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How to Change Your Tires the Easy Way

Updated on April 17, 2013

I always hate having to take my car in for repairs. One of the most distressing times when I had to do so was when my tire popped on the highway one afternoon (thankfully after work) this past winter, and I thought to myself to the first time in my life while pulling over to the shoulder, “It would be great if I could just do this myself.” It can be terrifying at first, as it was for me, when you hear that gunshot sound coming from the bottom of your car and feel it tremble almost uncontrollably as you pull over, and then immediately the dreadful thought pops in your mind that the rest of your day is ruined. As you probably know, you shouldn’t drive far with a busted tire. I called for car serviceand a couple of guys drove out to help get me back on the road, but it would’ve been nice not to have had to wait, because I was simply unequipped and just plain unprepared to put in my spare.

Thankfully, there are so many ways I discovered to ensure that I can take care of the problem myself, and now I carry a perfect spare tire and the right equipment in a small toolkit with me wherever I go. I also found some great replacement tires for my car overall at a tire shop. I just thought it would be a good idea to share these basic steps with people so they have a better idea of what to do when they experience a blowout, and happen to have a spare, which you really should always carry.

Get Off the Road

As soon as your tire pops, pull off to the side of the road as soon as you can and turn on your emergency lights. You should try to pull off toward a relatively open space so you have plenty of room to change the tire. Try not to drive too far because driving on a flat can damage the wheel itself if done too much.

Look at Your Car Manual

Depending on the car, the instructions for changing out your tires can be drastically different. Make sure you look in the manual to see what equipment you need, hopefully before you truly need it, so you can keep it stored in your trunk along with your spare. Some trucks and vans will have spares stored beneath the vehicle.

Loosen the Hubcap

A wheel nut wrench should be used to get the hubcap off the car, turning the wrench counterclockwise on every nut. Some wheel nut wrenches will have an “L” imprinted on them which means they’re left-handed and should be turned clockwise instead. It can take some strength to loosen the wheel cover, so it might require you to use a foot on the wrench to loosen the nuts. You should be careful if you do that and only do it when the wrench is on the nut entirely.

Use a Jack to Raise the Car

First of all, you should make sure you’re not in a lot of snow or ice. A nearby parking lot that’s not in terrible condition would be a good place. The worst thing about my experience was that it was in the middle of winter or—as any Illinoisan knows—right before summer, so if I changed the tire myself it would have been unbearable to deal with, working around the ice build-up coupled with the snow at the side of the road. But I digress.

With the jack in-hand, you’ll find a jacking point that looks like a gap or bracket beneath the car body, but you should be able to locate the jacking point by consulting the car’s manual again. Make sure the jack fits in the point by raising the jack, and then you can use it to lift the tire off the ground. You should make sure the jack doesn’t lean as you do this, and you should retry lifting the tire if it does. Once the tire is raised enough, remove the nuts and make sure they’re easily accessible, ideally the hubcap. The spare should be placed below the wheel, so if the jack fails the spare will break the fall.

Remove the Flat and Replace with the Spare

You can take the flat out at this point and place it below the wheel where the spare sat, and mount the replacement tire. After making sure the hubcap isn’t too dirty, hang the hubcap on one bolt on the new tire, and replace all the nuts, screwing them back in one by one. Try and use a lug wrench to work each nut into its place, keeping them just tight enough to not come off.

Time to Lower the Wheel

Now you can lower the wheel and double-check the nuts are tightened enough with the wrench. If they are, remove the jack from the bottom of the car and place the flat in the trunk. As soon as my tire blew out, the nearby tire shop swiftly repaired the flat, and I was able to buy tires there too pretty inexpensively as well as replace the others since they were worn enough to merit replacement.

It really pays to keep all of your equipment in the trunk. It can be a little more difficult to make room for groceries if I need to get a lot of them in the trunk along with the jack and the little toolkit I keep in there, but it’s definitely worth it if I ever have to get right back on the road right away.

Given you can’t or don’t want to change your tires yourself, there are places I can personally recommend. I live in the Chicago area and appreciate great service. So far my experiences have been with auto service in McHenry, in Chicago on Western and a small shop on Elston Ave. All of which have been phenomenal. I advise you try them out if you ever have a problem.

As far as my readers go – who has had experiences they’d like to share?

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