Sooner or later every towable RVer will experience a flat tire on the tow or towed vehicle. Yes, most of us can summon emergency road service (providing you have cell service) and have the spare tire put on if you are willing to wait hours for the service truck to arrive. It really isn’t that hard to do and using the tip below will speed up the job and get you back on the road.
Virtually every travel trailer and fifth wheel owner travels with a cordless drill to raise and lower their stabilizing jacks (most RV manufacturers advise against this) among other functions. In addition to the socket that fits on the stabilizing jacks, carry a socket that fits your tow vehicle lug nuts & bolts and your trailer lug nuts & bolts.
Next time you find yourself changing a flat tire, break the lug nuts & bolts loose with a tire iron, then quickly spin them off the rest of the way with the cordless drill using the appropriate socket. This saves the time of tediously twisting each nut/lug off by hand and greatly speeds up the job.
Once the tire is changed, quickly spin the nuts & bolts back on with the drill until snug and then torque them tightly with your tire iron. Using your cordless drill is almost as convenient as having an impact wrench connected to compressed air like the tire shop uses.
If your vehicle is four-wheel drive and you have a flat front tire, engage the four wheel drive before jacking up the flat tire. By engaging the four-wheel drive you are in effect locking the front wheel from turning. Now the front wheel won’t spin when you break it loose or tighten the lug nuts/bolts. On the rear wheels, you can set the parking brake to prevent spin.
When changing a tire always follow these safety rules:
- Make sure the ground is level and firm. Jacks should never be placed where the ground is soft and subject to sinking.
- Use chocks to keep the vehicle from rolling. Block the front & back of the tire that is diagonally opposite to the flat.
- When changing a flat, place safety reflectors or flares behind the vehicle on the shoulder of the road to alert other drivers.
- Never crawl under a vehicle when supported solely by a jack.
- Follow your vehicle owner’s manual for proper procedures and warnings for changing a tire.
Changing tires at NASCAR pit crew speed, just another adventure in RVing!
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
Joe Zemenski says
This is pathetic. Changing a tire is a minor issue. If you can’t change a tire, you shouldn’t be driving or towing at all. Stay home.
Dave Helgeson - Adventures in RVing says
Joe – Agreed, but there are also RVers that don’t know how to back their rig up and will head to another RV park if a pull through space is not available.
Maybe you should spend some time looking in the mirror. There was a time that you did not know how to do this! Shaming people is not the way. I’ve been hauling travel trailers for a long time and I enjoy helping those who wish to do the same.
Thanks Fay! My husband and I will be one of the “newbies” soon ourselves. Everyone has been new at one time or another. Joe was born knowing everything?? It’s pretty easy to judge people but it’s certainly not the right thing.
Chet & Marie says
Try changing a flat on a TT with 2 replacement knees as well as 2 replacement hips. That is what Good Sam club is for as at 70 we have no intention of quiting camping because I can not change a tire
David R says
Or, rather than engage a parking brake or 4WD, you should instead tell the noobs to just break the lug nuts loose with the tire iron while the wheel is still on the ground and then to jack it up like the rest of us would.
Rodger Hassard says
Seriously?…. We were all newbies at one time…..how about we LEARN from the articles….. These tips help even the seasoned RVer.
Thank you Rodger. All of this chest puffing isn’t necessary. If we pull together and support each other more people will be able to experience the fun of camping.
Changing tandem tires on a walking beam is a more complex issue, particularly the jacking required. This article is trivial.
Kevin A Ryan says
I use an electric impact gun. works great for wheels and also for running up stabilizer
Phil Sattler says
Kevin- RIDGID also has an impact wrench and I use it for all the things you mentioned. It makes set up and take down much quicker and efficient.
Phil Sattler says
I also carry a torque wrench to tighten all my lugs correctly. Those are generally in your vehicles manual.
We all have our different capabilities.
I DO know how to change a tire, but sure as heck can’t cook worth a darn, nor paint, nor play a musical instrument.
If the article is helpful to even one fellow human, then it’s worth publishing.
Don’t be a condescending hater, I beg of you.
Purple Nancy says
I’m a newbee, I appreciate the information. Don’t put us down, thank you for the encouragement. Oh, by the way I’m not only a newbee but a single female traveling alone. Keep the info coming.
And if you have never done this you may want take a Saturday morning and practice it! This will ensure that one you have all of the tools you will need and two you know how to get the spare tire out of it’s bracket (good time to give a little lubricant if needed) that way to are not trying to figure it out in the dark on a rainy night ( I never get a flat at a service station.
I find that a battery impact works very well.
Is it really that labor intensive to remove loose lug nuts or tighten them by hand that you have to use a drill? It saves you a couple extra seconds. With the time spent looking for a socket an adapter for the socket and getting it chucked in your drill you probably could have had them off by hand in the same amount of time. Like another mentioned loosen them before lifting up the tire and also tighten them in a star pattern to the correct torque. You can’t torque lug nuts with a “tire iron” so start carrying a torque wrench with you too and since your going to carry one of those now also get an cordless impact with the correct socket so you don’t have to get out the tire iron and then the drill.
If you have a duallie equipped vehicle, odds are your impact won’t have sufficient torque to break the lug nuts loose. You will need a 2 piece lug wrench, Had a blow=out on an outside dual & had to call a service truck after hours-$250 service call to install the spare.
KenTool mfgs a double end truck tire wrench available in multiple sizes which require a T5 truck wrench handle. Myers Tire Supply & Fastenal are 2 outlets which carry Ken-Tool products. I also carry a 6 foot stainless 1.5″ pipe as a cheater bar.
Yukon Escape says
We have scissors jacks on our 19 footer .
I also use a rigid impact drill for leveling our trailer.
Leveling can be done in less than five minutes.