How to change a tire

7 minute read Published on Jan 17, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

Close up of car tire

Knowing how to change a tire is an important skill for all drivers to have. It can mean the difference between getting yourself out of an emergency situation - or even just an inconvenient one - and having to call a professional for help. Whether you need a new tire after one goes flat or you are swapping your all-season tires for snow tires, being able to change a tire can help. We explain how to do just that below!

When do I need to change a tire?

A few of the most common reasons that drivers need to change a tire is because they get a flat while driving. However, there are other reasons that a tire might need to be changed as well. For example, you might need to remove your all-season tires so that you can install your snow tires before the cold weather hits. You also may simply need to replace an old tire with worn treads.

The rule of thumb for tires is that once the tread has worn down to 4/32 of an inch, it’s time to replace them as they do not have the same traction or gripping capabilities they once had, making them a hazard on the road. Whatever the reason for needing to change a tire, knowing how to do so is one of the best tire tips a driver can have in their back pocket.

What tools do I need to change a tire?

If you want to successfully change a tire, you will need to have the following tools on hand:

  • Car jack
  • Tire iron or lug wrench
  • Tire

Please note that depending on the type of vehicle you drive, you may also need a few other tools, such as alignment studs, a wheel cover or a lug nut wheel lock key, and extension bars for the spare tire.

A step-by-step guide on how to change a tire

If you get a flat tire while driving a car and you need to change your tire, the reality is that your car insurance policy won’t cover you if you go to a mechanic. Even if you have comprehensive car coverage or collision car insurance, you will still be on the hook for paying for these fees on your own.

The only situation in which your policy may cover you is if you have roadside assistance coverage, but even then, it isn’t a guarantee. The most cost-effective option is to change the tire yourself. But to do this, you must know how to change a tire.

Thankfully, we have put together the following step-by-step guide to teach you how to change a tire.

Please note that the instructions on how to change a tire are largely the same, no matter if you’re dealing with a flat tire or if you’re swapping or even rotating your tires. However, the very first step will differ depending on the circumstances that led to you needing a tire change.

If you get a flat tire, the best thing to do is slow down when possible and find somewhere to pull over and stop, whether it be a wide shoulder or a parking lot. Once stopped, turn on your hazard lights.

Alternatively, if you are simply swapping your tires and it isn't an urgent situation, find a safe, quiet spot away from traffic, pedestrians, and pets, such as a private driveway. Make sure that the place you choose is level to prevent your car from rolling away.

Without further ado, here are the steps to changing a tire:

1. Find a safe location to change your tire

The first step is to find a safe location in which to change your tire. Ideally, this will be a parking lot or driveway - somewhere that is quiet, level, and gives you lots of space. However, in certain situations, you might have no choice but to change your tire on the side of the road. If you have a flat tire, don't brake suddenly.

Instead, slowly reduce your speed and travel at this slow speed until you find a part of the road with a shoulder wide enough for you to perform the change. Ideally, choose a part of the road that is straight rather than curved so you are visible to oncoming traffic.

2. Turn on your hazard lights

The second step is to take a moment to turn on your hazard lights. This will alert other drivers to your presence and help you avoid an accident, especially if you are changing your tire in a public space, like on the side of the road.

3. Switch on the parking brake

The next step is to switch on the parking brake. You always want to do this when changing a tire as it will reduce the odds of the vehicle rolling.

4. Put your wheel wedges in place

Used to minimize rolling, wheel wedges (also known as wheel chocks) are placed before the tires until you have finished changing the tire. If you’re changing a rear tire, place the wheel wedges in front of the front tires. If you’re changing a front tire, place them behind the rear tires. Bricks or large rocks can work in a pinch so long as they are large and heavy enough to stop the car from rolling.

5. Remove the hubcap or wheel cover

Next, it’s time to remove the hubcap or wheel cover if applicable. Some models have hubcaps covering the lug nuts. To do this, use your lug wrench. If the lug wrench doesn’t work, consult the owner’s manual for your car to see if a different tool is required.

6. Use the lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts

Step number six is to use the lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts. To do this, you typically turn the lug nuts counterclockwise roughly ¼ to ½ of a turn. Do not remove them yet.

7. Place the car jack under the car

Once the lug nuts are loosened, it’s time to raise the vehicle off of the ground. The first step in this process is to simply place the car jack beneath the vehicle. The best place for this is usually underneath the vehicle frame alongside the tire that’s being changed.

Many car models nowadays have moulded plastic on the bottom with an area of exposed metal that is specifically designed for a jack to fit into. Look for this and place your jack there if you see this.

8. Raise the car using the jack

Once the car jack is in position, use it to raise the vehicle roughly six inches off the ground. Take care never to put any part of your body until the vehicle during the raising or lowering phase in case it accidentally buckles.

9. Fully unscrew the lug nuts

You loosened the lug nuts in step number six. Now is the time to unscrew them fully. At this point, you should be able to unscrew them by hand, but if not, you can use the lug wrench.

10. Take the tire off your car

Now that the lug nuts are unscrewed, you can remove the tire from your car. To do this, gently pull it toward you until it’s free from the hub. Set it down beside you and ensure it can’t roll away.

11. Mount the new tire on the lug bolts

Next, get your new tire and place it on the hub. Make sure to line up the rim of the spare tire with the lug bolts. Then gently push the tire toward the car until the lug bolts are visible through the rim.

12. Tighten the lug nuts with your hand

Place the lug nuts that you removed in step number nine and place them back on the lug bolts. From there, tighten them by hand as much as possible.

13. Lower the car to the ground and tighten the lug nuts with the lug wrench

After initially tightening the lug nuts, use the car jack to lower the vehicle back down to the ground. You want to lower the car to the point that the new tire is touching the ground but the full weight of the vehicle isn’t on it yet. Next, finish tightening the lug nuts using the lug wrench and turn the lug wrench clockwise as far as possible. You may need to use the full weight of your body to do this.

14. Lower the vehicle completely to the ground

Now it’s time to finish lowering the vehicle to the ground using the car jack. Since the lug nuts are fully screwed back in, it is safe for the car’s weight to be on the new tire.

15. Replace the hubcap

If you had to remove the hubcap in order to change your tire, now is the time to replace it.

16. Put your tools and equipment back in your car

Your job is nearly done, so the next step is to safely store your tools and equipment back in your car. This includes the car jack, lug wrench, wheel wedges, a hubcap if applicable, and your old tire.

17. Perform a tire pressure check

Before driving off with your new tire, perform a quick tire pressure check to make sure that it is safe to drive with your new tire. If you're driving with a spare tire, most temporary spares require 60 psi (420 kPa). If it’s clear the tire doesn’t have enough pressure, drive as slowly as you can to the nearest service station.

18. Take your car to an auto body shop (if you got a flat tire)

If a flat tire is what necessitates the tire change, you will need to take your car to the nearest auto body shop as soon as possible. Spare tires are not designed to travel long distances or at high speeds, so they are truly just a temporary fix.

A licensed mechanic will be able to assess the situation and either repair the tire or help you replace it with a new one.

Get in touch with BrokerLink

As you can see, changing a tire is easier than it might seem, and knowing how to change a tire can be extremely useful. In addition to having the necessary tools in your car to change a tire, you should always have a valid car insurance policy as well. Car insurance plans in Canada vary, but many include the following types of coverage, among others:

A BrokerLink insurance advisor can help you find a quality insurance policy that aligns with your driving habits and budget. Request your free auto insurance quote today. We offer accurate, reliable, and affordable car insurance quotes, and they take just 5 minutes! Get started now by contacting BrokerLink.

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