In 2011 US News reviewed a study performed by AutoMD that looked at trends of new drivers. One of the most interesting discoveries the study uncovered was that two-thirds — over sixty percent — of all new drivers from the age of 16 to 19 could not change a flat tire.

In fact, the study went on to state that the same percentage — over sixty percent — of these teen drivers were also unable to jumpstart a dead battery or even check their oil. This means two thirds of us starting out in our driving careers are incapable of performing the most rudimentary maintenance tasks or make basic field repairs on our vehicles.

Now this is not a truly shocking statistic — younger drivers aren’t as experienced as more seasoned ones. So what? Younger drivers just need road experience to be able to develop skills such as changing a tire. But add that to my own personal study of the four dozen or so of men that I have stopped to help change tires over my life. Half of them were older than me and they still had no idea on how to change a tire.

Now it’s understandable. A skill such as changing a tire isn’t one you can really practice. And in theory, if we replace our tires when they are worn and never hit a bottle or a nail or never go hard over a curb, it’s possible that we could never need to change a tire.

It’s always possible.

But why take a chance? If you know the basics, then you can actually be able to change a tire without having to yank a tire off your car and practice a few times. If you understand the process, you’ll be ready when it comes time to act on that knowledge.


Get to a flat place or a safe place that will allow you to work on the tire. If you have to change a tire alongside a busy highway, this may be difficult. It’s important to get your car as far away from traffic as possible — to a place that will allow you the space to jack up the car and work on it SAFELY. Pull over or even ride the car on the rim if you need to until you find a place that’s safe. I’ve seen guys on the side of the road trying to change a tire with their legs spread halfway into the road. The cost of a tow or a new wheel is a steal, compared to the cost of your life. If it doesn’t feel safe, don’t do it. Call a tow truck.

Put the parking brake on. With an automatic transmission, put the parking brake on and leave it in park. If you have a manual transmission, put the parking break on and leave the car in reverse as an extra precaution. You can also slide something under the front and back tires to prevent it from rolling.

Locate the spare tire. This may not be as easy as it seems. At one time spare tires were in the trunk. Period. But many cars such as hatchbacks and mini vans don’t have trunks. In those cases, the spare tires are often mounted under the carpeting of the back, or under the car itself with a release under the mat in the car. When in doubt consult the car’s manual. When you do find the spare don’t be surprised if it is an emergency spare or donut — a small spare tire that is meant to get you to a garage and is only meant to be used for a limited amount of miles. With the exception of large SUV’s and trucks, few cars come equipped with a full sized spare tire.

Locate the tools. When you find the tire, you will most likely find a scissor jack and tire iron as well. If not, many cars have side compartments where the tools are kept.

Loosen the lug nuts. Many people think you jack the car off the ground and then start loosening the lug nuts. Nope. By doing that not only are the lugs harder to loosen, but the shaking and moving of the car could make it unstable. Get the lug nuts loose — or what they call breaking the seal — and then jack the car up. And don’t be tricked by those fancy wheel covers that look like lug nuts. Check to see if there is a hubcap to be removed first.

Jack the car up. This may seem intimidating at first, but it’s not. Get the jack under the frame near the tire that has to be changed. Most frames will have a slot cut into them next to each tire where the top of the jack will fit perfectly. Place the jack directly under that notch and twist the lever to start opening the jack. Most scissor jacks allow you to insert the tire iron into a slot to be used as a handle. Start cranking. And remember, you don’t need the car six feet off the ground. Getting the tire a few inches off the ground is often enough. You can always adjust once you get the old tire off.

Remove the lug nuts. Use the tire iron and remove the nuts and set aside.

Remove the old tire.

Replace with spare tire. Once the spare is on, place lug nuts back on and hand tighten. Then you want to lower the car slightly so the spare is just touching the ground. This will allow you to tighten the lug nuts without the tire spinning.

Tighten the lug nuts. You’ll want to tighten the lug nuts in star pattern. Tighten one slightly, then go to the one directly across from it. Repeat. Then the one next to that, then to the one across from that. Don’t tighten one lug nut completely and then go to the next, otherwise they will be tightened unevenly and the tire will wobble — or even come off while driving. .

Drive the car to a shop and get a new tire put on.






Everett De Morier has appeared on CNN, Fox News Network, NPR, ABC, as well as in The New York Times and The London Times. He is the author of Crib Notes for the First Year of Marriage: A...