Spare tires mounted up under a vehicle can be tricky to maintain. In our example here, we will illustrate how to remove, maintain, and put back a spare tire in a first-generation Toyota Highlander. The procedure is the same for some other Toyota models as well as some other brands that hide the spare up under the back of the vehicle. If you have had a flat and need the spare right now, this story is your guide on how to get the tire down as well.
The first step to accessing the spare in a Toyota Highlander is to open the cargo area and look under the cargo floor. There you will find some special tools to enable you to lower the spare tire. Next, lay down a work mat. This is to keep you clean and to help ensure the tire has a landing spot. Next, crawl up under the vehicle (never when a jack is employed) and unscrew the plastic cover.
Now, head back to the standing position and use the little nut with the ring on top to lower the tire down. You do this by dropping the ring into the nut slot on the right of the cargo area and then cranking the black wrench tool counter-clockwise. The Toyota Highlander’s spare tire will slowly lower down to the ground.
Once it is down, crank some more. Then, pull the tire out and place it upright against the rear bumper You can slide the retaining ring through the hole in the middle of the cover and rim if you have enough slack in the line you cranked down. If not, crank some more.
Now that you have the spare tire freed up, remove the cover and inspect the tire. Does it have air? How does the sidewall look? Any cracks or splits? Would you trust it if you needed it in an emergency? If not, take action. Start by cleaning the Highlander’s spare tire up and adding 35 PSI of air. Is the tire holding air? Is it good enough to use for an emergency trip to the tire store or home if need be? If yes, you can begin to reinstall the tire. If no, buy a new tire and have it mounted.
Either way, inspect the spare tire retaining ring that holds the tire in place. Give it some WD-40 or 3-In-One oil to help keep it from rusting away further than it already has. Then, put the tire back in the reverse order you took it down. Bookmark your calendar for 6 months from now to inspect it again.
The spare tire under a vehicle like a Toyota Highlander, Sienna, Tundra, Sequoia, Land Cruiser, or Tacoma takes a lot of abuse from salt, water, and road grime. Being out of the way makes it hard to check the pressure of the spare tire and impossible to do an easy and quick inspection. As much as we love the idea of a full-size, matching spare, the under the vehicle spare location makes ignoring the spare just too easy.
We’ve come to appreciate the compact, limited-use spare tire located under the cargo floor like the one in the new Toyota RAV4 Prime.
If you have any advice about maintaining a vehicle let us know in the comments section below.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin
Hover mouse over image to see photo credits