Sooner or later, it happens to everyone. You are driving along, and suddenly you feel a thump, followed by one of your wheels attempting to roll with a flat tire. How do you prepare for this and what do you do when it happens?
Changing a flat tire will be much easier if you spend some time now preparing for the inevitable. Do you know where your spare is or where your tools are? First, take out your owner’s manual and read through the section on flat tires.
Following the instructions in the manual, locate your spare tire and learn how to remove it. Most are in a compartment below the trunk, but yours may be someplace else. Know where it is, and how to remove it from the car. Check the bolt holding it in place to make sure you can remove it quickly in an emergency. Also, identify the type of spare you have. Most modern cars come with a small spare, sometimes called a doughnut, which is only intended to get you to a service center where you can repair or replace the flat tire.
Find the tools you will need to lift your car and change the tire. Often, these tools are stored with the flat, but they may be stored elsewhere, and they may not all be together. You will need a jack to raise the car, a jack handle to use the jack and a tool to remove the lug nuts. Sometimes the jack handle doubles as a lug wrench. Get the jack out and practice using it. Most modern cars have a particular location where you place the jack under the car to lift it. Find and identify that location. It wouldn’t hurt to use the jack and lift the car a few inches to get a feel for how it works.
Figure out how to remove a hubcap if you have one and how to remove the lug nuts. Find out if you have wheel locks. If so, you need to locate and learn how to use the device that removes them. Practice this with the tools provided by the car manufacturer. If it is too difficult, you may want to invest in a better lug wrench and store that in your car. If you locate and identify all the tools you need to change a flat in the comfort of your garage, it will be much easier on a dark road in the rain.
Now that you have prepared for a flat, understand what happens when you get one. Modern tires have the technology to prevent or minimize blowouts, but if your tire does blow out or goes flat quickly, the car will jerk in that direction, especially if it is a front tire. If you have a flat, take your foot off the gas and quickly regain control of the car. Then, as quickly and safely as possible, pull over to the side of the road. You need to get as far from the road as you can, but make sure the ground is as solid and level as possible. Do not attempt to drive on the flat any further than necessary. You will destroy any chance of repairing the tire, and may damage your wheel in the process.
Remove all the tools you have hopefully identified and get the spare out. Have all passengers out of the car and away from the road and vehicle. While the car is still on the ground, use the lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts. This is easier than doing it while the wheel is in the air. Following the instructions in your manual, use the jack to raise the car until the flat tire is clear of the ground. Finish loosening and removing the lug nuts and pull the wheel with the flat off of the car.
Place the spare wheel and tire over the lugs and push the wheel until it is seated and flat against the brake assembly. Put on one of the lug nuts and finger tighten it. Place the next nut on the lug opposite the first one and do the same. Continue with the other two lug nuts until all are finger tightened. Make sure the wheel is still seated firmly and then tighten the lug nuts with the wrench until tight. Lower the jack until the car is back on the ground. You will notice the car may be leaning slightly, due to one tire smaller than the rest. Make sure you pick up all your tools and put the flat in the trunk.
As soon as possible, have the flat repaired or replaced and put back on the car. You should never drive long distances with the spare unless you have a full-size one. Prepare for a flat before it happens, and you will be back on the road in no time.