There are several main reasons why drivers may need to exchange complete wheels on their vehicle:
If you need to replace your tires due to reasons #2 or #3, be sure to check your car’s spare tire for damage or aging at the same time. Replace it with a new one if needs be.
No matter the reason for a tire change, how it’s done is pretty straightforward. Armed with some basic tools and our step-by-step guide, vehicle owners can properly manage this essential task themselves.
1. Safety first: do these things before you begin.
2. Remove the hubcap or wheel cover if there is one.
3. Loosen – but don’t remove – the lug nuts using a wheel wrench.
You only want to loosen them enough to make their removal easier once you’ve lifted the car off the ground. Lug nuts too tight? You can carefully apply pressure to the wrench – ensuring it’s in a horizontal position – with your foot.
4. Raise the car up.
Place a jack under the car. If you’re not sure where, your car’s manual will let you know the right position to place the jack. Slowly and smoothly raise your car until the wheel to be changed is about six inches off the ground.
5. Remove your lug nuts.
Now that they have been loosened (step #3), you can remove them completely by hand. Make sure you put them in a safe place!
6. Remove your wheel.
Pull it toward you with both hands. Roll it away to the side and out of the way.
Important: If you’re in the process of switching out a complete set of tires and you’re going to store them, label each one with a piece of chalk as you remove it. Think: LF (left front), RF (right front), and so on. Why? This way, you can keep track of where each one was mounted, and take this into account if you’re considering tire rotation when you put them back on in future.
8. Tighten your lug nuts.
Only do this by hand at first. Nuts should always be tightened one after the other in a diagonally opposite sequence, i.e. tighten one first, then tighten the one diagonally opposite it – not directly next to it.
9. Lower the vehicle and further tighten the lug nuts with your wrench.
Again, as when you loosened the nuts, you can carefully apply extra pressure to the horizontally positioned wheel wrench with your foot as you tighten them. Normally, a torque wrench should be used with correct force, otherwise you might damage the bolts through elongation.
10. Refit the hubcap or wheel cover.
I’ve just changed my flat tire. Can’t I just leave the spare tire on my car?
No. Temporary spares are usually a different tire size. They are lighter, smaller, and don’t have the same speed or mileage capabilities as a permanent tire. This could affect your vehicle’s stability when driving. However, the exception to this is if your spare is a full-sized match of the others on your vehicle.
11. Have you changed out a flat?
Put the punctured tire in your trunk and take it to a tire professional for repair or replacement with a full-sized, permanent tire.
Feeling unsure? Lacking the necessary equipment? Don’t hesitate to seek help from a tire professional. They’ll be able to change that punctured tire – or switch your seasonal tires over – with complete confidence. Tip: while they’re at it, be sure to ask them to complete a full inspection of all your tires – including your spare.