Imagine this scenario… You are driving along the highway on your way to an important meeting dressed for success when all of the sudden you hear a quiet “thump, thump” sound. You tell yourself that it is just the bumps on the highway, but then it begins to get louder and louder. You know you have a flat tire, but you are miles from the next exit. What are you going to do?
Begrudgingly you pull to the side of the road and step outside to survey the damage. Yup it is just as you suspected, your front passenger tire is flatter than a pancake. So what do you do? You can’t make it to the exit, and it will take too long for someone to get there to help. Sounds like the situation we all fear right? Well why not change the tire yourself? You are a capable person, and you most certainly can get that tire changed all on your own. It is not hard; you can even do it in your skirt and high heels. Just follow these easy steps and you won’t find yourself caught in that situation ever again.
First, make sure you have pulled onto a stable and flat surface. If you pulled over on a hill or even a soft piece of ground, move slowly to a new flat location. Also, if you get caught parked on the side of the highway make sure you are as far from traffic as possible with your hazard lights on. Be sure to put your car in park and apply the parking brake to ensure your car cannot roll. It is also a good idea to block the wheels with a large rock or anything else you can find. Block a front tire if you are changing a rear tire and vice versa.
Next, roll up your sleeves and head to your trunk to get out your spare tire and jack. Place the jack under the frame near the tire that you are going to change. Make sure that you place it where it will meet the metal portion of the frame. If you aren’t sure where exactly to place the jack check your owner’s manual. However, for most modern cars, there is a small notch or mark just behind the front wheel wells or in front of the rear wheel wells where the jack is intended to be placed.
Next, raise the jack until it is supporting but not lifting the car. Now it is time to remove your hubcap and begin loosening the nuts with the wrench that came with your car. Place the right size of the wrench on the lug nut. The right size is the one that slips easily over the nut but does not rattle. Once the nuts are loose, pump or crank the jack to lift the tire off the ground enough so you can remove the flat and put on the spare. Make sure you are lifting the car straight up and down. Now remove the nuts the rest of the way and lift the flat tire off. Place the flat tire under the vehicle so in event of jack failure the vehicle will fall on the old wheel, hopefully preventing injury.
Now it is time to place the spare tire on the hub. Make sure you carefully align the rim of the spare tire with the wheel bolts. Now, place the nuts on the correct spot and begin to tighten them by hand. Next, tighten the nuts but to ensure the tire is balanced don’t completely tighten the nuts one at a time. Going in a star pattern around the tire, one nut across from another, give each one a full turn until they are equally tight. Now you can begin to lower the car to the ground. However, do not put the full weight on it yet. First, finish tightening the nuts as much as possible. Once you have tightened the nuts again finish lowering the car and remove the jack. Tighten the nuts one last time before replacing the hub cap. Put your flat tire, jack, and wrench back in your trunk. Give yourself a pat on the back; you just changed a flat tire all by yourself!
Always remember that most spare tires (the undersized “donut” tires) are not rated for more than 50 MPH or for long distances. Exceeding this speed can cause problems, including failure of the spare tire. Drive slowly and carefully to a shop and have your tire repaired or replaced. Also practice makes perfect. Try to familiarize yourself with the steps before you get a flat tire, so that you don’t have to learn for the first time by the side of the road by yourself in the dark or rain.