Worried a flat tire might ruin your trip? Don’t fret! Changing a flat tire is simple with a little preparation and elbow grease. Our 15-step guide to changing a flat tire will get you back on the road in no time!

Step 1: Prepare Before You Experience a Flat Tire

Don’t wait until you are stranded on the side of the interstate to come up with a plan for changing a flat tire. Take precautionary measures before the problem arises:

  • Test out your car jack
  • Check you have a spare tire
  • Check if you have a lug wrench
  • Carry a flashlight
  • Bring a rain poncho
  • Have a tire gauge ready

Keep these tools at your disposal to fix your flat comfortably and confidently.

Step 2: Find a Safe Spot to Change the Flat Tire

If you felt a tire go flat mid-drive, find a safe area to pull over and turn on your hazard lights. Don’t endanger your life or others.

Step 3: Check the Owner’s Manual

The owner’s manual will tell you where to find all the equipment necessary to change a flat tire. This includes where you will find your lug wrench, spare tire, and car jack.

Step 4: Inspect the Spare Tire

Inspect the spare is fully inflated and in good, working condition. It is important that your spare tire functions to provide safe travel. When inspecting a spare tire:

Step 5: Block the Opposite Wheels before Raising the Vehicle

Block the opposite wheels before raising the vehicle to prevent any rolling, forwards or backwards. DO NOT attempt to change the flat if your car is parked on a hill. Move the vehicle to level ground before changing the tire and set the parking brake. Call a tow truck if it’s not possible to change the flat tire on a level surface.

Step 6: Remove the Hub Cap

Use the lug wrench’s sharp end to pry off the hub cap. Some cars have hub caps with false, decorative lug nuts that secure the hub cap. Remove the hub cap and set it upside-down as a lug nut tray.

Step 7: Loosen Lug Nuts

You must loosen the lug nuts to remove the flat tire from your car. The vehicles weight on the tire will hold the tire in place and make it easier to loosen, so loosen the lug nuts before you jack-up the vehicle. Use your lug wrench to loosen all lug nuts, but do not unscrew them completely.

Step 8: Locate the Pinch Flange

the pinch flange is strongest area to use during a flat tire

For lifting purposes, the pinch flange is the car’s strongest spot. Most cars have an underbody notch specifically for the factory jack. Your manual should provide directions to find your car’s lifting spot. Avoid damaging your car by lifting in the right spot.

Step 9: Raise Vehicle with the Jack

Find your car jack and place the jack under the pinch flange. Use nice, even strokes by taking the jack handle from lowest point to highest point on each turn. If you use jack stands, place them under the vehicle, near where the jack is touching the pinch flange. Once you’re sure the vehicle is properly jacked up, push on the vehicle a little. This makes sure everything is resting securely and you can safely change the flat tire.

Step 10: Remove the Flat Tire

Once the car is raised and secure, remove the already loosened lug nuts. Place them in the hub cap to avoid misplacing, and remove the tire.

Step 11: Install the Spare

Take the spare tire and line up the wheel studs and the holes on the rim of the spare tire. Put the lug nuts on the wheel studs tighten by hand.  Be cautious not to put the spare on backwards. It can damage your vehicle. (The spare tire is on backwards. The spare should sit the opposite way.)

install the spare tire correctly during a flat tire

Step 12: Lower the Vehicle

Carefully lower the vehicle by turning or moving the jack handle the opposite direction used to raise it. Once the vehicle is completely resting on the ground, remove the jack.

Step 13: Tighten the Lug Nuts

Once the vehicle is securely on the ground, fully tighten the lug nuts with the lug wrench. Tighten the lugs clockwise in a crisscross pattern. Consult your owner’s manual for the correct sequence. Failure to tighten the lug nuts properly may cause the tire to come loose.

Wheel Lug Nut Torque Sequences

Step 14: Clean Up

Pick everything up, including the old tire. Your flat tire might be an easy fix, so stow it in your trunk and bring it to a mechanic for further inspection. Make sure to pick up any loose or extra tire pieces.

Step 15: Drive Safe!

Once everything is cleaned up and you’re sure your spare tire is on tight, you’re safe to continue driving. Spare tires are often smaller than regular tires and are not reliable at high speeds. Do not exceed the speed label on the tire’s sidewall (usually 50 mph), and replace it with a new or repaired tire immediately.