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Take The Pressure Out Of Changing Your Tires

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While there are many elements of proper automotive care and maintenance that a teen should be aware of, one of the most common things you should know how to do is change a tire.

If you have just recently received your license and are hitting the road for the first time, it may not be long before you have your first experience with a flat tire. The moment may come slowly — a slight pull to the right or left as you drive straight — or all at once with a blown tire due to a nail or other debris hiding in the road.

Flat tires are not a matter of if it will happen, but when. That moment can be full of stress and anxiety for teenagers who don’t know the steps necessary to quickly and efficiently change tires.

If you are a teenage driver who doesn’t know how to change your tires, don’t feel bad. You aren’t alone. Recent studies have shown that nearly 44% of teenagers and adults report that they don’t know how to change their tires. 32% say they aren’t even sure how to check their tire pressure — an important step in avoiding dangerous tire-related incidents.

How To Change A Tire In 7 Easy Steps

If the thought of changing your tires seems overwhelming, don’t worry. Just like learning any other important lesson, breaking down the process can help you understand how to change your tires by taking it one step at a time. The directions below, as well as our handy illustrated guide, will help you learn this important skill.

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How to Change a Tire - A 7-Step Guide

Here are a few things you will need:

  • Car owners manual
  • Jack
  • Spare tire or new tire
  • Lug wrench
  • Gloves
  • Towel for cleanup

To Prepare:

Check the owner manual that came with your car to see all of the critical information that your car manufacturer provides:

  • Tire type
  • Tire pressure
  • Changing process recommendations for your specific car
  • Needed materials

Step 1: Safety First

If you’re practicing changing a tire, park your car in a safe, level location, such as your driveway or in a parking lot. If you are out driving when a flat tire occurs, pull over to a safe, flat location where you can get an eye on what exactly has happened. Find an empty side street or parking lot. A highway shoulder can be dangerous when changing a tire, so do not attempt to change a tire here. Call 911 or a towing service in any situation where you don’t feel safe. Once stopped, put your parking brake on to avoid unexpected movement of your vehicle while you change your tire and set up reflective triangles if you have them. Putting on your hazard lights — no matter the time of day — will allow other drivers to more clearly see you.

Step 2: Loosen the Lug Nuts

Following the instructions found in your vehicle owner manual, remove the hubcap from the wheel to be changed (only if necessary; see note below), and use the lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts. Make sure to unscrew all of the lug nuts at an equal rate (about a quarter to half-turn each) to avoid the tire becoming unbalanced. Don’t remove the lug nuts completely. Save that step for when it’s time to remove your tire from the vehicle.

NOTE: Depending on your lugs nuts, you may or may not need to remove your hubcap before loosening them. Lug nuts can be exposed or covered by your hubcap. Removing the hubcap is easier before lifting the vehicle with a jack. Check your owner’s manual for hubcap or wheel cover removal procedures specific to your vehicle.

Step 3: Jack Up the Vehicle

Use the jack — positioned under the vehicle and connected to a sturdy, flat portion of the vehicle body — to lift the vehicle up until the wheel itself is at least six inches off the ground. Turn the jack clockwise by hand until it meets the vehicle. Continue to turn the jack in a clockwise motion until the damaged tire is about six inches above the ground. Never have any part of your body under the vehicle during or after raising the vehicle with the jack.

Step 4: Remove Lug Nuts and Tire

Now, with the wheel 6 inches off the ground, finish removing the lug nuts and place them aside in a safe spot. Carefully remove the tire from the axle by grasping it with both hands and pulling it straight towards you. Set the old tire out of the way and in a position where it won’t roll away.

Step 5: Attach New Tire and Screw On Lug Nuts

Place the new tire on the vehicle while ensuring it’s not backward. Screw the lug nuts back onto the tire by hand, tightening each lug nut in the same equal rate as when you unscrewed them by hand. You will tighten them with the lug wrench again once the vehicle is lowered.

Step 6: Lower the Vehicle and Tighten Lug Nuts

When the wheel and lug nuts are on, carefully lower the vehicle back to the ground and remove the jack from under the vehicle. Continue to tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern with the lug wrench until all the lug nuts are fully tightened.

Step 7: Check Tire Pressure in Spare Tire

Replace the hubcap over the lug nuts (if necessary). Check the air pressure in the spare tire to make sure it’s road-ready. Disengage the parking brake before continuing to drive. A spare tire is a temporary fix. Drive at no more than 50 mph and no more than 70 miles before seeing a mechanic.

That’s all there is to it!

Now that you know how to change your tires, you will have the confidence to handle nearly any car-related maintenance issue that pops up. Taking the time to learn each step of taking care of your vehicle will help you become a more confident car owner and will keep your car safely on the road for much longer. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about how to take care of everyday car care, the more you will be able to take to the road with pride!

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