What to do if you get a flat tire

Everyone who drives should be able to change a tire in an emergency. While you may have some form of roadside assistance, if you are in an isolated area without cell service, it won’t be of any help.

Everyone who drives should be able to change a tire in an emergency. While you may have some form of roadside assistance, if you are in an isolated area without cell service, it won’t be of any help.

Our first step, though, would be doing what we can to minimize the chances of even having a flat tire or blowout, which could lead to an accident.

As we have talked about in previous articles, you need to check our tire pressure regularly. Low tire pressure is a common cause of flat tires. It causes more friction, which can lead to excessive heating and result in a blowout. Over-inflated tires are exposed to more damage from bumpy roads and potholes.

You should check our tire pressure monthly when our tires are cold. Your owner’s manual will give us the correct pressure for your tires. If you’re unsure we can check with our repair or tire shop. You always need to be sure and check the spare tire as well.

When checking our tire pressure you should also check the condition of our tires. Worn tread on your tires increases the chances of flats and blowouts. Look at your tires’ wear bars. If they’re level with the treads, it means the tires are worn out and you need new ones. You should also look for uneven wear that can cause handling problems. Uneven wear, in the middle or side is usually caused by improper tire pressure.

It’s a good idea to rotate your tires with every oil change.

Finally, watch where you’re driving. Poor roads that are not maintained, construction zones, and the shoulders of roads can have puncture hazards like nails, sharp rocks, debris and potholes. Drive slowly and cautiously in these areas.

If you do get a flat tire and must change it yourself, it’s not fun. Chances are it won’t be on a perfectly flat, dry, piece of road when it happens. However, if you just stop, take a minute, and assess the situation before you begin, it will make things go much easier.

First, pull off the road and try to find the flattest area to stop. Then shut off your engine and turn the hazard lights on. If you have flares or safety cones you could also put these out. This will help let other drivers know you are there. The more visible you are the better.

Put a large object like a log or rock behind the tires if your vehicle is facing uphill or in front of the tires if it’s facing downhill.

Get our spare tire, jack, and tire iron out. It’s a good idea to know where these things are in our vehicle ahead of time. Sometimes the jack and tire iron are under seats or in hidden compartments. The spare tire may be up underneath the vehicle at the back. Take a look now at where these things are now and even practice pulling them all out. It would be a really good idea to practice changing a tire before you actually need to.

If you have hubcaps, remove the hubcap with the wedge end of the tire iron. Then loosen the lug nuts in a star pattern order, turning the tire iron counterclockwise. But don’t remove them completely yet! They may be on pretty tight since shops use air guns.

Now jack the car up according to your owner’s manual. Different vehicles use different jacks in different spots. The full spare tire will be a bit bigger than the flat one, so you need to jack the car up further than what’s needed to just remove the flat tire. Never go under the vehicle while it is jacked up. It could be very dangerous if the car slipped off the jack.

Now finish removing the lug nuts, and put them somewhere you won’t lose them, like in the hubcap if we have one. When you pull the flat tire off and put the spare tire on, make sure that the valve stem is facing out.

Then put the lug nuts on in the same star pattern order that you took them off. Just snug them up. Then lower the car back down and remove the jack. Now you can finish tightening the lug nuts up in the same star pattern order.

Now you can replace the hubcap and put away your jack and tire iron. There’s no need to necessarily put the flat tire back where the spare usually goes, since you will be dropping it off at a repair shop. It’s a good idea to have the repair shop retighten your lug nuts while you’re there. If you’re travelling a long way before you get to a repair shop, it’s a good idea to stop and retighten the lug nuts periodically.

And with that, you can get back on the road.

Catch Driving with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens