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How to Change a Flat Tire on the Road

Flat tires seem to happen at the most inopportune time, such as on a road trip, on the way to work, or worse: when you come out of work to find you have a flat tire. Even if you have AAA or another roadside assistance, you need to know how to change a tire.

Good news! Almost every vehicle comes standard with a jack and tire iron. Always check when purchasing a new vehicle that it contains these tools and, if not, purchase your own so you have them in case of an emergency. Also, check the spare tire periodically to make sure it isn't flat. Nothing worse than having a flat tire only to find that your spare is also flat!

The better news? Changing a tire is easy! Follow these steps, and you will have the confidence and knowledge the next time you have this issue.

Step 1: Pull off the road on a completely flat area and place the car in park. Turn off your engine and switch on your hazard lights to warn other drivers of your situation. If there is heavy traffic, use flares.

Step 2: Place a large rock or sturdy, heavy object behind the tires if you're facing slightly uphill, or in front of the tires if you're facing slightly downhill. Next, you will need your spare tire, a car jack, and a tire iron.

Step 3: Remove the hubcap using the wedge on your tire iron. Next, loosen the lug nuts by turning the tire iron counterclockwise. Don't remove the lug nuts yet! Simply loosen them in a star-patterned order. Loosen one, and then move diagonally to the next one, and so on.

Tip: Most tire and auto shops use pneumatic guns to screw on lug nuts. This means it could be extremely difficult to loosen them. In extreme cases, you may need to stand on your tire iron to produce enough loosening force.

Pro tip: have some WD-40 stashed in your trunk in case you need it to help loosen the lug nuts.

Step 4: Jack up the car. Many cars have a particular spot on the frame for placing the jack. You may need to consult your owner's manual to find this spot. The new, fully inflated tire will be slightly bigger than the flat one, so jack up the car high enough to take this into account. When a car is up on the jack, do not climb under the car for any reason.

Step 5: Completely remove the lug nuts and place them aside, being sure not to lose them. If you have a hubcap, place them inside the upside-down hubcap.

Step 6: Carefully remove the flat tire. Place the new tire onto the wheel with the air valves facing out.

Step 7: One by one, replace the lug nuts in the same "star" pattern that you used to loosen them. Do not tighten them completely.

Step 8: Lower and remove the jack from the car, then finish tightening the lug nuts.

Step 9: Replace the hubcap, if necessary. That's it! You just learned how to change a tire!

Every driver should know how to replace a flat tire. If you've never replaced a tire, practice this skill by removing and replacing an existing tire that is in good condition. Having some practice under your belt can make changing a tire on the side of a busy road a little less hair-raising, and it will give you the confidence needed to tackle the job.

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