How to Change a Flat Tire – A Visual Guide

Approximately once every two weeks, someone where I work has a flat tire. There are almost two hundred vehicles in the parking lot, which adds up to about eight hundred tires. Figure that each of those tires travels between 5 and 50 miles to get there and back each day, and it’s no wonder someone picks up a nail now and then. If we’re lucky, we find our tire flat in a parking lot or our driveway and we’ve got nowhere we need to be anytime soon.

Flat tires aren’t about luck though are they? No. Most of the time, we end up with a flat tire while we’re driving down a deserted back road, or running late already. Changing a tire is something that everyone who drives a vehicle should know how to do.

Once you know how, you’ll be an unstoppable road warrior. Or maybe, you’ll just be twenty minutes late instead of an hour and half because you didn’t have to wait on roadside assistance.

NOTE: This step-by-step guide assumes you have a spare tire (with air), jack, and lug wrench in your vehicle. If you bought your vehicle used and it has aftermarket wheels on it, be sure the lug wrench you have works. You may need to buy a new one at an auto parts store. Also, it helps to have a towel or small blanket to sit on while you change the wheel. You won’t get your pants dirty, and you can wipe your hands on it when you’re done.

How to Change a Flat Tire Infographic Visual Guide

Adam currently serves as the supervisor of Student Services for Columbia Southern University. His hobbies include adventure racing, anything involving the outdoors, and zombies. He spends his free time enjoying all of these things with his wife and two dogs.

  • http://twitter.com/impeccableimage Kimberly Gomez

    Love this. Thank you so much! I’m printing it and keeping it in my car just in case. Uh, I guess I better also add the tools needed. :)

    • Adam

      Glad to help :)
      If you wanted to crazy, you could have your print outs laminated so they are weatherproofed and won’t get torn up in your trunk!

  • Knate

    * Facepalm *

  • Taylor

    Don’t forget to check your spare tire’s pressure before putting it on the car. It is easier to fill the spare while it is off the car. Also, if the spare is very low on air, it can come off the wheel if you drive on it, causing it to not hold air without tools/know how for resetting it.

    • Adam

      Great point. I just finished up another piece on important things to keep in your vehicle. An air gauge and electric air pump are on the list. Groing up poor, our tires were very much like The Old Man’s tires on Christmas Story…”They were round and they had once been made of rubber” :) Having a small 12v air pump has saved me more times than I can count.

    • Adam Brewton

      I know it’s been a while since this was published, but thought I should share this. My wife and I were on vacation in Moab Utah when we got a puncture in our tireand it immediately popped off the wheel. We were about 4 miles from the nearest paved road and hadn’t seen another person or vehicle in hours. When I went to change the tire, the jack handle broke! I had to drive with the tire off the bead (wheel) for about 3 miles until we got to a point where the park ranger could meet us to help out. Let me just tell you, the irony of having this happen shortly after writing this was not lost on me one bit :)

  • Weston

    Don’t tighten the lugnuts too much on the jack. You don’t want the strain you put into it to shake the car. Get them secure but really tighten them on the ground

  • Steve

    Also, if you have a smaller spare, I would not recommend putting it on a drive wheel. This may require taking another wheel off besides the flat and putting the spare there first before replacing the flat with a full sized tire.

    • Wilburre

      Skeptical of this. On all cars the smaller width spare should be placed on a rear wheel, regardless of drive type (FWD, RWD, AWD). This is to keep normal steering characteristics. The space saving wheel is offset to standard, so there shouldn’t be any differential problems for rear wheel drive cars.

  • Jason

    It’s also worth mentioning, don’t exceed 80 km/h (50 mph) on your spare. It’s designed to be enough to get you to a service centre to get a new wheel, and that’s IT.

    The lug wrenches that come with cars don’t always get the job done. Get a real breaker bar and save yourself a headache.

  • Josh

    I found this out just a couple years ago while changing my first flat. I realized my car has one different lug on every wheel that did not fit straight into the wrench. Turns out these four lugs were ‘safety’ lugs that were in place to prevent people from stealing your wheels.

    If you happen to have this feature, make sure you have the safety key in your car at all times, either in the glove box or with your spare tire. I didn’t have mine, and I had to end up looking like a fool, calling AAA for a spare.