The Kia Optima is a popular midsize sedan that has been in production since 2000. Over the years, the Optima has established itself as a reliable, affordable, and stylish vehicle choice for many drivers. However, as with any car, there may come a time when you get a flat tire and need to access the Optima’s spare. Knowing how to locate and change your spare tire is an important skill for Kia Optima owners. This guide will walk you through the complete process step-by-step.
Table of Contents
- Locating the Spare Tire
- Lowering the Spare Tire
- Removing the Flat Tire
- Mounting the Spare Tire
- Stowing the Flat Tire
- Final Tips
- Why the Kia Optima Only Has a Temporary Spare Tire
- How to Tell if Your Kia Optima Has a Full-Size Spare or a Donut Spare
- Why a Full-Size Spare is Better than a Donut for the Kia Optima
- Expert Tips for Extending the Life of Your Kia Optima’s Tires
- What to Do if Your Kia Optima Gets a Flat Tire
- Signs It’s Time for New Tires on Your Kia Optima
Locating the Spare Tire
On the Kia Optima, the spare tire is stored underneath the vehicle towards the rear. It is securely mounted against the underside of the car. To access it, you’ll need to crawl underneath and locate the spare tire winch mechanism. This consists of a cable and mounting bracket secured to the spare wheel.
When looking under the Optima, the spare tire will be visible on the driver’s side, just forward of the rear axle. It may be obscured by an access panel or plastic cover. This panel will need to be removed to get to the winch system. There are likely a few bolts or clips holding the panel in place. Use the proper sized socket or screwdriver to carefully remove the panel for access to the spare.
Lowering the Spare Tire
With the access panel removed, you’ll see the spare tire winch mechanism. A ratcheting cable is wrapped around the spare and controlled by a hex bolt in the center of the wheel. To lower the spare, you’ll first need to release the ratchet from the locking mechanism.
Locate the hex bolt head in the center of the spare tire. Use the proper sized socket or wrench to turn it counterclockwise. This will release the ratchet and loosen the cable. Slowly turn the hex bolt to gently lower the spare tire. Take care not to release the cable too quickly. Allow the tire to lower gradually until it reaches the ground.
Removing the Flat Tire
Now that you have access to the spare, it’s time to remove the flat tire. Begin by loosening the wheel lug nuts, but don’t remove them completely. You’ll want the flat tire still raised when loosening the lugs. Use the lug wrench or tire iron from your Optima’s toolkit to loosen the nuts. Turn them counterclockwise to loosen.
Once the lugs are loose, jack up the vehicle following the jack points specified in your owner’s manual. Position the jack underneath the recommended lift area near the flat tire. Raise the Optima until the flat is lifted off the ground. Then, finish unscrewing the lug nuts by hand and set them aside. Carefully pull the wheel off the hub and set it flat on the ground.
Mounting the Spare Tire
With the flat tire removed, now you can mount the spare. First, slide the spare wheel onto the hub bolts where the flat tire was. Ensure the holes line up properly. Then, begin threading the lug nuts back on by hand until tight. Use the lug wrench to tighten them the rest of the way. Tighten them in a star pattern following your vehicle’s torque specifications.
Slowly lower the Optima by turning the jack release valve counterclockwise. Once the tire touches the ground, raise the vehicle just enough to remove the jack. Give the lug nuts a final tightening with the tire iron. Make sure they are properly torqued.
Stowing the Flat Tire
The last step is to stow the flat tire where the spare was. First, make sure the winch ratchet lock is engaged by turning the hex bolt clockwise until tight. Raise the flat tire against the underside of the car, lining up the wheel hub with the winch mechanism. Ensure the mounting bracket is secured around the rim.
Turn the hex bolt clockwise to retract the cable and raise the tire into place. Make sure it is seated firmly in the proper position. Continue cranking the bolt until the flat tire is snugly mounted. Replace the access panel using the original hardware. Double check that all tools and spare tire components are removed from the underside before lowering the car.
Changing a spare tire on a Kia Optima will require getting underneath the vehicle. Make sure you have the right tools, take proper safety precautions, and use jack stands if needed. Refer to your owner’s manual for the designated jack points and lug torque specifications. Always drive cautiously on a spare and replace it with a new tire as soon as possible. Knowing how to change a flat yourself can save time and money on the road. With the right preparation, you can quickly get your Optima back up and running.
Why the Kia Optima Only Has a Temporary Spare Tire
The Kia Optima is equipped from the factory with a temporary spare tire instead of a full-size spare. This helps reduce the overall weight and cost of the vehicle. The use of a “donut” spare is common practice among many automakers producing midsize sedans today. Here’s an overview of why Kia opts for a temporary spare on the Optima rather than a matching full-size wheel.
1. Weight Savings
A full-size steel wheel and tire combo weighs around 50 pounds typically. The temporary spare tire found on most Optimas weighs in closer to just 25 pounds. By eliminating 25 pounds per car, Kia can make the Optima more lightweight and fuel efficient overall. When producing hundreds of thousands of vehicles, those small weight savings really add up. This supports fuel economy targets and performance.
2. Cost Reduction
In addition to the weight savings, a temporary spare tire is much cheaper to manufacture compared to a steel wheel and tire. Kia saves money by only putting the bare minimum spare into the car at the factory. This cost reduction allows more value to be put into other areas of the vehicle. When trying to keep the Optima affordable, every dollar counts. The spare tire is one area where costs can be trimmed substantially.
3. Packaging Constraints
The Optima’s trunk and cabin are maximized for passenger and cargo space. A full-size spare would eat into that valuable room, compromising practicality. The donut spare’s compact size allows it to be stowed out of the way without intruding on other areas. For a family sedan, available storage and seating versatility are selling points. A smaller temporary spare makes that packaging possible.
4. Expected Temporary Use
Temporary spare tires are designed to get you back on the road after a flat, but not for extended driving. They lack the load ratings, traction, and longevity of a full-size tire. The Optima’s spare has limited mileage capacity for this reason. Kia counts on owners using the spare only until they can get the original wheel repaired or replaced. So the spare’s temporary purpose makes a full-size tire excessive.
5. Lower Part Inventory Needs
Since the Optima’s spare is uniform across models, Kia only needs to stock one type of spare tire part. A full-size steel wheel would require more spare part configurations to match various trim levels. By using a standardized temporary spare, Kia simplifies inventory management. This also makes the spare tire readily available to drivers through dealerships and tire shops.
The use of a donut spare instead of a full-size wheel comes down to key factors like weight, cost, packaging, intended temporary use, and part availability. While not ideal for extended driving, the Optima’s space-saving temporary spare provides an affordable insurance policy against flats.
How to Tell if Your Kia Optima Has a Full-Size Spare or a Donut Spare
The Kia Optima typically comes equipped with a temporary donut spare from the factory. However, some models may instead have a full-size steel wheel as the spare. Whether you purchased your Optima new or used, there are some quick ways to determine which type of spare tire you have.
1. Check the Owner’s Manual
The easiest way is to consult your Optima’s owner’s manual. The manual will note the size and type of spare tire provided with your specific model and year. This will clarify outright whether it’s a temporary donut or full-size. Some manuals will also document the spare’s air pressure and mileage limitations if it’s a temporary tire.
2. Examine the Existing Spare
If you no longer have the manual, you can visually inspect the existing spare tire.Retrieve the spare from its storage location and look for key identifiers:
- Donut spares are very narrow in width and have reduced tread depth. They will be substantially smaller overall versus a standard tire.
- A full-size spare will match the width and diameter of the other four tires. The tread pattern will also look the same.
- Look for markings like “Temporary Use Only” molded into the sidewall, which indicate a donut spare.
- Measure the wheel diameter and width in millimeters. Compare to the specs for factory equipped spares found online.
3. Check the Tire Information Placard
On the inside edge of the driver’s door you’ll find the tire information placard. This lists the OE tire sizes. If the placard only lists one size, then a donut is equipped. If it lists two different sizes, then one is likely a full-size spare.
4. Reference the Dealer
You can always contact the original selling dealer and provide your VIN. The dealer can check their databases and order records to see if your Optima model included a full-size spare or not from the factory. This will give you a definitive answer.
Taking a few quick moments to inspect your existing spare or cross-reference details can reveal if you have a temporary donut or full-size wheel. This information will help ensure you meet any size, pressure and mileage restrictions if using the spare.
Why a Full-Size Spare is Better than a Donut for the Kia Optima
While the Kia Optima primarily comes with a temporary donut spare tire, there are compelling reasons to upgrade to a full-size spare if possible:
1. Matching Performance
A full-size wheel that matches your Optima’s original tires will provide the same load rating, speed capability and handling. The donut spare has reduced tolerances that impact performance. Maintaining consistent performance with a full-size spare is safer when driving.
2. Longer Mileage Limits
Donut spares have very low mileage limits, usually under 50 miles. This prevents long-term use that could damage the tire or wheel. A full-size spare can safely go 500 miles or more until replacement, giving you greater driving range.
3. Fits All Positions
The larger diameter of a full-size spare allows it to be mounted in any position on the Optima if needed. A donut has limited fitment and is not safe to mount on the front axle due to wheel speed differences.
4. Uniform Appearance
A matching full-size spare looks just like your other tires, avoiding a mismatched set. The donut spare’s narrow size and different tread are clearly identifiable.
5. Greater Curb Appeal
For buyers eyeing your Optima on the used market, a full-size spare presents better than a donut tire which signals corner cutting. Preserving resale value makes the upgrade worthwhile.
6. No Size Restrictions
Any full-size tire can be fitted as a spare, allowing options like winter tires. Donut spares only accept certain limited sizes. Customization is limited.
While more costly upfront, a full-size spare pays dividends in performance, versatility and appearance. The benefits outweigh a temporary donut spare, making it a smart upgrade for Optima owners focused on safety and value. Check with dealers and tire shops to source a suitable full-size spare option.
Expert Tips for Extending the Life of Your Kia Optima’s Tires
To get the most mileage out of your Kia Optima’s tires and delay costly replacements, here are some expert-recommended tips:
1. Maintain Proper Inflation
Check tire pressures at least monthly when tires are cold. Keep them inflated to the vehicle’s recommended specifications found on the placard or owner’s manual. Underinflation accelerates irregular wear.
2. Rotate Tires Regularly
Following the auto maker’s advised intervals, rotate tires front to back and side to side. This evens out wear patterns in the tread to maximize tire life.
3. Inspect for Damage
Examine tires closely for cuts, bulges, cracks, punctures or other irregularities which can shorten useful life. Catching damage early improves repairability.
4. Get Wheel Alignments
Out-of-alignment wheels alter wear negatively. At oil change intervals, get alignments to correct issues like improper toe or camber. This reduces uneven treadwear.
5. Avoid Curbing Wheels
Gently pulling into and out of parking spots avoids scrubbing tires against curbs which can damage sidewalls. Take extra care when parallel parking.
6. Replace in Sets
When needing new tires, install a full set of matching tires rather than mixing with older ones. Uniform tread depth and sizing ensure safety.
7. Clean Wheels Regularly
Brake dust and road grime accumulate on wheels over time. Frequently cleaning them prevents deterioration of the wheel surface and valves.
8. Store Out of Sunlight
Park your Optima in covered areas whenever possible. UV exposure deteriorates tire rubber over time. Limit direct sunlight.
Following these best practices for inflation, rotation, alignment, wear monitoring and cleaning will help you maximize the lifespan of your Optima’s tires. Adopting good maintenance habits pays off with thousands of extra miles of reliable performance.
What to Do if Your Kia Optima Gets a Flat Tire
Despite your best efforts with tire maintenance, flats happen occasionally. Here’s a quick guide on what to do when a flat strikes your Kia Optima:
- Move to a safe spot. Avoid driving on a deflated tire. Pull over where it’s level, dry and well off active lanes if able. Turn on hazards.
- Inspect the flat. Look for any objects embedded in the tread like nails or glass. Note the location of the puncture on the tire.
- Retrieve the spare and tools. Your Optima’s donut spare, jack and lug wrench are stored in the trunk. The tools likely fit inside the spare’s center hole.
- Loosen lug nuts on flat. Break them loose before jacking up, but don’t remove yet.
- Jack up Optima. Position jack securely on a lift point. Raise car just high enough to fit spare underneath.
- Remove flat tire. Finish unscrewing lug nuts and pull the wheel off.
- Mount spare tire. Slide donut wheel onto bolts. Hand tighten lugs snugly.
- Lower Optima. Turn jack release valve to slowly lower car onto spare.
- Finish tightening lugs. Use the lug wrench to properly torque the lug nuts.
- Stow flat tire. Mount the flat in the spare tire well and re-stow tools.
- Seek repairs. Visit a tire shop to have the flat evaluated and repaired or replaced. Limit donut spare to short-term emergency use.
Staying prepared with a fully inflated spare and toolkit can make a flat tire just a small hiccup rather than a major inconvenience. Safely change it out following the tips above.
Signs It’s Time for New Tires on Your Kia Optima
To maximize safety and performance, it’s important to replace worn Kia Optima tires at the right intervals. Watch for these key signs indicating your tires need replacement:
- Tread depth of 2/32 inches or less. This minimum safe level is shown by tread wear indicators molded into grooves.
- Visible damage like cuts, cracks, punctures or bulges in the tire sidewalls or tread. These signal weak structural integrity.
- Frequent air leakage and pressure loss. Persistent slow leaks or sudden blowouts signal the need for new tires, not just patches.
- Irregular tread wear. Feathering, cupping or uneven wear indicates suspension problems or improper inflation.
- Reduction in wet traction and braking. Newer tires have much better water evacuation properties to resist hydroplaning.
- Wheel vibration or steering wheel shaking. Excessive imbalance and force variations mean a tire needs replaced, not just rebalanced.
- Tires over 6 years old. Rubber compounds deteriorate over time, even without much wear. Age increases blowout risk.
- Mismatched tires. Having tires of different sizes, brands or tread patterns on the Optima decreases performance and safety.
Carefully monitoring tire condition for any of these warning signs helps you identify when preventive replacement is actually overdue. Following recommended tire rotations and alignment intervals also promotes achieving the full value of your Optima’s tires.
Ensuring your Kia Optima has a properly inflated and maintained spare tire provides important emergency preparedness and peace of mind. While a donut spare saves on cost and space, a full-size wheel is generally recommended for safety and performance. Monitoring your tires proactively, keeping them properly inflated and rotated, and replacing them promptly when worn will help you avoid being stranded with a flat. Equipped with the essential knowledge of where your Optima’s spare is located and how to change it out, you can take tire issues in stride. Taking a few preventive steps goes a long way in keeping your driving dependable and carefree.