Most of us have been here at one point in time or another. You’re travelling along in your car and either you hear a “pop” or your car starts driving funny and you realize you have a flat tire. As inconvenient (and frustrating) this is, changing a tire isn’t a difficult task. One thing we do recommend during the winter months is that you have gloves, a toque, and proper jacket to wear while you work outside as everything is going to be cold. If you find that you are missing one or all of these items, then take your time with the tire and warm up as needed. If it is minus 30, you only have seconds before frostbite sets in, and that doesn’t factor holding a metal tire wrench in your hand!
Before you begin the process of changing your tire, ensure you are pulled off to the side of the road. If possible, limp your car to an approach where you will have more room to work. Only do so if you have minimal risk of damaging your rim on your car.
Locate all your parts
If you don’t know where your tire wrench, spare, jack, and lug nut key are in your car, you should! Take a couple minutes to locate them. Some vehicles store these things under the mat in the trunk, others have the spare on the back of the vehicle, and others have the spare attached to a cable underneath the car. It is important that you know where these things are and how to access them!
Set emergency and park brakes
It is a good idea to put your vehicle in park and if possible, set the emergency brake. This will keep your vehicle secured from shifting while it is on the jack. If the vehicle can move or rock back and forth, you run the risk of the vehicle toppling over off of the jack which creates an injury hazard, as well as a more difficult time getting the vehicle elevated to where it needs to be again to continue your work. We recommend finding a couple large stones, sticks, or anything hard that can be set in front and behind the opposing wheel nice and snug to also work to keep the vehicle in place.
Have all tools handy where you need them
Once you are in a safe location, set the park and emergency brakes, and have objects against the opposing wheel, locate your tools and spare, and get them in the location where you need them. Set them directly adjacent to where you are working so that you can reach them when you need them.
Loosen the lug nuts
Find your tire wrench and lug nut key (the wrench will have a handle with a round end that fits over top of the lug nuts, and the lug nut key is a small cylinder shaped tool that fits over the one nut with a special cut design on it). Once you have these tools, begin to break loose the lug nuts by placing one end of the wrench on the nut, then turning the wrench counter clockwise until the wrench moves freely. DO NOT REMOVE THE NUTS ENTIRELY AT THIS POINT AS IT COULD CAUSE THE WHEEL TO FALL OFF
Jack up your vehicle
Find your jack, and clear a flat spot on the ground to set the jack under your vehicle. The best place for the jack to contact your vehicle is on the axle, frame, or any other strong location close to your flat tire. Do not us body panels to lift your vehicle as you will damage them. Begin expanding the jack until it just comes in contact with the vehicle. Ensure the jack is stable, level and that the contact points are strong enough to use, then begin to lift the vehicle with the jack. You only want to jack the vehicle high enough for the new tire to go onto the vehicle with minimal clearance between the tire and the ground
Remove the flat
Once the flat tire is clear of the ground and your jack is at the correct height, finish removing the lug nuts (placing them in a safe location as you will need them to secure the spare) then carefully pull the flat off of the hub. The tire and rim will all come together at the same time.
Position the spare
Once the flat is removed and out of the way, do a visual inspection of the hub to ensure there isn’t any damage to the hub. If there is, you may need a to truck at this time as it could be unsafe to continue to travel. If there are no obvious signs of damage to the the hub or lug nuts, then you can place the spare on the hub by lining up the holes on the rim with the bolts on the hub. Once the spare is on, give it a careful push to ensure it is completely on the hub, then place your knee or foot against the bottom of the spare to hold it in place.
Thread on the lug nuts
At this point, you can begin threading on the lug nuts by turning them clockwise. The best way to do this is to thread on a top nut, then a bottom, then continue working your way around the hub in an opposing pattern until all the nuts are on and are “finger tight”
Lower the jack
You can now lower the jack slightly until the bottom of the tire is touching the ground. This will hold it securely in place and keep the wheel from spinning when you use your tire wrench to tighten the lug nuts.
Tighten the lug nuts
Using the tire wrench, begin to tighten the lug nuts by turning them clockwise. You will want to use a moderate amount of force to ensure the nuts are tight enough. Again, start at the top, then go to the bottom, then continue all around the hub in an opposing pattern until all the nuts have been tightened.
Lower jack and remove
At this point, you are almost done! Finish lowering your jack, and remove it from underneath your vehicle. Collapse the jack completely for storage.
At this point, you can clean up the flat so that you can put it inside your vehicle. you can also return the tools to their storage location. Do a visual inspection to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything.
Get to a certified service station
Get to a service station as soon as possible to get a new tire installed. A spare is typically designed to be a temporary fix. Often, spare tires have a maximum speed rating of 80kmh as well, so be mindful of that as you drive away! Also, lug nuts typically need to be re-tightened after 100km of driving to ensure they haven’t come loose!
We hope that this has been helpful! If you find yourself stranded on the highway this winter, stay warm, keep your vehicle running, and stay safe. If all of this seems overwhelming, talk to your broker about CAA or other roadside assistance programs that you an apply for and purchase.