I’ve been driving on a spare ever since I retrieved my stolen van from a dilapidated tow yard months ago. The thieves apparently got a flat, put on the spare in the van, and didn’t have the decency to replace the flattened tire. Though my father taught me how to change a tire, that lesson was fifteen years ago. I did a little research and found five easy steps to get the job done. Just in case you get a flat (or run across some thieves as inconsiderate as mine), here’s what to do.
Make sure you have a spare.
On a budget? Junk yards often sell spares. If you have a warranty, then a local tire center will work, or you can search online using your car’s make and model at Tirerack.com.
Make sure you have a working jack and lug wrench.
If you are like me and aren’t exactly sure what a lug wrench is, I’ll give you two hints: a lug wrench looks like a “plus” sign, with three sizes that fit on the lug nuts (tire screws) and one end with a pry in order to remove a potentially frozen wheel lug or hubcap. Be certain that the lug wrench fits the lugs on your wheels.
Make sure you pull off into a well-lit safe spot when you get your flat.
Pull over on a safe shoulder that is level and more than arm’s reach from traffic. Turn on your hazards, put on the emergency brake and (if you are organized enough to keep one in your trunk) stick an orange cone behind the car.
Take your lug wrench, place it on your lug nuts, and turn counter-clockwise. If they are stuck, then step on the lug wrench arm to make it turn. If your lug nuts are under a hub cap, then use the pry end to pull off the hubcap first. Keep the tire on with its loosened lugs, place your spare nearby, and stick the jack under the car about a foot in front of the tire. Stick the jack handle into the jack either by inserting the jack handle into the jack and turning it until a tight fit. If the socket is in the center of the body of the jack, then jack the baby up until there is more than enough room to slip in the new tire.
Removing and replacing.
Spin the nuts off and lay them aside. Grab the wheel on either side and pull it straight off. When putting on the replacement tire, make sure the holes fit over the shafts. When tightening the lug nuts, tighten them in the order of the lug nut that sits opposite of the one you just tightened. Lower your jack and lay it on its side and then turn the handle out to close it fully. Replace the hubcap and use the lug wrench or jack handle to bang it into place.