a lug wrench. This can take a little strength, as the bolts sometimes are difficult to remove. A crossbar wrench makes it easier to unscrew the lug nuts because there are holders for both hands.

3Jack up the car

Regan recommends consulting your owner’s manual to find out where to place the jack. On most vehicles, it fits in a groove behind the front wheels or directly in front of the back wheels. “All cars are different, depending on the owner’s manual,” Regan says. Next, jack the car up about 6 inches off the ground. If you use a jack stand for extra safety, jack the car up high enough to fit the jack stand under the car and then lower the car down on the stand. It’s also a good idea to place a tire block under the tire diagonal to the one you’re changing to keep the car from moving or rolling.

4Remove the lug nuts

Use a wrench to take off the loosened lug nuts, and place them in a bowl or container so you don’t lose them.

5Put on the spare tire

Once the lug nuts are off, put on the spare tire and screw the lug nuts back on before lowering the car back down with the jack.

6Tighten the lug nuts

Once the car is on the ground, tighten the lug nuts (clockwise) with the lug wrench until they no longer turn. Place the flat tire and all of your equipment back into the trunk.

7Drive carefully

Spares aren’t meant to be a permanent solution. You’ll need to drive to an auto mechanic or tire store to have the flat tire inspected to see if it can be repaired. If it can’t be repaired, you’ll need to buy a new tire, which generally costs $100 and up, depending on the vehicle and tire. If you’re driving with a donut spare, experts recommend not going long distances or faster than 50 mph, as those are designed simply to get you to a repair facility.


Don't have a spare? Regan says many new cars don’t come with a spare tire anymore. Often manufacturers use run-flat tires, which are designed not to deflate as fast and can be driven at reduced speeds and distances in the case of a puncture. Other cars have an aerosol inflation solution, like Fix-A-Flat, in the trunk. Drivers can still find spare tires available for retail sale. “I can’t tell you how many customers we’ve sold spare tires to [because some cars don’t include them],” Regan says.