man changing flat tire

How To Change A Flat Tire

It happens to everyone: the dreaded flat tire. At best, it happens near home in a neighborhood without a ton of traffic. At worst, you’re on the side of a high-speed road, in bad weather, wearing your best outfit and you’re trying to make it to an appointment.

Not to worry! With this guide and video, you will learn how to change your tire quickly and easily.

Basics Of Tire Changing And Safety

It’s smart to keep step-by-step instructions (see below) on how to change a flat tire in your vehicle in case you’re ever in that situation. For all you visual learners out there, we’ve put together this how-to video that demonstrates the basics of how to change a tire safely and effectively.

IMPORTANT: A spare tire is not meant for extended travel, so only use your spare tire to drive to the nearest tire shop or home. Make sure you always have a spare tire, and check it a few times a year to ensure the air pressure is at a drivable level.

Check out our other Auto Maintenance instructional videos on how to change your wiper blades and how to check your tire pressure.

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Essentials For Changing Your Tire

Keep these items in your vehicle at all times:

  • Paper coveralls to protect your clothing (found at paint stores)
  • Spare tire
  • Car jack and tire tool
  • 2-3 foot length of open-ended pipe that fits snugly on end of tire tool
  • Gloves (great for any car troubles you may have)
  • Flashlight (hands-free is best)
  • Wipes for cleaning yourself off
  • Vehicle owner’s manual

Step-By-Step Guide:

    1. Even if you are an expert at changing flats, getting a flat tire can be nerve-wracking and stressful. Most importantly, do not panic. Engage your emergency flashers to indicate to other drivers you are in distress, and maneuver to the side of the road as safely and quickly as possible.
    2. If you have a choice, pull as far off the road as possible and on the flattest and firmest ground you see. The more level and solid the ground, the better.
    3. Call for help if you are in an emergency lane or center lane on a main street or highway. It is not safe for you to work on the vehicle unless you are well off the road with plenty of room to work. If your only option is a soft surface, do not attempt to jack up your vehicle as this can pose major safety concerns. Call for help.
    4. Once in a safe location, have all passengers exit the vehicle and stand as far away from moving traffic as possible.
    5. Set the car in park and set the emergency brake. If you have a manual transmission, leave the car in first gear or reverse.
    6. Consider placing a brick, large rock or log behind one of the undamaged tires to prevent the vehicle from rolling. This is especially important if you’re on an incline. If your vehicle is facing uphill, place the object behind the tire to prevent back-rolling. If your vehicle is facing downhill, place the object in front of the tire.
    7. Locate your spare tire and tools (in a sedan or coupe, these items are typically in the trunk; in an SUV, they are often mounted on the back or underside). Set the items you need near your work space. Try to stay as far away from moving traffic as possible.
    8. Removing Lug Nuts on a carIf the lug nuts (the things that hold your tire on) aren’t exposed and visible, you’ll probably need to remove the hubcap. Use the flat end of the tire tool to pry the hubcap off, being careful not to dent or bend it. This should reveal the lug nuts.
    9. Don’t jack the car up until after you’ve loosened the lug nuts. Otherwise your tire will spin in the air, making removal impossible.
    10. Lug nuts need to be loosened using the tire tool. Slip the tire tool over the first lug nut, then slide the pipe onto the end of the tire tool. The pipe gives you extra leverage. Don’t be afraid to put muscle into it.
    11. Once the first lug nut is loosened, leave it on for the time being. Skip every other lug nut, working your way around until all lug nuts have been loosened. Remember: righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.
    12. Lifting vehicle on a car jackAt this point, you’re ready to jack your car up. Slide the jack under your car frame and pump or turn the lift. Only lift your car until the tire is barely off the ground. It is very important to reference your owner’s manual for proper placement of the car jack.
    13. Completely remove the lug nuts and place them in your pocket or hubcap for safe keeping.
    14. Remove the tire by pulling straight away from the car.
    15. Car spare tireLift the spare tire onto the screw prongs, lining up the screws with the holes in the tire. Remember that the air valve should be facing OUT. Screw on the lug nuts by hand, alternating as you go with every other one, just until they’re all secured. Then go back with the tool and tighten them slightly.
    16. Lower the car with the jack just enough so that the tire doesn’t spin.
    17. Tightening Lug Nuts on a carUsing your tire tool, tighten the lug nuts in the same pattern as you loosened them. Turn them to the right to tighten and put some strength into it!
    18. Lower the vehicle all the way and remove the jack.
    19. Reinstall the hubcap if you have one.
    20. Drive carefully to the nearest tire shop.

For additional information and details for changing your vehicle’s flat tire, reference the owner’s manual for your vehicle.

If you ever get stranded with a flat tire, having GEICO Emergency Roadside Service can be a lifesaver. For just pennies a day per vehicle, you can have peace of mind that roadside help is only a call or a tap away. Be sure to add it to your policy today.

By Dawn McCaslin

Get GEICO Auto insurance.

    Leave a comment

  1. Advance Car Wreckers says,

    Do you ever wonder why tyres always get flat and why they always happen at the most inconvenient times? You’re going to a party; you’re already late for work; you’re on that most anticipated road trip. But then, you just gotta pull over because you’ve noticed something’s not right. So why? Is it because of poor maintenance or bad luck? Well, one thing we know for sure. If you are in that unfortunate scenario, playing the blame game isn’t going to miraculously get you out of that situation. You got to do something.

  2. William says,

    I suggest you carry three-quarter inch piece of plywood that is larger than the base of your jack. That way if you have to raise a car on a soft surface the jack won’t sink into the ground so easily..
    Also I would carry a 3ft piece of metal pipe not plastic or a torque wrench and maybe a four-way lug wrench..
    Never ever put your head underneath the fender of the car .
    under no circumstances do you change a tire in the left lane or on the left side of the road. That’s a good way to get yourself killed..
    Also if you have a triangle or cone put it behind the car at least 50 to a hundred feet bath that way drivers know that something’s wrong..
    Let somebody know at home that you’ve got car problems or that you’re changing the tire and your location.
    Some states that have free roadside assistance take advantage of it.

  3. Bev a PT Mama says,

    The newest commercial with front flat tire and guitar solo is done in error. A donut tire should never be put on the front. The rear goes to the front and the donut replaces the rear…….Especially with a front wheel drive vehicle.

  4. Chuck Guerrero says,

    “15. Lift the spare tire onto the screw prongs…” What are screw prongs? The correct name is wheel studs.

  5. Sandra j Schwab says,

    Thank you for this very important information, thank the lord for the one time at night two men stopped & changed our flat, they saw it happen. That was 30 years ago, three gals, none of us know how to change a tire.

  6. Carey A Jones says,

    If you happen to be in a situation where you must stop on an incline, remember to turn your steering wheel in the direction that if you are struck from behind that your vehicle will roll away from traffic.
    Also, don’t forget to use your flashers in all emergency situations.

  7. David Sherk says,

    Many cars are only equipped with so-called donut spare tires these days. It may be important to point out that driving on these on expressways may be prohibited as top allowable speeds are quite low. For long trips , I carry an actual spare; otherwise just a donut.

  8. Ami I. says,

    Thank you, Geico!

    This video was great! Step-by-step instructions on how to change a flat tire is very helpful, especially for someone that has never done it before.

    I will definitely save this for future reference. Also, the information on the “11 items we all should have in our vehicles in case of an emergency” is a perfect helpful tip. Thanks again!

    Geico, you’re a rock star!

  9. M. Thomas says,

    Thanks for the info, I think what would also be good to have is a knee pad for your knees in the car.

  10. Stephie Smith says,

    I’ve never changed tires before, and it sounds fairly intimidating to me to be honest. I know if I do get a flat, though, it would cause me a huge headache and fees for getting it towed. I’ll have to learn out to do it eventually, and I’ll save this article to refer to. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Wally West says,

    This is very helpful information. Thank you for sharing. I have been looking for some tire changing instructions for my kids, because I want them to be able to change a tire if they ever get in a tough spot. My wife and I were on our way home from a dinner, when our tire blew out. I had to put the spare tire on, so that we could take it to the service station to get fixed.

  12. Deanna R. Jones says,

    Thanks for the information! It really helps to know how to fix a flat tire when you’re stuck on the road. Other than knowing how to change a flat, it’s also important to have the tools to change it properly. It’s a good thing that you listed all of the tools needed in case of a flat tire. Gloves seem like a great thing to have in your trunk to make changing your tire easier. It seems like doing something like changing a flat would be rough on your hands, so using something to protect them would be very useful.

  13. Zak says,

    Thank you for posting this. I have gotten many calls over the last couple of years from people that needed a tire put onto their vehicle. I’m glad to see this article coming up so people can see this step by step picture based guide. Great job GEICO! oh and GEICO is great for truck insurance too i use them on my trucks.

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