Changing tires doesn’t have to mean a trip to the garage. It's easier than you think.
Changing your own tires is a job you can handle yourself if you already have rims attached to your tires. Anyone can do it, it just takes knowledge, practice and confidence to build the skill.
You can join the many people who have embraced the freedom of not paying mechanics to do the job – and all the booking, travel time to the garage, waiting around, delays, and headaches that go along with it.
Plus, if you’re comfortable changing a flat tire, you’ve got the skills to do the seasonal changeovers yourself (and we believe every driver should be comfortable changing a tire.) It really comes down to jacking up the car and changing the tires on your own, just like if you had a flat and were putting the spare on.
Now if that seems like a daunting task, we’re here to make it doable. This Q&A will help put your doubts to rest.
Doesn’t the job require a professional?
Knowing how to change your own tires doesn’t mean you can avoid getting your car serviced regularly. That being said, doing the tire change yourself will save you from paying the mechanics to do that particular job when you do need to visit the auto shop. You’ll only need them to take care of the jobs that are best left to a professional, like balancing and aligning your wheels. If you buy brand new tires then it would be best to get an alignment. Or if you notice your current tires wearing unevenly, it could be due to poor alignment.
But is it safe to do the actual tire change?
With the right tools, it’s absolutely safe to change passenger vehicle tires on your own. The job really isn’t that tough or inherently dangerous. But it does involve getting your car up in the air. And that’s where a little forethought goes a long way.
Can the jacked car fall on top of you?
When your car is jacked, you should never go under the vehicle – it isn’t necessary to do when you’re changing tires. You can jack your car safely if you follow the instructions for jack placement in your vehicle owner’s manual. Many vehicle frames have molded plastic on the bottom with a cleared area of exposed metal specifically for the jack. If you have a jack stand, place it under a secure point of the vehicle frame before you remove the wheel.
Your jack will also work correctly if you choose the appropriate place to do your tire change – on pavement. That means concrete, not softer asphalt. A jack stand can actually sink into thin asphalt, especially on a hot day when it gets softer.
Is it safe to drive afterwards? Will the wheels be tight enough?
Don’t worry, a wheel can’t just fall off spontaneously! If it really is loose, you will hear loud knocking sounds while driving before anything more serious happens. You’ll have time to pull over immediately to check the wheel nuts and re-tighten them, and see if that solves the problem.
Tip: Ensure that the wheel bolts are always tightened in a criss-cross pattern (our guide will show you how)
Whether you change your own tires or not, knowing how to tighten your wheels is an important skill to have. Even if you had your tires changed at a garage, the wheel bolts will still loosen over time, meaning the wheel is no longer as tight as it should be. You can prevent this by tightening the wheel nuts using a torque wrench whenever necessary. We advise checking the torque specifications in your car’s owner’s manual when tightening to make sure the nuts are tight enough.
Why go to the trouble having winter tires mounted on rims?
Winter tires should be mounted on a dedicated set of wheels, whether its relatively inexpensive steel or fancy alloy rims. Many shops will charge $60 more to change unmounted tires versus swapping tires on wheels, so it only takes a couple of seasonal changes to effectively pay for the rims, and it pays even quicker if you change your tires yourself.
Besides the cost of mounting/dismounting your tires twice per year, and making it possible to change over your tires yourself, having winter tires on rims actually helps them last longer because each on/off cycle risks damaging the tires or even the rims themselves.
“Having tires mounted and demounted semi-annually is quite a strain on the tire itself,” explained automotive professor David Weatherhead to the Globe and Mail. “Especially with lower-profile tires, it stresses the rubber around the bead of the tire and can lead to damaging the rubber, which in turn can lead to tire degradation and, therefore, leaks.”
Ready to take the wheel?
Once you get past the fear and actually do it, all the questions will evaporate. Changing tires is easier than assembling Swedish bookshelves – just follow the steps. Try it once and you can do it for life!
It’s a mystery at first, but not unsolvable. The right tools make all the difference. Find out more from our Tools You Need guide.