Changing a Tire 101: Everything You Need To Know

Changing a Tire 101: Everything You Need To Know

Depending on the situation, changing a tire on the family vehicle can be easy, challenging, or downright impossible. Fortunately, there are different ways to make tire changing easier and safer for the DIYer. And if it can’t be done alone, professional help is always just around the corner.

So, let’s go through the necessary steps, safety considerations, equipment you’ll need to make the process easier, and tips a family might employ to resolve the problem using professional help. 

Typical Tire-Changing Situations

First, let’s consider four scenarios that typically apply to family-involved tire changing.

Scenario #1: Mom walks out the front door and realizes the family car has a flat tire in the driveway. She sees that a nail or other sharp object has punctured the tire somewhere in the tread. This situation is typically fixable using DIY processes.

Scenario #2: Mom realizes the family car has a flat tire in the driveway. She sees a nail sticking out of the tire’s sidewall. This situation is not typically fixable using DIY processes.

Scenario #3: Mom notices the family car’s flat tire at home. She sees a series of cracks or obvious rips on the tire’s sidewall. This situation is not typically fixable using DIY processes.

Scenario #4: Mom is driving on the road and experiences a flat. Once the car has been brought safely to a stop on the side of the road, and depending on the resultant condition of the tire, there are two resolutions to the problem: 1. Change the tire on the road. 2. Call for professional help. This situation requires a decision, and DIY depends entirely on the person’s experience and particular circumstances.

Now, before we get into the nitty-gritty of actually changing a tire, there are a couple of simple definitions that any family member should comprehend before getting started.

  1. Tread: The flat, road-contacting surface of a tire.
  2. Sidewall: The vertical face of a tire.
  3. Puncture: A small, sharp element that enters somewhere IN the tread.
  4. Tear: An irregular fissure on the sidewall of a tire typically caused by some kind of incident like striking a curb or picking up some kind of sharp refuse.
  5. Crack: One or more small, highly irregular fissures on the sidewall of a tire, typically caused by climatic events like dry rotting and/or simple tire age.
Person tigthening a tire

Changing Out a Tire

Before you begin the tire-changing process, knowing the necessary tools, equipment, and accessories is important. This list includes:

  1. Wheel chocks or blocks: These contoured elements are made of plastic or wood to keep tires from moving when jacking a vehicle off the ground.
  2. Lug wrench: This tool, sometimes referred to as a “tire iron,” is used to loosen and/or tighten multiple lug nuts or bolts necessary to secure a wheel/tire to a vehicle’s wheel hub.
  3. Pry bar/Lug socket: Some folks prefer to use a pry bar/socket combination to exert better leverage on the frozen lug nuts or bolts. Please consult your Owners Manual before utilizing this approach. 
  4. Jack:This tool is used to lift the vehicle off the ground, thereby allowing the removal of the wheel/tire combination from the wheel hub.
  5. Tire gauge: This inexpensive tool measures tire pressures before and after changing a tire.
  6. Powered air pump: This tool re-pressurizes the tire after it has been patched. Both battery- and AC-powered versions are available on the market.
  7. Pair of pliers: This tool can be used to remove a nail or sharp object from the tire tread.
  8. Penetrating lubrication spray: This solution can be used to loosen overly-tightened lug nuts and bolts.
  9. Flashlight: Useful to illuminate any problematic area securing the wheel/tire combination.
  10. Rubber gloves: Protect your hands by utilizing these handy accessories.
  11. Safety glasses: Protect your eyes by utilizing these handy accessories.
  12. Small spray bottle: This element is used to identify the location of a puncture if the hole is not visually apparent. The bottle should contain a small quantity of soapy water.
  13. Tire patching kit: This inexpensive collection typically includes glue, narrow rubber swabs, and a metal tool with a hole located in the middle of a sharpened tip.
yellow chock underneath tire

The Step-By-Step Tire Changing Process

  1. Chock the tires: Place chocks on all tires that will not be affected by the removal of one or more tires.
  2. Place the jack under the vehicle: Please consult your Owner’s Manual before placing the jack under the vehicle. Certain placement requirements apply, so please ensure that safe operation is applied before executing this step.
  3. Lift the vehicle: Using the push-pull or rotating lever to lift the vehicle off the ground.
  4. Loosen the wheel’s lug nuts or bolts: Please consult your Owner’s Manual before attempting to loosen the lug nuts. Most vehicles require a counter-clockwise twist to loosen lug nuts. However, some international wheel/hub combinations require a right-twist instead. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FORCE this process. If you are applying a counter-clockwise twist and the bolt will not loosen after applying a fair amount of pressure, use penetration lubrication to help break the nut free. If it won’t move, consulting professional help is best.
  5. Remove the lug nuts: Assuming that the lug nuts are free, remove all but one and set them aside. Then, carefully remove the last nut minding that the wheel MAY fall off the hub. Using a degree of care, remove the wheel/tire combination and place it on the ground next to you.
  6. Investigate the puncture: If you can see the puncture due to a nail or other sharp object pull the object from the tread. If you cannot see the puncture, spray soapy water on the tread to see if you see bubbles somewhere on the tread.
  7. Use the tire patch kit: Once you have identified the hole, and removed the sharp object, use the tire patch kit to plug the hole. Instructions are typically available on the back of the kit.
  8. Use the powered air pump: Re-pressurize the tire to the proper level. Consult your Owners Manual to establish the proper pressure for your vehicle. DO NOT OVER INFLATE.
  9. Re-hang the wheel/tire combination: Lift and place the wheel/tire combination on the hub, and align the wheel holes with the hub holes. Then, secure one lug nut in the hole.
  10. Align all wheel holes wheel hub: Once you have the wheel holes aligned, secure each nut accordingly.
  11. Use the tire iron: Tighten all nuts or bolts until entirely secure.
  12. Let the vehicle down carefully: Using the jack lever or rotating handle, ease the vehicle down slowly.
  13. Remove the jack: Once the vehicle is resting on its tires, remove the jack and set it aside.
  14. Remove the chocks: Remove all chocks.    
car being put on ramp of tow truck

 What if a Tire Is No Longer Usable? Call a Professional!

If a tire has reached its end of life, there are two ways to involve a tire professional—bring the tire to a service center or have a mobile tire operation come to you to install a new tire.

The first scenario is usually best since a service center will have everything you’ll need to get the job done at a reasonable price. However, if you choose the mobile option, this process will cost more, as it usually involves the price of the tire and the mobile service charge. Regardless of the choice given your specific circumstances, the goal when changing a tire or repairing a wheel is to get your vehicle back in safe, working order so that you and your family can continue down the road.

Changing a Tire 101: Everything You Need To Know text with picture of a flat tire

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