The open road… there’s nothing like it.
Picture this, sir: there you are, cruising along California’s Pacific Coast Highway a hundred miles north of LA, your hands resting easily on the wheel of your restored ’68 Shelby (or your ’03 Altima, that’s fine too), tunes blaring (or NPR’s Morning Edition, this is building a narrative that won’t impact the step-by-step instructions to follow) when… it happens!
There’s a pop and a sudden rumbling! The car pulls hard to the right (or left)! And dammit, but there’s no question what’s happened: you, sir, have blown a tire. (Or ma’am, for the record. Tires don’t care who happens to be driving).
Related: Speaking of ’68 Mustangs…
Now sure, you could pull over and call for roadside assistance and sit there sniveling and whimpering and digging the toe of your stylish desert boot into the gray pebbled embankment as someone fixes your problems for you… or you could be a man, man! I’ll assume you went with the latter, so let’s talk tire changing.
- Pull Way Over
Make sure you get your car as far off the road as possible. Take an exit or turn onto a side street if you can. Parking lots are best. Grass, dirt, or any surface that’s not hard and flat is the worst. Hills too are not so good. Just get to the flattest spot you can that’s as far from traffic as possible. Now put on those flashers and let’s set up shop.
- Inspect the Tire
Is it flat? Yep, it’s flat. Do you have and know how to use a patch kit and inflator? No? OK then move on to the next step.
- Get Out Your Tools
Get everything you’ll need before you start doing any actual work and lay the tools and parts out somewhere they’ll be easy to manage, ideally on top of a blanket or towel. What you’ll need, at minimum, is:
A Spare Tire
Ideally, you will also have at your disposal:
And for super sticky nuts (yeah, ha, real mature, bro) some WD-40, as long as we’re talking about stuff.
- Loosen the Lug Nuts
Do not remove the nuts, sir… merely loosen them. Lug nuts are often so tightly in place that you’ll need your entire upper body’s strength to get them to budge. You may even need to stand or jump on the wrench to get them moving, or pound it with a rock or hammer. (This is where WD-40 may come in handy! Just remember to wipe it away as best as possible before replacing the nuts later.) Should you need to jump on the wrench once the car is already jacked up, you run the risk of the car falling off the jack and turning a relatively unpleasant bad situation into a total shitshow.
- Jack It Up
If you’re an amateur tire changer, don’t feel it unmanly to consult the manual (hey!) that came with your car before choosing where to place the jack. Many areas on the undercarriage of a vehicle can easily support thousands of pounds of weight concentrated on the small area atop a jack’s head. Other areas will snap or crack with alacrity. Pick a smart spot to place the jack, and then jack up the car until the wheel is about a fist’s height off the ground.
- Now Remove the Nuts
Take those lug nuts you loosened off the car and place them very carefully in a pile or even in your pocket (or the hands of a helper). Remember what Ralphie did in A Christmas Story? Don’t do what he did.
- Pull Off the Flat
Pull the flat tire straight toward you, supporting its weight so it will come off evenly and smoothly. If it starts coming off at an angle, start over, as it will easily get stuck.
7. Throw the Flat Tire Into the Woods
Just kidding. Please don’t do that.
Real 7. Put On the Spare
Put the spare tire on the car by carefully aligning it with the posts and then sliding it straight onto
- Put the Nuts On
Same story with removal: put each lug nut back onto the tire and begin to tighten them, but do not secure them all the way.
- Lower the Vehicle Back to the Ground, Back Down to Terra Firma, Back to This Humble Orb All of History Calls Home, Back to Our Beloved Spinning Sphere of ah whatever put the car down
Lower the car using the jack. Um, that’s it for this step.
- Tighten the Nuts
Now use that wrench to get those lug nuts onto your spare tire good n’ tight! There ya go, great job. You showed those nuts.
11. Check the Spare Tire’s Pressure
Ideally you will have a pressure gauge in your arsenal of tools. You can get one for like… like nine bucks, dude. Just get one. The spare should say its ideal pressure on the side. If you’re close to it, great, get outta there and get to a shop ASAP. If you’re way low, then you better hope you have a pump; if not, just take things easy and make it as short a trip as possible. If you don’t have a gauge, use the pad of your thumb and press into the tire’s wall. It should be good and firm.
- Clean Up
- Hit the Road
Get on your way, mister! But don’t drive quite so fast, and don’t be one of those people that drive on the damn doughnut for days. Yes, that was some great alliteration there, but no, it’s still not a good idea. Get a new tire. And pro tip: invest in a full-sized tire as your spare.
Bon voyage, gents!