how to change a flat tire
You're driving happily along when you hear a sudden pop. You sigh: flat tire. Here you'll learn what to do next, from where to pull over to how to get back on the road.
What you'll need
Since you don't know when you might get a flat tire, check to make sure you've got the right equipment in your car:
- Jack (to lift the car)
- Lug nut wrench or tire iron (to remove the lug nuts)
- A tire block (to keep the car from rolling)
- A spare tire (of course)
- Wheel lock (to unlock your secured lug nuts)
These tools are commonly found in the trunk. Some spare tire kits also come with a flashlight, gloves, a pressure gauge, and lubricant for over-tightened or rusted lug nuts.
A step-by-step guide to changing a flat tire
Step 1: Find a safe spot to make your tire change and turn your hazards on.
Find a flat, high-visibility area away from curves so you're easily spotted by approaching drivers. Avoid soft ground and mud that can easily give way when you try to lift the car. If you drive an automatic, put it in park. If you drive a standard, leave it in gear and engage the brake.
Alternate step 1: Call for help.
Unless you're confident in your tire-changing ability, it's best to call (or wait) for help. If you have roadside assistance, this is a great time to use it. Esurance customers with emergency road service (ERS) on their policies can call the number on the back of their ERS cards. Or if you're a smartphone user, take advantage of Esurance Mobile's "nearby shops & services" feature to find the right number.
If you're out of cell phone range and on the highway, look for a nearby emergency call box.
Step 2: Get your tools ready.
Retrieve your tire-changing kit (typically found in your trunk) — your car's manual should help you find what you need. If you have gloves, tire blocks, a flashlight, a pressure gauge, and lubricant for over-tightened or rusted lug nuts, grab it all. Check the quality of your spare tire — if it's cracked, worn, or deflated, there's no point changing one flat for another.
Step 3: Place the wheel block.
If you have a wheel or tire block, use it to block the wheel that's on the opposite corner of the wheel you're changing. So to change the front-left driver-side tire, you'll want the block behind the rear-right passenger-side tire.
This'll help to keep the car from rolling when you raise the car and transfer the weight away from where you'll be working.
Step 4: Remove the hubcap/wheel cover.
If your car has hubcaps, you should be able to use a screwdriver or the flat end of a lug wrench to pop it out. If your car has wheel covers, check the car's manual for advice.
Step 5: Loosen the lug nuts.
It'll be easier if you loosen (but don't fully remove) the lug nuts before placing your car on the jack. The old lefty-loosey rule generally applies, so you'll want to loosen them counterclockwise. Use your wheel lock if you have a non-standard lug nut.
After loosening one lug nut on the right-hand side of the circle of lug nuts, you should next loosen one directly opposite, on the left. Keep working in this manner, alternating from right to left (or vice versa) until each one is loosened. Remember not to remove the lug nuts just yet. That happens in step 7.
Step 6: Lift the vehicle with the car jack.
Check the manual to find the best spot to position the car jack (each car model may be different). Use fluid, even strokes when lifting the car. The wheel should be completely off the ground. Never put your body underneath a car lifted by a car jack in case the vehicle slips off.
Step 7: Remove the flat tire.
Take off the loosened lug nuts and put them to the side. Remove the tire slowly, using both hands. Lay the tire down flat so it doesn't roll away from you.
Step 8: Put on the spare tire.
Lift the spare and glide it onto the tire bolts, pushing it back as far as it can go.
Tip: The tire's air valve should be facing you. If it's facing inward, it's on backwards.
Step 9: Tighten the lug nuts.
Put the lug nuts back on the tire bolts. Tighten the lug nuts (righty-tighty, or clockwise, in most cases) enough to keep the tire in place: you'll tighten them more in a moment.
Step 10: Clean up.
Slowly lower the vehicle. Give each of the lug nuts one last clockwise turn to make sure they're secure, and replace the hubcap or wheel cover (if you have one). High-five yourself. You're now ready to drive.
Driving on your spare tire
Because spare tires aren't designed for long-term use (as you can tell by their funny look), drive slower than normal and immediately head to a tire dealership or repair shop to find a replacement tire. Many spare tires have a max speed written somewhere on their surfaces — stay under it to avoid a blowout.
On the road again
For added safe-driver bonus points, print this out and keep it with your spare tire kit. If you'd like to find out more about Esurance's roadside assistance or add it to your policy, give us a call at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262) anytime, day or night.