How to Change a Flat Tire in 8 Easy Steps

Knowing how to replace a flat tire and investing in roadside assistance can save you time and money. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to change a flat tire, even if you don’t have experience.

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UPDATED: Jun 13, 2022

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Written By: Chris TepedinoReviewed By: Laura WalkerUPDATED: Jun 13, 2022Fact Checked

The Rundown

  • Many vehicles come from the manufacturer with a spare tire and the tools you need for a tire change
  • Changing a tire usually takes an average of 15 to 30 minutes
  • You should follow the directions in your owner’s manual and stay away from traffic while changing your tire

Getting a flat tire can be inconvenient, especially if you don’t know how to change it yourself. You could need to wait hours for roadside assistance or another driver willing to help you. If you pull over in a place without cell phone reception, you might have to walk a few miles to find help. 

People who know how to change a flat tire can solve this problem quickly and get back on the road. It costs little to nothing to replace a flat tire with your spare if you’re prepared. Here’s a step-by-step look at how to change a tire.

1. Find a Safe Place

If you get a flat tire, slow down and pull over as soon as you can. Look for a place away from the road, in a parking lot, driveway, or emergency lane if possible. Avoid braking or swerving suddenly, and activate your car’s hazard lights to give other drivers plenty of time to see your vehicle and avoid it. 

Make sure there’s enough space around the tire you need to change to stay away from traffic. People have died from vehicle collisions after trying to change a tire too close to a busy road. If you’re not sure that you can complete the task where you are, move your car; if you have roadside assistance coverage, now is the time to call them for help. Before you start working, set your car’s parking brake.

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2. Remove the Hubcap and Loosen the Lug Nuts

On many vehicles, the hubcap covers the lug nuts, meaning you have to remove it to access them. Some cars don’t have hubcaps, or you can remove the lug nuts before removing the hubcap. With most vehicles, you can use the flat end of a lug wrench (usually found in your vehicle’s trunk) to pry the hubcap off. Then, use the socket or lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts by turning them counterclockwise. Turn the wrench about one-quarter or one-half turn, but don’t remove the lug nuts completely yet.

3. Use the Car Jack

Place the car jack (also stored in your vehicle’s trunk) underneath the vehicle, next to the flat tire. You should see an exposed metal area on the vehicle’s frame where the jack should go. You can check your owner’s manual to make sure you chose the right place. It’s also a good idea to make sure the ground is firm and level. After the car jack is in position, turn it clockwise until it lifts the flat tire about 6 inches off the ground. Don’t place any part of your body underneath the car while the wheel is not on the ground.

4. Finish Unscrewing the Lug Nuts and Remove the Tire

At this point, you can finish unscrewing the lug nuts that you loosened earlier. Remove them and put them in a safe place to make sure you don’t lose any of them while you work. Then, grip the tire by its tread and pull it toward you to remove it from the car.

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5. Attach the Spare Tire and Tighten the Lug Nuts by Hand

You can usually find your spare tire in the trunk, underneath the vehicle, or on the back door, depending on your car. Put the spare tire on the car by lining up the lug bolts on the wheel with the holes on the hub in the center. Reattach the lug nuts and tighten them as much as you can by hand.

6. Lower the Car Jack and Finish Tightening the Lug Nuts

Once your spare is in place,  you can gently lower the vehicle until the tire is touching the ground. Then, use the lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts more.

7. Remove the Jack and Replace the Hubcap

Finish lowering the car jack, and tighten the lug nuts one more time. Be sure to use all your arm strength to get them fully tightened so the wheel doesn’t come off. If your vehicle’s hubcap fits the spare tire, you can replace it. If you plan to get a new tire soon or the hubcap doesn’t fit, store it in your vehicle’s cargo area.

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8. Put Away Your Equipment and Check the Spare’s Tire Pressure

Store your equipment, including the flat tire, and take a look around the vehicle to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Check the spare’s tire pressure and add air if needed. If you don’t have an air compressor, you can usually find one at a gas station.

How much does it cost to replace a flat tire?

Changing a tire is easy, even for people trying it for the first time. You can do it with just a wrench, a spare tire, a tire pressure gauge, and a car jack. Furthermore, knowing how to change a flat tire can save you a pretty penny. The Balance reports that a tire alone can cost $20 for a used tire or upwards of $100 for a new tire, not counting labor costs.

If you have collision or comprehensive car insurance, your company may cover slashed tires or other damage, as well as roadside assistance. However, most providers won’t pay for flats from normal wear and tear. 

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by insurance experts.

Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about home, life, and car insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and C...

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Written by Chris Tepedino
Insurance Feature Writer Chris Tepedino

Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent Laura Walker

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