Changing a tire is actually easier than you think, especially if you have the right tools for the job.
Not only do you save on mechanic bills, but you’ll be able to change a flat tire and avoid the exorbitant cost of getting your car towed to the nearest auto repair shop.
Getting your own tools for the job is therefore a nobrainer, and a true win/win situation! But what tools do you actually need to change a tire in the first place?
I’ve changed my own tires countless times already, because of the changing seasons where I live. With just a few tools you’ll be sorted out, and I’ve put together this list of tools I use to get the job done.
List: Tools Needed When Changing a Tire
Some cars come with the bare minimum of tools required to change a tire, but those are usually not as durable or efficient as you want them to be.
You may already have a few essential tools in your household tool box, but some tools are needed for the sole purpose of changing a car tire.
Below is a list of basic tools needed when changing a tire:
1. A Jack Point
The jack point lifts and stabilizes the car before you begin removing the flat tire. It goes beneath your car next to the flat tire. Check the bottom side of the vehicle for the molded plastic. It has some exposed metals and a spacious area for the jack. It may take a bit of work to locate the right spot for your jack point, and if you’re in doubt you could either call the dealership or refer to the user’s manual.
For home use you could either choose a hydraulic jack or a scissor jack. Scissor jacks are cheaper, but don’t have as much capacity as hydraulic jacks.
2. A Lug Wrench or Wheel Brace
A lug wrench helps to loosen the lug nuts, so you can remove the tire. These tools are available in many variations and include the spider wrench, L-shaped, and X-shaped wrenches. You may already have one of these included with your car, so make sure you check the spare tire storage before buying a new one.
You may have to do a bit of research before getting a new lug wrench, to make sure you get one in a size that suits your vehicle’s hubcaps and lug nuts. Not all hubcaps are compatible with a lug wrench. You may need to improvise with items like a zip-tie, nuts and bolts, or even duct tape if you get one that doesn’t fit. Once you install the new tire, use the lug wrench to tighten back the lug nuts.
Important: Tightening lug nuts without a torque wrench
If you’re changing your tires into new permanent ones, you have to get a torque wrench and read the owner’s manual to determine the proper amount of torque needed. That way you’ll make sure the lug nuts or bolts are safely tightened. You can tighten a spare tire without a torque wrench though, as long as its sole purpose is to get your flat tire to the nearest repair shop.
3. Fully Inflated Spare Tire(s)
Spare car tires should stay inflated at all times. More so, you need to confirm the air pressure in your spare tire every time you check the rest of the tires on your car. Note that most recent car models retail without a spare tire to keep costs down and make cars more fuel-efficient. Usually there’s room for a spare tire though, you just have to buy it yourself.
Usually the spare tire isn’t an actual tire made for long drives, its only purpose is to keep your car going until you reach the nearest repair shop. Some cars do come with actual spare tires though, so make sure you check with your dealership if this is the case or not.
4. Your Vehicle Owner’s Manual
You ought to refer to your vehicle owner’s manual on which tools to use when changing a tire. It will direct you on how to use these tools the right way. For example, is your car incompatible with a lug wrench? You can look up the manual for the recommended options. Also, use this manual to raise the vehicle with the jack the correct way.
Quick tip: If there’s not a lot of storage space inside your car or truck, you could consider investing in an aluminum toolbox for the underbody or any flat surface you have available.
Now, there are other essentials for a car tire change, but retailing as separate items. These tools are for your convenience, especially if you are not a mechanic, or near an auto-garage. Have these extra items in your trunk at all times in readiness for any eventuality. They include:
Extra Items to Have in Your Trunk
These items are nice to have, but not a necessity. They will just make the car tire change a bit easier and comfortable for you.
1. A Pair of Gloves and a Rain Poncho
These two come in handy when changing your tire on a rainy day. You can buy a whole pack of gloves and plastic rain ponchos in most Walmarts or Target locations, they retail at just a few bucks each.
2. A 2″ X 6” Wood
As a precaution, reinforce the jack before you start removing the tire. For this, you’ll need a 2″ by 6” wood next to the jack. You do not want it to go off balance under the car’s weight. You can also get a jack stand with a higher strength, but a 2″ by 6″ wood is sufficient in most cases.
3. A Flashlight
A flashlight has enough lighting for you to see the nuts, bolts, and other hidden areas. More so, it comes in handy when you have to stop at a dark spot at night.
If you’re on the road by yourself, a cheap LED headlamp would keep any area well lit up, while you can still use both hands for the tire change.
4. Wheel Wedges
Wheel wedges prevent your car from rolling as you do the tire change. Have it in front when changing the rear wheel and vice versa. In case you don’t have the wheel wedges, you can use large stones or wood found on the side of the road.
Quick Tips to Make an Effective Tire Change
1. Stay Safe
Before opting for a tire change, scan your surroundings for safety. Look at it this way: Isn’t it better to drive on a flat tire to a safe location than stop on a highway and cause an accident? Yes, your rims will go. But your life matters most. Hence, slow down to a halt as you direct your car to a straight stretch. Never make an abrupt turn.
If possible, aim for an empty parking spot or an emergency lane with sufficient space for you to safely operate the tools needed for changing the tire.
2. Stop on Even Ground
Are you on even ground? If not, your car could roll off. Even so, don’t forget to apply your parking brakes.
Here’s also where wheel wedges come in handy, so make sure to utilize these as an extra safety precaution.
3. Keep Your Hazard Lights On
Yes. Sometimes we forget this basic road rule. The hazard lights will jolt the inattentive driver and protect you from a hit. Turn on your hazard lights before you begin to pull over. Then, put your reflective warning markers at least 30 feet following your car.
4. Get Rid of the Wheel Cover Before Lifting the Car
Now, some cars use a hubcap or a wheel cover that conceal the lug nuts. Always remove these covers before you apply the jack to lift the auto. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to loosen the lug nuts at an elevated position.
5. Be Careful With Your Hands and Legs Positions
Ensure your hands or legs are not under the car or tires at any time. This way, you are not in any danger in case the jack point gets loose.
6. Recheck the Spare Tire’s Pressure Before Driving Off
Is the spare tire’s pressure safe for driving? Recheck it before leaving. In case the pressure is too low, drive your car slowly to a service station.
7. Collect All Your Tools After Use
When you finish changing the flat tire, remember to put all your tools back into your car’s trunk. Account for them one by one, and consider labelling them with a number so you can easily keep them organized.
Changing a car tire is seamless when you have all the right tools for the job. And when it is a flat tire, put your safety first. Be at a safe spot to make the change. Again, know that a spare tire is not for long distances or high speeds. So, drive your car slowly to a technician to get a fit tire for your auto. He’ll decide if your flat tire needs repair or you should get a new tire.