There are few things as discouraging and disheartening as getting a flat tire during a commute, whether this misfortune befalls you during a trip to the store or a cross country journey. As Long as automobiles have been around, wheels and tires have needed changing. For the past century the wheel mounting technology and mechanisms have been pretty much the same.
The metal wheel itself is mounted to the drive train via lug bolts which are secured by lug nuts. Most vehicles are equipped with a spare tire full of air hidden in the trunk, under the car, or mounted to the fifth door (usually only on capable SUVs like jeeps). Most cars are also equipped with a jack and its accompanying tools such as a lug wrench. The spare tire replaces the flat tire, the jack lifts the car off the ground to enable free movement of the tire, and the lug wrench loosens and tightens bolts. A flat tire can happen to anybody and it can happen at the worst of times. If you drive a car occasionally or on a regular basis you should be familiar with the steps to successfully and safely change a tire. Cars are almost always equipped with the basic necessary tools to deal with the problem and the tools are usually easy to access and use. The process is a little strenuous, a little dirty, but fairly easy if done right.
The first step is to wait until you get a flat tire, run over a strewn out pile of nails or strategically place roofing tacks in your path. Then pull over or position your car in the safest place possible. Then turn on your emergency flashers and place emergency reflective warning triangles behind and to the side of your car. Find where your spare tire is located and remove obstructions from the area. If there is a flap or cover on the tire, remove or lift it. Then examine how the tire is being held in place to unscrew or unfasten accordingly. Then you would want to tap or squeeze the tire to test if it has enough air for road use. The last thing you want to do is fasten a spare tire with no air as this will not help your situation.
Now remove the tire from its housing or compartment with care as it can be quite heavy. Then find your jack which may be shaped like a vertical gas cylinder (bottle jack), or a Diamond (scissor jack). This is usually in the trunk or boot of the vehicle. Then find your lug wrench which should be near the jack. It is also a good idea to wedge something under the tire opposite to the flat tire for extra stability.
Check for and remove any hubcaps (if your car has them). Now you will jack the vehicle up. Loosen or extend the handle on your jack to prepare for use and check. Then, before you jack, the lug nuts on the wheel need to be loosened as the proper nut loosening torque cannot be applied once the wheel is moving freely off of the ground. To loosen the lug nuts position yourself firmly and use your lug wrench to turn the all lug nuts counterclockwise. Carefully use your knee or foot to gain a more stable stance and apply more pressure if needed. Remember, you are not removing the nuts, just loosening them so stop turning once they are a bit loose. Now you are ready to jack. Position the jack under the frame of the car on the side of the flat tire and refer to your owner’s manual to find the optimal jacking points. Now wind your jack up by hand until it makes contact with the frame, then use the jack handle to raise the vehicle to the appropriate height. This can take a little while so be patient and careful.
Now that the car is jacked and the tire in no longer in contact with the ground, you can fully remove the lug nuts and place them in a safe spot in plain sight. Now you remove the flat tire and set it out of your way in a safe spot. Now grab your spare tire and position it centered on the bolts making sure that the tire is pushed back flatly against the bolts. Now tighten all the bolts by hand until they won’t turn. Now use your lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts a little more but not completely. Then commence the lowering of the jack which is always easier and less difficult than raising because the weight of the car is helping you along. Lower the jack enough to remove it from under the car. Once the car is on the ground, use the lug wrench to completely tighten all of the nuts. Now put all the tools and the spare tire away.
Your spare tire is installed and you can now drive your car, (avoid reaching highway speeds on spare tires). Make sure you keep safety in mind during the whole process and make sure your car is equipped with the necessary tools to get the job done. And remember, savor the joy of driving and treat your car well for its years of loyal servitude.