How-to: Fix a flat

Autumn Alvarez

Have you ever wondered what you would do as the unlucky duck stranded on the side of the highway with a flat tire? Of course you could call for help, but who doesn’t want to tell the heroic story of how you saved yourself from the dangerous ordeal of a highway flat? You can sprinkle in the drama later, but for now here are a few steps to teach you the art of a tire change, according to Juan Alvarez, a family-proclaimed handyman and former auto mechanic.

*Refer to your car’s owner’s manual, as the steps for this how-to may differ for each vehicle. The car used in this example is a 2007 Mazda.

     1. Make sure to find a level pavement space to park your vehicle. Put the vehicle’s emergency brake on and turn the engine off.

     2. Find the appropriate hardware to jack your car.

The equipment needed to fix a flat tire includes (from left) a jack handle, a lug wrench and a jack. (Autumn Alvarez)
  • Find the section “flat tire” or “in case of emergency” inside your owner’s manual.
  • Check where you can find the  spare tire, jack, jack handle and lug wrench in your particular car. 
  • Remove all hardware from the car (usually found in the trunk or hatchback).
  • Locate the flat tire and place the spare tire on the same side of the car. 

     3. Lug nuts are the bolts securing the wheel and tire to the vehicle. Loosen all the lug nuts.

Place the bulky end of the lug wrench inside the lug nut socket to loosen the lug nuts. (Autumn Alvarez)
  • Using both hands, twist the lug nut wrench to loosen the lug nut and “break it loose” from the wheel. Do not fully remove the lug nuts from the wheel until Step 6.
  • According to Alvarez, “if you cannot break loose the lug nut with your arm strength, leverage with one foot placed flat on the ground and the other on the lug nut wrench arm. Then push down on the wrench arm.”

     4. Refer back to your owner’s manual to determine where to place the jack underneath the vehicle. Then place it appropriately. 

Each vehicle has a specific spot for where to place the jack. Feel underneath your car’s side closest to the flat tire to find the channel. (Autumn Alvarez)


The screw on the back of the jack must be twisted to expand the jack. (Autumn Alvarez)


This is what the expanded jack should look like. (Autumn Alvarez)
  • Twist the screw on the back of the jack to expand it up to the height of the vehicle. The jack’s body has a channel portion which fits snuggly underneath the vehicle when expanded all the way up.

     5. Jack up the vehicle.

Using both hands to turn the jack handle will lift the car. This will be the hardest part of fixing the flat because you are lifting the vehicle’s weight. (Autumn Alvarez)
  • Using the jack handle, put the handle into the hole of the jack screw and twist.
  • Keep one hand straight and use the other to twist the handle until the wheel is hovering off of the ground.
  • According to Alvarez, it is important to “jack the car up a bit higher to put on the spare because the tire being removed is flat.”

     6. Remove the flat tire.

  • Once the tire is jacked up to the desired height, remove the loose lug nuts. Do not lose the lug nuts!
  • Pull the tire off and roll it to the side of the vehicle.
  • Replace the flat tire with the spare.
  • Put the lug nuts back in one by one. You can use your hands to twist them or use the lug nut wrench to make it tighter, if desired.

     7. Jack down the vehicle.

  • Using the jack handle, place the handle in the hole of the jack screw and twist it the opposite way as you did before.
  • Jack down the vehicle until it hits the ground in its original position.

     8. Pack up.

  • Place the flat tire in the same position as the spare inside the vehicle.

Replace the equipment in Step 2 to its original place. This is important to avoid rattling noises and lost tools.

  • Check the ground for any missed bolts or equipment.

With these 8 simple steps, you will be able to fix a flat tire all by yourself. Knowing tricks like this one is invaluable. Not only will it save you time and money but it will also make you look like an expert, because you now are! If however, changing a flat tire proves more difficult or the damage is more extensive, call roadside assistance or a tow truck and keep clear of the road while you wait to be helped.