How To Change A Trailer Flat Tire Without A Jack

As we were driving down a sandy road to our boondocking site, no more than 500 feet away from it, I heard a strange “thump…thump…thump” sound outside. I turned to Jerud and asked if he heard it too. He did, but had no suggestions to where it could be coming from. I stuck my head out the window to try and hear it better, and instead saw a puff of sand getting pushed out from underneath one of the Toaster tires. “Jerud, stop the truck.” I got out to check out our tires and saw this -  

The Toaster's first flat tire.

Yep, we just experienced our first RV flat tire. While we had an idea of how to change the flat and it seemed pretty easy in our heads, we had actually never changed a flat on the trailer. Turns out it was as easy as we thought.

Of course there was a sand storm happening and the threat of rain as we got out of the truck to change the flat.

Of course there was a sand storm happening and the threat of rain as we got out of the truck to change the flat.

Why change your own flat tire?

So you may be wondering why the heck you would want to change your own flat tire when you have roadside assistance. Good point. We usually prefer using our roadside assistance if our rig is in trouble, because we paid for it so we might as well use it. But there are times when it makes more sense to change a flat tire on your own rather than waiting for roadside assistance to show up:

  • You don't want to wait a long time.
  • You're somewhere without any cell service.
  • You're not on a publicly maintained road (where roadside assistance won't respond).

Since we were on a sandy doubletrack just yards away from our intended campsite, two of those reasons applied to us. So we definitely wanted to do it ourselves. Besides, it’s always good to know how to change a flat.

In this post I’m going to show you the technique for using a ramp to change a flat tire on a trailer with 2 or more axles.

You’ll need the following tools

  • Spare tire: Make sure it’s in good condition and holds air – no point changing a flat with another flat.
  • Lug wrench: Be sure it fits the lug nuts on your RV wheels. A breaker bar is a convenient alternative to the typical cross-shaped lug wrench.
  • Socket: If you’re using a breaker bar, make sure you also have a socket that fits both the bar and the lugs on your RV wheels.
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Portable air compressor with air chuck
  • Chocks
  • Ramp – only one is needed
  • Wrench: A wrench may be needed to remove your spare tire depending on how it’s attached to your RV.
  • Lubrication: Any light machine oil. WD-40 would work.
  • Shovel: This is optional.
The tools that's needed to change an RV flat tire.

We carry all these and more tools in the truck. And you’re welcome to borrow any of these if you’re camped by us!

Why use ramps vs. a bottle jack?

A trailer is raised for wheel removal differently than a car/truck. While a car/truck is jacked up at the axle, a trailer is jacked up at the frame rail. We prefer ramps to a jack because the space between the ground and the bottom of an RV frame rail is around two feet. It would take a very large bottle jack to even reach the frame rail, and it’s not very safe or stable to have an RV lifted that high on a bottle jack. Adding blocks to make the jack taller would be even more unstable and risky.

Even though they’re kind of bulky to carry around, we like having ramps because:

  • RVs remain very stable on them, even if it’s windy.
  • Ramps won’t sink into soft (sandy) ground.
  • Ramps can be used for other vehicle maintenance.
  • In a pinch, ramps could be used for traction if stuck in deep sand.
One of the trailer wheels on a ramp.

Sure the ramps may take up a bit more room than a large bottle jack (although a lot lighter), but being useful in multiple ways and being safer always gets bonus points in our book. The ramps we have separate into two pieces each so we can store them around our fifth-wheel hitch in space that is otherwise mostly unusable, anyway.

The ramps we have come apart into two pieces, making it easier to store.

The ramps we have come apart into two pieces, making it easier to store.

The steps to changing a flat RV tire

Now to what you’ve been waiting for: a step-by-step guide to changing a flat RV tire

  1. Pull over to a safe place, away from traffic.
  2. Gather all the tools you’ll need.
  3. Use the lug wrench to break loose (about ½ turn) the lug nuts on the wheel to be changed. (Easier to break them loose when the wheel can't spin freely.)
  4. Drive your good tire that’s on the same side as the flat tire onto the ramp (may require backing onto the ramp).
  5.  Make sure the wheel that needs to be changed can spin freely. If not, increase the height of the ramp by adding blocks under the ramp -- or you can dig out from beneath the flat tire).
  6. Chock your tires on the side that you won’t be working on, and set the tow vehicle’s parking brake.
  7. Use your lug wrench to remove the lug nuts on the flat tire.
  8. Remove the flat tire from the hub.
  9. Install the spare tire onto the hub.
  10. Lubricate the studs before placing lug nuts back on. Lubrication will let you torque the lug nuts all the way.
  11. Tighten the lug nuts in a “star” pattern
  12. Reinstall your flat tire where your spare tire was.
  13. Drive off the ramp.
  14. Now that the tire can’t spin (because it’s on the ground), torque the lug nuts until tight.
  15. Check the air pressure in your other tires.

Remember to bookmark this page in case when the time comes and you can’t remember what to do!


Items mentioned in this post:

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