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How to Fix a Flat Tire

Things You'll Need:

Leverage Pipe
Lug-nut Key (for Locking Lug
Nuts Only)
Spare Tire (with Air In It)
Lug-nut Wrench


1. Turn the flashers on and
slowly and safely pull off
the road. Find a spot that
is visible but also away
from traffic. Avoid soft
shoulders and inclines. Put
the hood up to indicate to
other motorists that you
are in mechanical distress,
or set a few flares out on
the road at 10-foot (3-m)

2. Apply the hand brake and
put the transmission in
park or in gear so the car
won't roll.

3. Open the trunk and take
out a spare tire, leverage
pipe, jack, lug-nut wrench
and (if it's dark out)
flashlight (see illustration).
The leverage pipe is simply
a piece of hollow pipe that
can help you loosen a lug
nut previously tightened
with an air ratchet; you
can buy this at a hardware
or plumbing supply store.

4. Chock the other wheels
with a large rock or a log
to prevent the car from

5. Remove the hubcap (if
necessary) with a
screwdriver. Many newer
cars have hubcaps that
don't require removal for
access to the lug nuts.

6. Use the lug-nut wrench to
loosen the lug nuts on the
flat tire (but do not
remove them). To loosen a
bolt or nut, turn
Remember: lefty-loosy,
righty-tighty. If it doesn't
come off easily, place the
leverage pipe over the end
of the lug-nut wrench and
pull up rather than push
down to avoid back injury.
If one lug on each wheel
looks different from the
rest and the lug-nut
wrench doesn't fit it, then
you have locking lug nuts
(to prevent wheel theft).
Check the glove
compartment for a special
key that fits on this lug
nut and makes removal
with the lug-nut wrench

7. When all the nuts are
loose, jack up the car,
making sure the jack is
vertical and well planted on
the hard surface of the
road (do not jack up a car
on sand or dirt). You'll find
diagrams indicating where
to place the jack either in
the car owner's manual or
on a sticker affixed to the
jack. Most cars have a
small slot near each tire
for the jack. Jack up the
car slightly more than
needed to remove the flat
tire; the spare will be
larger because it is full of

8. Remove the lug nuts. Put
them in your pocket or
someplace else where
they won't get lost.

9. Take the flat tire off and
put it in the trunk.

10. Put the spare on. If you
are unsure which way the
wheel goes on, look for the
air-pressure valve--it
always faces out.

11. Tighten the lug nuts by
turning clockwise.
Use a crisscross or star
pattern so the wheel
doesn't go on cockeyed.

12. Lower the car and remove
the jack.

13. Tighten the lug nuts again
using the leverage pipe.
Make them as tight as you

14. Pop on the hubcap (if

15. Put everything away
neatly so it's ready for
next time.

16. Remove the chock, then
drive to a tire shop. Most
shops can fix flats while
you wait, and it's usually

Tips & Warnings

Check the air pressure in
your spare tire every month.
Many drivers forget about
the spare tire tucked away in
the trunk and let it go flat.

Practice changing a tire in
your driveway. Figure out
how your jack works so you'll
be less stressed when the
real thing occurs.

Jacks for changing tires are
meant for that purpose only.
Do not crawl under a car
you've jacked up with a tire-
changing jack.

Many smaller cars come
equipped with a temporary
spare, a smaller and thinner
tire not intended for driving
long distances at highway
speeds. This will be indicated
on the side of the tire. A
small spare requires more
air than a regular tire does.

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