Quickly and Safely Change a Flat Tire
According to the experts at the American Automobile Association of Ohio, their members experience over 90,000 flat tires every year. Take these along with all the flat tires of all the Americans that are not members of this group and chances are that you are going to find yourself on the side of the road one day with a flat. When that day comes you will be better off knowing how to get yourself back on the road. As common as this troublesome occurrence is, the task is not to be taken lightly. If the proper care is not taken you could easily find yourself, your passengers, or your vehicle in danger. Not to worry road warrior. If you will be careful, take your time and follow our simple guide along with the specific recommendations in your vehicle owner’s manual, you will get back on the road without incident.
Find a Safe Place to Stop
If you are fortunate enough to have a few seconds of advanced warning before your tire goes completely flat, use this precious time to signal and to get your vehicle as far to the right side of the road and away from oncoming traffic as possible. Do what you can to come to a stop on a flat surface. Upon coming to a stop, activate your hazard lights to alert other drivers to steer clear.
If you are surprised with a “blowout” and are able to maintain control of your vehicle, the same procedure as above should be followed as closely as possible. If a bent rim means you are out of harm’s way, it is a small sacrifice. In the case of an emergency or vehicle collision you should immediately contact the nearest emergency response service or highway patrol by calling 911 or *HP.
Be vigilant and remain aware of your surroundings during this entire procedure, taking special care if the flat causes you to work on the same side as oncoming traffic.
How to Remove the Flat Tire
Start by putting your vehicle in park when driving an automatic transmission or in first gear in a vehicle with a manual transmission. Ensure that the emergency brake is engaged. Check your vehicle owner’s manual for the location of your lug wrench, spare tire, jack and recommended jack points.
Remove the hub cap to expose the lug nuts. A common mistake is raising the vehicle before using the lug wrench to loosen the nuts. Loosen the nuts first. Do this by securely seating your vehicle’s lug wrench over whichever nut you choose to start with. With slow, and increasingly steady pressure, carefully loosen the nut. No tricks here, just remember lefty-loosey and keep at it until they free up. Try not to strain yourself. Continue with this process until all the nuts are loose enough to spin with your fingers. Do not remove them completely at this point.
Use the jack at the manufacturer recommended point to carefully lift your vehicle off the ground just far enough to get the damaged wheel and tire off and the spare back on.
Carefully remove the loosened lug nuts by hand, making certain you do not lose them. Upon completing the removal of all the lug nuts and placing them in the glove box, ashtray, your pocket or anywhere you are sure not to lose them, you are ready to remove the wheel and tire.
Depending on the size of the wheels on your vehicle, it is not uncommon for them to weigh 30 pounds or more each. Be careful not to strain or hurt your self during the removal. Once you have removed the damaged wheel and tire, attempt to move it around to the trunk or bed of the vehicle. Retrieve your lug nuts and take the spare tire (usually found in or under the trunk or bed) around to the necessary wheel.
How to Install a Spare Tire
Lift the spare and carefully line up the bolt holes over the lugs on the hub and put the spare tire in place. Finger tighten your lug nuts in a “zig-zag” or star pattern moving from top to bottom to ensure even tension is placed on each. Once the lug nuts are finger tight, snug them up with the lug wrench. At this point the vehicle is still raised so you will not be able to completely tighten them down.
After tightening the lug nuts as much as possible, use the jack to carefully lower the vehicle. Use your lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts using the same zig-zag or star pattern as before until all lug nuts are secure. A loose wheel can be very dangerous, so you should ensure that all lug nuts are tight, while taking care not to apply so much force as would cause damage the threads, lug nuts, or rotor. Check again to make sure you have tightened them all evenly.
Be Cautious When Driving on a Spare Tire
Unless your vehicle has a full size spare, you will have noticed that the replacement tire has somewhat different dimensions than the damaged and remaining wheels and tires. In general, these spare tires are meant for VERY limited mileage and speed. The idea behind the existence of a spare is that it will allow a driver to get to the next closest location where a tire can be replaced and remounted. You should consult the materials included with your spare tire and/or your owner’s manual to ensure you do not exceed the distance and speed recommendations of your spare tire.
Well, in case you had not noticed, you now have four working wheels and tires on your vehicle. Carefully load the damaged wheel and tire into your trunk or wherever your spare was located, and place the jack and all project related materials back in the vehicle. After checking lug nuts, stowing all project related materials and keeping in mind the limitations of the the spare tire, you are ready to hit the road. Drive Carefully!
- Be vigilant and watch for other drivers whenever exiting and moving around your vehicle on the side of the road.
- Check regularly to ensure that your spare tire and necessary tools are present and in good, working order.
- Invest in a Roadside emergency kit with reflectors, ponchos, flashlights and other items that will make an unexpected roadside stop more manageable.
- Consult your auto insurer or other reputable companies for details on roadside assistance programs if you unwilling, uninterested, or unable to complete the tasks discussed in the article above.
- Whenever there are injuries or your flat has occurred during conditions or in a location that you cannot complete the above tasks safely, call for help, wait for conditions to improve, and do not take safety risks unless it is absolutely unavoidable.