How to Use a Tire Jack Safely – Step-By-Step Instructions for Changing a Flat Tire

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Before you start, find a safe spot off the road. A hard surface is best so the jack won’t sink into and possibly damage the vehicle frame. It’s also a good idea to place something (a brick, block of wood, etc.) under the tire opposite the flat as insurance so it won’t roll while the car is jacked up.

Tire Jack

Positioning the Jack

A jack is a device used to partially lift a vehicle so that one of the tires can be removed and replaced. Car companies began including scissor jacks in the trunk alongside spare tires back in the 1950s, and many aftermarket jacks are now available for purchase. Always use a high-quality set of jack stands when working on your vehicle, especially if you plan to crawl under it. A slipping jack can suddenly drop thousands of pounds of metal down on you without warning, leading to severe injury or death.

Always jack up your vehicle on level ground in a safe place away from traffic. It’s also a good idea to put something under the tire on the opposite side of the flat one (a brick, block of wood, or anything similar) as insurance so that it won’t roll off while you’re working underneath it. Then, locate the jacking point on your vehicle (on most vehicles, there are two front and two rear locations) and position the jack underneath it.

Lifting the Car

Before you begin, make sure the tire jack is in a safe place. It should never be positioned on soft or uneven ground, where it might sink into the ground rather than lift the car. The proper jack location differs from vehicle to vehicle, so consult your owner’s manual for specific information.

Once the jack is placed correctly, slowly turn the handle until the damaged tire is several inches off the ground. Remember never to put any part of your body under the car when it’s jacked up.

If you find yourself on a freeway or highway with a flat tire, call road service or hang a white rag or piece of paper from the driver’s side window to alert other motorists. Then park as close to the curb as possible, and block the downside wheel with something heavy to keep the car from rolling away while you change the tire. It may not protect you from getting hurt if the jack fails, but it will at least prevent other vehicles and pedestrians from being injured by your runaway vehicle.

Removing the Lug Nuts

Using your lug wrench, loosen the lug nuts on the wheel with the flat tire (counterclockwise, just like you’d turn the hands of a clock). Doing this before using the car jack is essential because if you lift the vehicle without loosening the lug nuts, they could come off during the lifting process and cause the car to fall off the jack.

Also, before removing the lug nuts, put something in front of the wheel you’re going to jack up (a brick, block, or piece of wood will do) to help prevent it from rolling away once you raise it off the ground. It is an excellent practice always to follow when working on your vehicle.

After you’ve done all the lug nuts:

  1. Remove the wheel and replace it with the spare tire.
  2. Retighten the lug nuts by hand.
  3. Once done, carefully lower the car and the jack and remove the jack stands.

Changing the Tire

Once the flat tire has been replaced and the lug nuts tightened, carefully crank down on the jack and lower it until there is about six inches of clearance between the car and the ground. It is essential because it will help you avoid sliding or rolling the jack and thus damaging or warping components under the car.

Remember to keep a spare tire and jack in the trunk of your vehicle so you are prepared for this type of emergency. Then, look for a safe spot to pull away from traffic, such as on a side street or in a store parking lot.

Turn off the engine, engage the emergency brake, put your car in park or first gear, and turn on the hazard lights. Look for a place to position the jack, as indicated in your owner’s owner’s. Any car will have a clear area of durable, molded plastic on the bottom of the frame alongside the flat tire, specifically designed to position a jack.