Don’t Call AAA–Change it Yourself


Changing a flat tireIf you’re hanging around the StreetSide Blog, there’s a good chance you know how to change a tire.  But there are whole generations of us yunguns who learn most of what we do online (don’t miss your chance to teach your kids this, pops).  So if you’re old enough to know about Momo steering wheels but young enough to know about Momo the flying lemur, here’s a quick tutorial on how to change a tire.

1. Find the right area.

Even after your tire goes flat, you can safely roll on it for short distances, just go slowly.  Switch on your hazard lights (the red triangle), and coast to a level area.  If possible, try to put the car between yourself and oncoming traffic.  The other thing to remember is that your jack will only work safely on pavement, so don’t pull off into the grass.  Yank the parking brake and shift into park (or first, for those of you who enjoy fun) if the blown tire is in the rear.

2. Loosen the lugs.

Before you get all crazy with the jack, you’ll want to loosen the lug nuts- for a couple of reasons.  First, it will prevent the wheel from spinning in mockery of your efforts while you’re trying to wrest them off.  Second, because loosening them might cause the car to rock back and forth, and it could rock it right off the jack.  If your car has hub caps, pry them off with the sharp end of the tire iron (gently), and set to work on those lug nuts–righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.

Often lug nuts are fused into place with rust and age, but you can apply as much force as needed to get them off, even if you have to stand on the tire iron.  Stop when you can turn them freely.  You can probably imagine the risks of taking them all the way off before jacking up the car.

Changing a flat tire3. Jack it up.

Put your jack in place.  Remember, the best place to do this is on the pavement.  Beside the wheel in question, you should find a reinforced area of the frame.  This is where the jack goes.  Start cranking.  If you like most drivers, have a scissor jack, you’ll need to turn it clockwise to raise it. 

Take a look at one of your full tires to get an idea of how much space you’ll need between the rim and the ground.

4. Remove the lug nuts and tire

Now you can take the lug nuts all the way off of the lugs.  Keep track of them, since you’ll need them all. An upturned hubcap makes an excellent lug nut storage device.  Now the wheel can come off.  Pull it off and lay it down, so it doesn’t roll into the road and cause a catastrophic accident.

5. Put on the spare. 

Like the wheel you just removed, the spare should “cup” the brake assembly, so the concave part goes toward the car.  When it’s in place, put the lugs back on as tightly as you can, using just your hands.  Wiggle the wheel while turning each nut to make sure it seats properly. 

Changing a flat tire6. Lower and Tighten

Let the car back down gently then use your tire iron to tighten the lugs.  Ideally, you should use a torque wrench to ensure lug nuts are tightened to manufacturer’s specifications.  You’ll want to tighten the lugs in a star pattern to ensure a proper fit.  Start with the bottom nut then move to the one opposite, as if you’re drawing a five point star.  Then do it again.  Don’t forget the tightening step.  It’s easy to forget after you’ve lowered the car back to the ground. 

And now, Gen Y and younger, you know how to do it.  It almost makes you want to cancel your AAA membership, doesn’t it?

Author: Andy Sheehan

Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car. Find me on G+


  1. Instead of pictures of a nice clean and clear level driveway with jack stand, floor jack, breaker bar, and torque wrench (who has a flat tire at home?).  How about showing a picture of a person in the rain at night on a sloping shoulder of a busy interstate with only a rusty scissors jack they have never seen before?  I suggest you make sure your AAA membership is up to date for you and all family members.

  2. It is a basic language to know how to change tires. And also i is very important to carry spare tyres along the way especially when you are going in a long trip. 

  3. Never replace a single tire . We must remember that if a tire is damaged and cannot be repaired, replace it as well as its mate on the other side of the car.

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