Until the day comes when we are all piloting flying cars (and trust me, the day will come), our cars are stuck with these rubber things called tires. They roll nice and all, but they have a rather nasty problem of sometimes losing air. And without air, they become deflated and virtually useless.
Changing a flat tire is not a very pleasant experience. It seems like your car purposely tries to get a flat tire at the least opportune moments. Like when you are rushing home from work to catch your favorite episode of "Happy Days," for instance. You know, the one where Fonzie rides the killer bull while on vacation in Colorado.
Now, there are some of you who might be lucky and own a car with run-flat tires or a low tire-pressure warning system. If that is the case, you might be able to avoid the icky process. But even if you are a hapless soul, changing a tire doesn't have to be all bad. With knowledge comes power. If you are unsure how to change a tire properly, and you want to know, read on.
OK, so you are driving along and all of a sudden you hear a loud bang and the telltale thumping noise of a dead tire. You carefully pull off to the shoulder of the road. Checking to make sure no other motorists are going to run you over, you exit your vehicle and inspect the car. Sure enough, your car's left front tire is completely flat. You are not going to be able to keep driving, so you are going to have to remove it and install your car's spare tire in its place.
JACK UP THE CAR
The first step is to find your car's spare tire, jack and tire iron. The spare tire is almost always located underneath the floor mat in the trunk. Unless, of course, your car doesn't have a trunk. If you own an SUV, minivan or pickup, the spare tire is often mounted on the back of the tailgate or underneath the vehicle itself.
Once you have found the spare tire, remove it from the car. If you have an air pressure gauge handy, you will want to check the spare tire's pressure. If this tire is flat, too, you're in a bit of trouble. But let's just assume you have been keeping tabs on the spare tire's health, and its air pressure is perfect.
The next step will involve removing the flat tire. Make sure that the car is in gear (or in "park" if the car is an automatic) and the emergency brake is set. The car should be parked on a flat piece of pavement. Do not attempt to change a flat if the car is on a slope or if it is sitting on dirt. It's also a good idea to block the tire opposite of the flat tire. Therefore, if the left front tire is flat, it would be a good idea to place a brick or other large, heavy object behind the right rear tire. (Your cousin Fred might also be large and heavy, but it's not a good idea to use him to block the tire). Blocking the tire makes the car less likely to move when you are raising it.
Use the tire iron (the L-shaped bar that fits over the wheel lugs) to loosen each wheel lug. The wheel lugs are almost certainly very tight. You'll have to use brute force. Just think about how Mr. T from the "A-Team" would do it and try to be like him. Say to yourself, "Hannibal, I piddy da fool who can't break loose wheel lugs." You'll have those babies loose in no time. You loosen them by turning them counterclockwise, by the way.
Now, at this point, you don't want to actually remove the lugs. You just want them loose. Once you have accomplished this, move the jack underneath the car. If you don't know where the proper jacking points are, look them up in the owner's manual (you keep your owner's manual in your car, right?).
Maneuver the jack underneath the jack point and start to raise the jack. Most car jacks these days are a screw-type scissor jack, which means you simply turn the knob at the end of the jack using the provided metal hand crank. Raise the jack until it contacts the car's frame and continue expanding the jack.