You’re driving on the road. Suddenly you hear a bang. Then your car starts wobbling. Oh no, tire trouble! Here’s how to replace a flat tire in 8 easy steps to help you quickly get back on the road.
Stop driving on it
If you end up with a flat while driving, the first thing to do is get off the road as soon as it is safely possible. This will help minimize damage to your wheels because at this point your car is only rolling on three good tires. Why should you stop?
- Because even if you’re not sure how or why it happened, after you change the tire or call a tow truck for help, there’s a good chance you can repair your flat tire and put it back on.
- Often drivers continue to drive on flat tires even after they realize they have one, sometimes for miles at a time, which can turn an inexpensive $25 repair into a $400 expensive one.
- Driving on a flat tire can damage the rim of the wheel and force you to replace it. Moreover, it can wreck the tire itself beyond all repair—and new tires aren’t cheap.
Get to a mechanic ASAP
If you are on a relatively safe road, not far from a trusted repair shop or your usual garage, pull over to the side and call your mechanic or a tow truck to get you there as soon as possible.
- Flat tire repair (when the hole is in the tread) can be easy and fast, and professional patch jobs are always better than those done at home.
- However if the damage is to the sidewall, the puncture is deeper than a quarter of an inch, or the tire is very worn, the tire itself may have to be completely replaced. Although this is a pricier solution, when it comes to safety (and the law) you might not have any other option.
Roll up your sleeves
If you’re far away from a repair shop or home, you’ll have to dig out the spare tire from the car. Change the tire by closely following the directions in your owner’s manual, which should be in your glove compartment. Then get to a service garage as soon as possible.
- Steer the car to a safe spot at the side of the road. Set out safety cones or flares if you have them.
- Take the jack and the spare out of the spare tire well, or wherever else it may be stored. If you don’t know where they are stored, consult your owner’s manual.
- Roll the spare over to the wheel you need to replace.
- Loosen the flat tire’s lug nuts, but don’t remove them just yet.
- Jack the car up by placing the jack close to the flat part of the car nearest the wheel well. Many cars are marked to indicate this spot.
- Remove the flat tire’s lug nuts, putting them in a safe place so they don’t get lost. Then, remove the flat tire.
- Replace the flat tire with the spare. You can thread on the new lug nuts first with your hands. When you replace the lug nuts, tighten the bolts one after the other in a star pattern.
- Lower the car back down slowly. Tighten all the lugs snugly with a wrench.
Always consider safety first
Remember, the spare is only meant to drive short distances and at lower speeds than usual—enough to get you to a garage and fix the flat.
- Even if it’s a full-size tire, your spare probably won’t match your existing tires and could be dangerous for extended distances, since mixing tire tread patterns plus old and new tires isn’t a good idea.
- You should always get to a garage without delay, have them fix the flat tire, then reinstall it so you can quickly get back on the road.