No matter how carefully you drive, it’s impossible to avoid. As you drive along the road, mentally wandering to your important business meeting, your vehicle suddenly pulls to the left or right. You hearing a flapping and immediately know that the worst has happened: your tire has gone flat.

The majority of drivers now own memberships to services such as AAA that provide assistance to drivers in need. This typically includes flat tires fixes, but it’s also useful to know how to do it yourself in case of an emergency. Luckily, the process is extremely simple.

Here’s everything you need to know about changing a flat tire:

Prepping Before You Drive

One of the best ways to fix a flat tire is by avoiding it entirely. Getting your car serviced and checked out will help you prevent most of your flats.

You can even check your tires out yourself. Carefully check them to see if they’re even, or if the tread is worn-down. Purchase new tires before a road trip if they seem suspect. No matter what, you’ll need to tires regardless, so it’s better to do so sooner than later. It’s better safe than ending up on the side of the road with a blown tire.

Whether you’re planning a lengthy trip or not, you should get to know the tools required to change a flat. The majority of cars come already equipped with a spare tire, jack and wrench, which is usually located in the trunk. Your owner’s manual will have more information if you aren’t positive how to access them.

Make sure to regularly take a look at these tools to ensure they’re in working condition. If your spare tire seems deflated, make sure to fill it with air.

Optional Prep Work

The above items are required, but you may also want to invest in these optional items to make a tire change even smoother:

  • Working flashlight (and additional batteries).
  • Warm clothing like gloves, hat and jacket.
  • Blanket or mat to sit on.
  • Pressure gauge.
  • Tire blocks.
  • Bottle of Fix-A-Flat.
  • Portable air pump.

Getting Down and Dirty: Changing the Flat Tire

Fixing a flat tire is easy. Here’s a step-by-step guide on what you need to do:

  • Pull over carefully. The worst thing you can do is pull over at a dangerous spot on the road. If possible, take an exit off the highway. If you are unable to do so, make sure to pull as far off to the shoulder as you possibly can. Under no circumstances should you jack a vehicle on a hill or slope, parking on an even surface will make sure your car doesn’t roll. Make sure to turn on your parking brake before exiting and jacking the vehicle.
  • Set the hazards! Make sure your hazard lights are on, then take out your tools. Carefully set them down next to your tire.
  • Loosen the lug nuts. Using your wrench, loosen (but don’t remove) the lug nuts. Pry off the hubcap if necessary. The lug nuts may be difficult to remove, you can try tapping them roughly with a rock or the wrench to loosen the rust and make them easier to remove.
  • Lift the vehicle with your jack. Refer to your owner’s manual to check where you place the jack, as each vehicle is different. Once you have successfully secured the jack in its proper position, jack the car until it rests about six inches off of the surface.
  • Remove your lug nuts and tire. Carefully set your lug nuts aside so you don’t lose them. Carefully remove the tire.
  • Position your spare tire. Carefully line the spare so the lug nuts align with the spare’s holes. Press it firmly into place until it cannot go back any more.
  • Tighten the lug nuts. Don’t completely screw them in, just put them in place enough to hold the tire in place while it’s lowered.
  • Jack the car back down.Lower the vehicle to the ground and remove the jack.
  • Tighten the lug nuts. At this point, you may begin tightening the lug nuts completely. For optimal performance, tighten each nut about halfway, then tighten them completely in the same order. Make sure to tighten them as much as you possibly can.
  • Return your tools to your car. Take your flat tire and all your tools and carefully return them. Scan the area to make sure nothing has been left behind.

Fixing Minor Flats Without Breaking a Sweat

If your tire hasn’t been severely damaged, you may be able to fix it without changing it. For example, if you run over a nail, you may be able to fix it enough to drive home or to a service station. This is where a can of Fix A Flat foam spray comes in handy.
On the can you will find a set of simple instructions. The foam will fix the flat temporarily, and you can use your portable air pump to inflate the tire. This should give you enough leeway to drive to a safer spot to fix it, or to a service station so you don’t have to worry about it at all!
As you can, fixing a flat tire is an extremely simple process. If you keep a can of Fix A Flat, and a portable air pump, you’ll be able to take care of minor issues without breaking a sweat. And by making sure you’re properly prepared and carefully following these instructions, you’ll be a tire changing expert in no time flat!