How to Change a Car Tire

Do you know what to do when you have to change a tire? Here are some tips that'll make the job easier and safer.

man changing a tire on the side of the road Bobex-73/Getty Images

Changing a Tire

Knowing how to change a tire on a car is an essential life skill. Flat tires usually come with little or no warning, and they can happen at the worst possible time. There are also non-emergency scenarios where being able to change a tire can be incredibly useful- just think of the money you could save by swapping out your regular tires for snow tires on your own instead of taking them into a shop. Whatever the reason, understanding the steps to changing a tire is must-have knowledge for anyone who regularly gets behind the wheel of a car.

When to Change a Tire

Getting a flat is the most common and obvious reason you might need to change a tire. But there are also a few other reasons to swap out an old tire for a new one. The wear and tear of the road on tires will gradually grind down the depth of their treads, leaving the tire with a lessened ability to grip the road (especially in rainy or snowy conditions). The commonly held belief is that once the tread of a tire is worn down past 4/32-in., slipping on wet or icy roads or even hydroplaning is much more likely to occur. At this point the tread will just not be enough to adequately grip the road. Swapping out your most worn-out tires can go a long way towards staying safe on the road.

Tire Changing Tools

Here are the tools you need to change a tire:

Depending on the make and model of your vehicle you may also need alignment studs, a wheel lock, and extension bars for the spare.

Step by Step Process

The first thing to do when you need to change a tire is to get your car to as safe a location as possible. If you get a flat while on the road, don’t just immediately pull over onto what might be a dangerous, narrow shoulder. Go at a slow pace and find either a flat, highly visible stretch of road or the nearest empty parking lot. Turn on your hazard lights if you do end up pulling off on the side of the road, turn off your car, and apply the parking break.

Once you’ve got your vehicle in a safe, secure location, you’re ready to follow these steps to change the tire:

  1. Remove the hubcap.
  2. Loosen the lug nuts (without removing them completely).
  3. Position the jack under the vehicle, typically directly beneath the vehicle frame near the tire you are trying to change. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual if you are unsure about where to place the jack.
  4. Use the jack to lift the vehicle up from the ground.
  5. Remove the lug nuts. It’s a good idea to place them in a container nearby so none of them get misplaced.
  6. Remove the flat/old tire by pulling it gently free from the lug bolts.
  7. Mount the new tire on the lug bolts.
  8. Secure the lug nuts as tightly as you can by hand.
  9. Lower the jack down until the tire is resting on the ground and finish tightening the lug nuts with the wrench. Be sure to tighten the lug nuts back on in a criss-crossing pattern, moving from one lug nut to the one across from it as opposed to moving in a circle.
  10. As soon as each of the lug nuts feels snug and secure, reattach the hubcap (if it fits the new tire) or put it in your trunk.

Additional Tips

This video gives you tips and tricks for fixing a flat tire that make the job safer and easier on your knees. Watch the video and next time you have a flat tire, you’ll know what to do and have a better time doing it.