How to Change a Flat Tire in the Dark

Say you are walking out to your car at 9:17 pm to get some groceries only to find the front passenger side tire completely flat. Your car, which you and only you consider to be far superior to all other automobiles, a super-mobile, if you will, now looks like it lost its footing at a ditch, which sits at the parking lot slumped forward with a right-side tilt. You need to get groceries and more importantly, you need to drive to work tomorrow morning. What do you do? You man up, and fix it.

What you need:
Spare tire, the Jack and the tire iron. In most modern cars, the tire iron does double duty as the wrench for the wheel lugs (fancy name for the large bolts that secure the wheel to the plate) and the handle for the jack. You will find all three of them in your trunk.

The barely noticeable black metal objects are the Jack and the double action tire iron.

Assemble your tools near the flat tire. Let it know what’s about to happen.

Spare tire, Tire iron and the Jack

Make sure your car gear is set to “Park” and is actually parked on flat ground. Don’t jack up the car yet, since you can use the car’s weight to loosen the tire lugs. When the car is jacked up, the wheel can move a bit, which makes turning the tight lugs a tricky affair. Using the wrench side of the tire iron, loosen the deflated tire’s lugs. For the first turn or two, you may have to step on the iron to unscrew the lugs. They are, as the saying goes, tough nuts.

This step will make you a bit tired

Once they are loose enough that you can turn them without much effort, its time to jack up the car. With your hand, feel the underside of your car just behind the mud flap of the tire. What we are trying to find is the metal frame which can support the jack. Mounting your jack to any place other than the main frame of the car can cause serious damage to that part. It should be easy to find the frame, so once you locate it, slide in the jack right under it and start raising the jack using the dual-purpose iron.

All Jacked Up

Now, we are ready to remove the tire and put on the spare. Since you had already loosened up the lugs, they should be easy to come off. Once all the lugs are taken out, stow them safely and then remove the flat tire from the plate by sliding it off the grooves. Without the air, the tire won’t be that heavy, but be careful to not hurt your back.

Tire Off. Half way through our ordeal

Now grab the nearby spare tire (You did keep it nearby right?). Mount the wheel by lining up the lug grooves with the holes on the wheel and slide the wheel in. Personally, this was the toughest part about changing tires in dark. There was no light on this side of the car, and it was impossible to see the bolt grooves so I had to go by the sound and feel of the metal groves against the wheel. It took me about 15 minutes to line up the five grooves with the holes on the wheel.

Spare tire, although crucial, is not pretty

Still have those lugs? Now is the time to screw them in. Here is a pro tip – Don’t tighten the screws individually. Instead, place all the lugs in their respective grooves first and then tighten them by alternating between opposite lugs. You tighten the top one first and then switch to the bottom one – the one that is directionally opposite to the top one. Then you do the left most one and the right most (opposite) one. Keep alternating between the lugs this way and you will end up with a wheel that is perfectly lined up against the plate, and you will feel no wobble while driving.
Since the car is jacked up, the wheel will move around a bit. So you won’t be able to tighten the lugs completely. Screw them as tight as you can and then unjack (is that an actual word?) the car.

Spare tire completely installed.
Ready to Roll.

Now that all four wheels are back on the ground, get back to tightening (this is a kid friendly blog, so I am not using the word ‘screwing’) the lugs as tight as you can. Again, don’t get too excited and hurt yourself. Once they are all tight, you are done. Stow the Jack and tire iron back where they belong and secure the old tire in the vacant place previously occupied by the spare tire.

You are now ready to roll. Remember that the spare tire is intentionally smaller than the standard tires and it is not safe for regular driving. With the spare tire it is ok to drive around a bit, just enough to get your car to a workshop, but fix your regular tire and put it back to work at the earliest.

Now go get that grocery.

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3 thoughts on “How to Change a Flat Tire in the Dark

  1. When I read this line – “Assemble your tools near the flat tire. Let it know what’s about to happen.” I laughed out and the team lead looked at me wierdly. Good post when reading the post it feels like you finally conqured a ghost and came out a shining knight. But serously the spare tire looks like you pulled it out of a garbage bin.

    1. hey thanks. I definitely conquered it, but came out a knight whose hands were covered with dirt and grease! I think they make the spare tire intentionally ugly so that people won’t use it too often 🙂

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