2008 Toyota Rav-4
The last time I changed a tire was...okay, the honest truth, I've never changed a tire in my whole life.
I knew kind of, sort of where all the tools were located in my 2008 Rav-4, and I definitely knew where the spare was, but that's about it. In the back of my mind, I had this nagging thought that there would come a time when I would have to actually know step-by-step how to jack up the car, remove the flat tire, put on the spare, tighten the lug nuts and drive to the nearest garage.
Oh, how I was dreading that day.
Life Is A Learning Experience
That day came on a hot, humid August afternoon as I pulled away from the curb and heard the thu-thump, thu-thump of a tire gone totally flat.
Life is definitely a learning experience and this is one of the things I learned: before you bring your car home from the dealership or independent seller, locate the tire-changing equipment, so you don't spend extra time after you have had a flat rummaging through the inside of your car, or waste valuable time flipping through pages of that book that's in the glove compartment under all the napkins, tire gauges, wadded up gas receipts, and old state vehicle identification papers.
I was lucky because I had parked in front of my house and, although I was sweating like a little piglet, I wasn't dressed in a flowing gown or late for an appointment at the White House. However, the law of averages suggests that a flat tire will happen at the most inopportune time, usually when it's raining, snowing or both, and you have to get to work, to your son’s wedding or the birth of your first grandchild.
So, here are a few tips to help you prepare for that unanticipated moment.
A word of warning, you will get sweaty and greasy, so always carry wet towlettes or a bottle of hand sanitizer in your glove box.
Make Sure Rave-4 Is On Level Ground
First of all, make sure your Rav-4 is on flat, level pavement. This isn’t always easy to do when your tire suddenly goes flat on a hilly plane, but try to find the firmest and most level section you can.
Safety is always paramount when changing a tire on the side of the road, so, put the emergency brake on and, if possible, place a wheel block under the wheel diagonally opposite the flat. It is also a good idea to carry flares or safety triangles in your auto, as well.
Now, let’s say, before you took off for your destination, you placed a 24-inch long pipe with a 2” opening into the back of your vehicle. This pipe will come in handy very soon, so stay with me.
tire jack & iron location
Tire Jack Location
Open the back door of the Rav-4. The tire jack is located in the right-side compartment (your right as you face the back of the Rav-4) in a black vinyl pouch (pictured here).
Unscrew the jack joint (the screw with the loop) at the top of the jack to compress the jack and lift it out of the compartment.
Tire Iron & Tire Jack Handle
The tire iron and tire jack handle are in a black vinyl pouch in the left-side compartment (pictured here).
Now to the flat tire. It is always wise to loosen all of the lug nuts before you raise the wheel. Otherwise, the wheel will spin and it will be nearly impossible to loosen any of the lug nuts.
Lug nuts are usually put on with a machine at the dealership or a mechanic’s garage. Unless you’re a body builder or someone who has muscles the size of your car, they can be difficult to get off.
This is where your 24-inch long pipe comes in. Superhuman strength isn't usually needed if you have the added leverage of a heavy pipe that will add a little more force to your efforts. That said, you may run into difficulty if the lug nuts are rusted or not put on correctly. However, let's say for the sake of this article that they are in good shape.
Place the tire iron on one of the lug nuts and slip the pipe over the handle of the tire iron. Push the pipe counterclockwise until you feel the lug nut begin to loosen. Do the same with each of the lug nuts holding the tire in place, but do not try to pull the tire off the wheel base.
Placing The Jack
Place the jack under the plate by the flat tire with the jack joint (the loop end) pointed toward you. Hook the jack handle in the loop, lock the handle and rotate the jack joint until the crevice of the jack meets the jack plate on the Rav-4.
Keep rotating the handle of the tire jack until you notice the tire is off the ground. You don’t need to go crazy with jacking up the car because you are going to have to lift the spare tire onto the wheel. Just get the flat tire far enough off the ground so you can pull it off easily and put on a fully inflated spare tire.
Unscrew each nut and pull the tire slowly towards you. The tire is heavy once it’s off, so brace yourself.
With Time To Spare
Take the cover off the spare by either releasing the latch handle on the bottom of the spare tire cover or unzipping the vinyl cover around the spare.
Loosen the spare's lug nuts counterclockwise using the tire iron. You should be able to just use the tire iron and a little muscle to loosen them since they probably are not on as tight as the ones on the wheel with the flat tire.
Pull the spare towards you and drop it to the ground. Again, the spare is heavy, so once you have it on the ground, roll it to the wheel where you just took off the flat tire.
Place the spare on the wheel and lower the jack down until the tire catches the pavement and won't spin. Replace the lug nuts.
Use the tire iron and the pipe again to tighten the lug nuts as tight as you can. You don’t want the spare to roll off as you drive to the nearest garage for service.
Congratulations, you have now changed a flat tire on the Rav-4.
hardat work on November 16, 2013:
You're right, it would. When I did it, there were cars whizzing past so I didn't have a lot of room to work. Thanks for the suggestion, though.
Raymond on November 06, 2013:
Hi. Would it not be more convenient to first remove the spare tire and place it near your working space. It makes for easier removal of spare (it is not too high) and also stability of car as you don't have to move/tug on car when it is high-on-jack :-)