How To Change A Tire On Your Car

How To Change A Tire On Your Car

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  1. Way back at the dawn of time, about six months after I learned how to drive, an odd thing happened to me as I drove along the road between my college and my best friend’s house.  My beloved car Killer started acting strangely.  It became difficult to control the wheel, I heard this horrible thumping noise from the back of the car, and — well, you get the picture.  I had my first flat tire.  It was summer and I called my dad, who came out and changed it for me.  A few days later, it happened again.  I called my brother, and he came out and changed it.  (Seems the city was doing construction on my road, and my tires were apparently gathering nails like fuzz on Velcro.)

    By the time I’d had my fifth flat tire in two weeks, I’d had enough of waiting in the heat for help to arrive.  I decided then and there to learn how to change a flat tire.  In truth, it’s not very difficult as long as you have the proper tools and a little common sense.

    Be Prepared

    I cannot be stress enough when discussing car tires that the best defense against catastrophe is preparation.  Before you get behind the wheel, you should make sure you have a good spare in the trunk, as well as a sturdy jack and a lug wrench.  Membership in an auto club like AAA (as well as a phone to call them with) is also a good idea.  But, if you find yourself unable to call AAA and you have a jack, a lug wrench and a spare, fear not!  You have the technology, and when you’ve finished this article, you’ll know how to use that technology.

    Secure the Car

    The best scenario is to walk outside and notice the flat while you are still parked in the driveway.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  If you are driving when you have a flat, make sure to pull off the road to a place that’s as flat and safe as possible.  Make sure you have room to work where you won’t be in the way of traffic, turn on your hazard lights, make sure the car is in "Park" and pull the emergency brake.  You may also want to put a couple of large rocks behind the tire opposite and diagonal from the flat to ensure the car doesn’t shift or roll.   Although it may seem obvious, make sure everyone is out of the car and safely away from traffic before you start changing the tire.

    After the car and passengers are secure, remove the jack, lug wrench, and the spare tire from the trunk. Lay the spare on the ground next to the flat, making sure to leave yourself ample room to work.  Push up your sleeves, take a deep breath, and get ready to do some tire-changing!

    Removing the flat

    While the car is still flat on the ground, loosen the lug nuts with the socket side of the lug wrench.  Depending on how long it’s been, this may take a bit of muscle–grime and dirt can make those nuts stubborn.  It’s even more difficult if you’re turning the wrong way!  Remember what my dad taught me–"Lefty, Loosey, Righty, Tighty."  Silly, but it’s worked for me for over twenty years.  Also, don’t forget that the nuts are metal. If you’ve been driving a while, chances are they will be hot.  So, use caution when touching them.

    Once you’ve gotten the lug nuts loose enough to spin with your fingers, set the jack under the car.  Always consult the owners’ manual to find the proper place to set the jack for optimum safety–trust me, you don’t want that thing slipping!  Once the jack is secure, raise your car just enough for the flat to clear the ground and finish removing the lug nuts.  (Put them in your pocket or inside the hubcaps or somewhere safe!  You don’t want to lose these or have to go chasing them all over the place.)

    Remove the flat tire and lay it on the ground away from you.  Now you are ready to put on the spare.

    Installing the Spare

    You may have to adjust the height of your jack in order to get the spare onto the car.  If you have a full-size spare (rather than a donut), it’s going to be taller than the tire you just removed.  (Because why?  Because it’s full of air instead of flat and useless!)  Raise the car high enough so that you can align the holes (air valve facing out) and put the tire on.

    Replace the lug nuts and tighten with your lug wrench.  ("Lefty, Loosey, Righty, Tighty" works just as well in reverse.)  Get them as tight as you can, then slowly lower the jack until the car is resting on its own weight again.  If you’re like me and have meager upper body strength, you might want tighten them some more just for good measure.

    Finishing Touches

    Gather all your tools and the flat tire and return them to the truck.  If you used rocks to stabilize your car, remove them before driving off so you don’t get another flat!  Turn off your hazard lights and release the emergency brake before easing carefully back into traffic.

    Unless you have a full-size spare, it’s never a good idea to drive on a donut tire for very long.  If you are using a donut, drive slowly and try to get your regular tire repaired within 24 hours.  Don’t drive unnecessarily when you do not have a spare in the trunk.

    With a few safety precautions and some common sense, you’ll be back on the road in no time!

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