Changing a Flat Tire


Hopefully before you find yourself on the side of a lonely road in the rain, staring down at a tire that is as flat as a pancake, you will have equipped yourself with a few essential tools that you always carry in in your trunk -

  • A good jack. The car came with a device called a “Bilstein” jack that is designed to jack up the car on one side, using the jacking points that are welded the the longitudinal center of gravity of both sides of the car. The problem is, this original jack is missing from many cars, and you will need to equip yourself with an alternate method of raising the car. We have found a small scissors jack to be very useful; we have mounted our's on two layers of 2x4, which brings it up to the right starting height. Be careful, though -- if you use a scissors jack under the heater channel, you will want to lay a piece of 2x4 longitudinally under the heater channel to spread the weight and prevent damage. A small hydraulic jack will also work; it too may need to be raised up with some supports, and it will definitely need something so spread the weight -- or you may end up with a nice circular hole through your heater channel or floor pan.
  • Note: Know how your jack operates BEFORE you need to use it! It's no fun trying to figure out how your jack works on a dark and rainy night with cars whizzing by!

  • A "lug" wrench. This is the wrench that you use to remove the 4 or 5 lug bolts (nuts) that attach the wheel to the brake drum. Much of the work you will do on your Bug will require removal of the wheels, so the lug wrench will get a lot of use. One of my very first acquisitions was an 18-inch 1/2-drive swing handle and a 13/16" (21 mm) deep-set socket. I carry this swing handle and socket in my trunk at all times -- it has seen a LOT of use over the years.
  • A couple of chocks to keep the car from rolling off the jack. A couple of big rocks will do, but such rocks aren't always available!
  • A D-Cell flashlight. The flashlight should always be in your trunk as part of the emergency kit in your car.
  • Note: And speaking of the emergency kit, please see our Emergency Kit discussion.

  • And, of course, a good spare tire, fully inflated. You should check the inflation of the spare about every other fill-up. Also, make sure the spare wheel with mate properly with the brake drum! Many people are using Empi-style (alloy) wheels, which require that you install 14mm x 1/2-inch studs in the brake drum holes. If the wheel and the brake drum won't mate properly, you're stuck!

There are other tools you should always carry -- please see our Treatise on Tools for more information.

Okay,now with the needed tools around you, you are ready to tackle this chore. Here's how we recommend you do it -

  1. Try to position the car as far off the road as you can, in as level a spot as you can find.
  2. Note: It's a trade-off. You want level ground, but you don't want to have to drive for miles on the flat to find it. Hopefully you'll be able to salvage the tire, but you surely won't if you drive too far on it. Use your common sense.

  3. First, securely block the wheels with chocks (or rocks) on the opposite end of the car from the flat. Check these as you are raising the car to make sure they remain jammed tightly against the tires.
  4. Position your jack on the same side of the car as the flat, either utilizing the installed jacking point or placing the jack as near to that point as you can.
  5. Before taking the weight off of the wheel with the flat, loosen the lug bolts (nuts) so that you'll be able to turn them with the wheel raised.
  6. Slowly raise the car, closely watching the chocks to make sure the car doesn't begin to roll. Raise it high enough so the fully-inflated spare will clear the ground when you put it on.
  7. Remove the lug bolts (nuts) and carefully stow them in a place you'll be able to find them. Crawling around under the car in the dark looking for them is no fun!
  8. Remove the spare wheel from the trunk, then remove the wheel with its flat tire from the brake drum and place it in the spare wheel well. Make sure to get the flat tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible!
  9. Position the spare wheel on the brake drum and install the lug bolts (nuts), tightening them as much as the spinning wheel will allow.
  10. Carefully lower the car to the ground and tighten the lug bolts (nuts) as tight as you can get them (remembering that you will probably have to remove them again some day!)
  11. Remove the chocks and stow all of the tools in the trunk, and you're off! Again, get that spare repaired and back in the spare wheel well as soon as you possibly can!


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