CAR MAINTENANCE TIPS: HOW TO CHANGE A FLAT TIRE
By Kathy Sena with Ford Senior Master Technician Jim Twitchell
It’s a sickening sound, that rhythmic thump-thump-thump of a flat tire. Maybe you hit a deep pothole. Or you drove over a nail. Or perhaps some glass did you in. Whatever the cause, now you need to deal with it. Here’s how to change a flat tire—plus what to do before and afterward to minimize the hassle.
BEFORE A FLAT:
- Stash an emergency kit in your trunk/cargo area. Changing a tire by the side of a road requires a great deal of caution. Make sure your emergency kit includes some basics to help keep you safe: flares, flashers or reflectors to place on the road to warn other drivers to steer clear while you’re working, plus a flashlight, work gloves and a reflective vest.
- Check whether your car has a spare tire or a tire mobility kit. A full-size spare has almost gone the way of drive-in movies, so unless you have an older Ford, your car likely has a temporary spare tire meant for driving only at a lower speed and for a short distance. Newer Fords may not come with a spare tire at all, but with a tire mobility kit, which allows you to re-inflate and seal a punctured tread without changing the tire. Watch Knowing Your Car: Tire Mobility Kit to see how to use this tool.
- Maintain proper tire pressure. Driving with low tire pressure is a leading cause of blowouts, so it’s important to check your tire pressure monthly and inflate tires to the recommended level as indicated on your driver’s-side door jamb. And become familiar with your car’s Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), which triggers a dashboard light if the pressure in any of your tires gets too low. Don’t ignore this warning signal.
- Find out if you have Ford Roadside Assistance. This service—which Ford owners can access by calling 800-241-3673—includes 24/7 flat-tire changes, as well as towing, battery jump start, fuel delivery and lock-out assistance. Depending on the age of your car, this coverage may be concurrent with your limited warranty coverage; call your dealer for more information. If your warranty coverage has run out, you may use your credit card to pay a one-time fee for the service you need.
IF YOU HAVE A FLAT:
Check your owner's manual for specific instructions for your car. In general, here’s the drill:
- Pull over to a safe area. Never attempt to change a tire on the freeway or on any busy road where you might be in danger from passing traffic. Once you’ve parked, check to make sure your car is on level ground before you begin. You don’t want the car to wobble when you jack it up and remove a heavy tire.
- Locate and remove the spare tire, jack and tool kit from your car. Often these are in the trunk/cargo area under a mat, but sometimes they’re located below a seat or underneath the car; check your owner’s manual.
- Loosen the lug nuts on the flat tire. It’s best to do this while the car is still on the ground so the weight of the car works with you to loosen the lugs.
- Position the jack under the car’s frame. Consult your owner’s manual for the recommended location on your car.
- Raise the car only until the jack is supporting the weight of the car.
- Check the stability. Carefully give the car a little shake to make sure the jack is in a solid position.
- Place the spare tire under the car’s frame, for protection. . It’s always a good idea to put something under the car to protect your hands and feet once the car is partially jacked up, just in case the jack slips. You can use the spare tire until you need it, and then swap it out for the flat rim and tire.
- Continue to lift the car with the jack. It needs to be high enough to allow you to get the flat tire off and the fully inflated tire on.
- Remove all the lug nuts, then pull the flat tire off the car. Keep all body parts away from the underside of the car, in case the car falls off the jack.
- Put the spare tire on the car and add all of the lug nuts. Tighten the lug nuts just snugly.
- Remove all tools from underneath and around the car.
- Place the flat tire and rim under the frame for protection.
- Lower the car. With the tire on the ground, tighten the lug nuts. (If you don’t have a torque wrench handy, the old “good and tight” will do until you can drive to your dealership.)
- Pack away your equipment. This includes your flat tire and rim, tools, flashers and anything else you may have unpacked.
- Drive safely. Check your owner’s manual for any limits on the speed and distance you can drive with the spare tire. (You can also get that info by reading the markings on the tire’s sidewall. But in general, it’s a good idea to never drive faster than 50 miles per hour on a spare.
- Be alert. While you’re driving, be aware of strange vibrations and sounds. If you had a blowout, your car may have sustained further damage as the tire came apart. The TPMS light should be on, but tell your service technician if any other dashboard warning lights appear.
AFTER A FLAT: As soon as possible, take your car to your Ford Dealer Service Center to have the flat tire repaired or replaced and put back on the car. This is also a good time to have the other three tires inspected so you’ll know you’re heading back on the road with your wheels in tip-top shape again.
Watch long-time Ford owner Dwayne Johnson team up with The Specialists at Ford in a new video series. Learn more at fordservice.com