Tire Replacement: A How to Guide

January 27, 2012

Although it can be time consuming and costly, tire replacement is a necessary part of car ownership. When you take your car in to get the tires serviced, there are several things they will do. They will check how worn the tread is on your tires and if there are any bald spots. Another aspect of a routine check is tire rotation--switching the tires around so they get worn evenly on the road. If one or more tires need to be changed out, the tire replacement cost will encompass the price of the new tire(s) and the labor. If you are wondering if it's time for tire replacement, the mileage of your car is one indicator. Tires are only good for so long, at which point they need to be replaced.

If you have the tools, follow this tire replacement guide for a step-by-step process of putting new tires onto your car yourself.

Tools and Materials

  • New tires
  • Tire iron
  • Car jack
  • Jack stands
  • Tire spreader
  • Tire inflator

Step 1: Purchase New Tires

If you know the exact size of tire that your car requires, purchase the new tires at a tire repair shop, an auto parts store or a big box retailer like Costco. Reading a tire is like a foreign language if you are not familiar with it. 185/60 R14 means the tire is 185 mm wide, it is a radial tire and it is 14 inches in diameter. 60 is the aspect ratio. It helps you determine the sidewall height. Width and diameter and whether it's radial or belt are probably your only concerns.

Step 2: Loosen the Lug Nuts

Loosen the lug nuts on all four tires while the car is still on the ground, but do not remove them. It is far easier to do this before you raise the car.

Step 3: Raise the Car

If it is possible for you to raise the car on a hydraulic lift, do so. Otherwise you will have to raise each corner of the car with a jack. Place the jack under a portion of the steel frame at one corner and raise it until you can fit a jack stand under it. The tire should be completely off the ground. Do this for each of the four corners, making sure each jack stand is completely secure. At the end all four wheels will be off the ground.

Step 4: Remove Lug Nuts, Tires

The lug nuts should already be loosened, so remove them the rest of the way by hand and pull off each tire. Keep each set of lug nuts near each wheel assembly they came off of.

Step 5: Separate Rims From Tires

Deflate each tire and use the tire spreader to remove one tire at a time from its rim. There is no way you will be able to do this without this tool. The tire spreader moves the sidewalls and bead out of the way so you can get the rim free.

Step 6: Replace New Tires onto Rims

The same tool that got the old tires off the rims will get the new ones back on. Work each rim back into a new tire, making sure the bead is flush against the rim lip.

Step 7: Inflate Tires

With your tire inflator or air compressor, inflate each new tire to the prescribed PSI noted on the sidewall.

Step 8: Reattach Tires

Put the new tires back on the four wheel assemblies. Tighten the lug nuts by hand.

Step 9: Lower Each Corner

Use the car jack to lower each corner, one at a time. Raise each corner a bit to remove the jack stand, and let the hydraulic jack gently lower it.

Step 10: Tighten the Lug Nuts

Once the car is on the ground, tighten each set of lug nuts. Tighten them in a star pattern.

Do-it-yourself tire replacement will require a few tools, but once you get the hang of it, it is nothing you cannot do at home.

Related Questions and Answers

Where can You Buy a Tire Spreader?

A tire spreader is actually a piece of professional-grade equipment used by mechanics. You can find tire spreaders online like the Great Northern Tool Company. Great Northern and other sites such as eBay or craigslist - maybe even overstock.com - may also have a tire spreader available for you. Although, it is highly doubtful that you will need this type of firepower to work on your car's tires because tire spreaders are actually used by shops, rather than home users. If you want one, then you can purchase it at one of the sites mentioned, and any extra supplies, as well.

Is a Car Tire Inflator Safe for Home Use?

Yes, a car tire inflator is safe for home use. They are used every day and ensure that you keep your tire's pressure where it should be. For example, if the recommended pressure for your tire is 32 psi, then it's a good idea to make sure that you have a tire pressure gauge among your tools so you can check your tire pressure regularly first thing in the morning. If your pressure is recommended to be 32 psi and you find it is 29 psi, then you simply plug in the tire inflator and run it until your tire pressure gauge is 32 psi and you're done. Tire pressure should be checked regularly the first thing in the day - before you have driven. If you do drive, check the pressure with your gauge and see what the extra pressure factor might be. If you find you've added three psi, then take the recommended air pressure, adding it to the driven factor so you get 32+3=35 psi.

What is the Toughest Part of Tire Removal?

The toughest part of tire removal is breaking the tire free of the wheel itself. First you must remove all of the air from the tire and then you place it on a tire machine. With the air out of the tire, you insert what looks like a big L-wrench into the tire, and you begin to move it around to break the bond to the wheel. You have to make sure the tool is correctly installed so it won't jump off and injure you. Once one side is free, then you can free the other side. This is the toughest part of removing a tire.