Flat and Sassy

Well, of course, the really easy way to change a flat tire is to call your auto service club. But you already knew that, and besides, there are times when it just isn't possible. Back in the good old days - before cell phones, onboard computers and OnStar - it was crucial to have a few basic auto maintenance skills under your belt, including how to change a flat tire.

It's still important, and here's what you need to know:

Stop in the safest possible location. Whenever possible, maneuver your car off the main highway to a protected, but clearly visible spot. Spot the car on as level a surface as you can find and turn on your hazard lights.

Get out the jack, spare tire, and lug wrench. If you don't know where these are located, consult the owner's manual. If you have gloves, put them on. If you have tire blocks, place them under the tire opposite the flat tire (gloves and tire blocks aren't absolutely necessary, but they are handy).

Remove the wheel's hubcap
, if your car has them. Again, refer to the owner's manual if you are unsure how to do this. Begin loosening the lug nuts, but do not remove them completely. If the lug nuts seem stuck or are secured very tightly, use your foot to step or stomp on the lug wrench handles.

Now you can jack up the car. If you don't know where to position the jack, (jack plates are often located in front of the rear wheels, just in back of the door jamb) consult your owner's manual for the location. Once you've positioned the jack securely, begin cranking the jack until the tire is about six inches off the ground. Remember, the inflated tire will need more clearance than the deflated one.

Remove the lug nuts from the bolts, placing them nearby.

Remove the flat tire by placing your hands at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions and pulling the tire toward you.

Position the spare tire in front of the wheel and align the lug nut holes with the car's threaded bolts. Lift the tire and slide it onto the bolts, making sure to seat the tire as far in as it will go. Replace the lug nuts, tightening them just enough to secure them while you lower the jack.

Starting with one lug nut, then continuing on the lug nut opposite it, make sure to tighten all the lug nuts completely.

Stow the flat tire in the spare tire well and return the jack, lug wrench, and other tools to their proper locations.

If your spare is a “space saver,” you might have to move some items out of the trunk to make room for the flattened full-size tire. Also, space savers often are meant to limp you to a tire store. Be sure not to exceed recommended speed limits posted on the tire.