Don’t Let Flat Tires Stop You This Holiday Season
We’ve all had it happen: we come out to start the car, notice the frame leaning, and realize that one of our tires are flat. How did it happen? Is there a leak? Did we run over a nail?
Doesn’t matter at this point. Just be happy it didn’t blow out on the road.
Here are some tips for flat tire prevention that can help you prevent this scenario. And, just in case it happens anyway, we also have some basic items to have on hand to get you out of the situation.
Prevention: What to Do Before A Flat Tire
The great news is that flat tires can be avoided with proper maintenance and care. All it takes is some preparation and mindfulness regarding the shape of your tires, how they are used, and your readiness when a flat tire occurs.
- Be mindful about road conditions while driving. Most tires are rated to drive over somewhat rough or uneven roads. But that doesn’t mean that you want to just drive over every piece of road construction between you and your destination. Understand where bad road conditions might add wear and tear on your tires and try your best to navigate around them.
- Keep your car tire pressure up. Tires are rated for a certain pressure (measured in pounds per square inch, or PSI), so avoid overinflating or underinflating them. Also pay attention to the suggested PSI for your tires provided by the car manufacturer, as it might differ from the rating on the tires. When in doubt, inflate your tires according to manufacturer suggestions.
- Inspect your tires and tread. Some basic inspection can help you catch damage or wear early, which can mean avoiding a flat tire out on the road. Check your tread using the “Lincoln test” by putting a penny upside-down in your tread. If you can see Lincoln’s entire head, then the tread is low, and the tire might be more likely to take damage (at the very least, it will not have the same traction on wet or icy roads). Also check your valve stem for leaks and check the tire itself for any embedded nails or worn rubber. .
- Rotate Your Tires. Rotate your tires every time you have your oil changed. This helps equally distribute wear on your tires so that a single tire isn’t wearing faster than the others. This also helps when it comes time to replace tires.
- Make sure you have a spare on hand. A spare is not just an old tire you can throw on your car: spare tires are built to help you get your car to a shop in case you have a flat. Some cars have “doughnuts” which are completely different from the rest of the tires, but other cars have “Spares” that are exactly the same, so a gently used tire can go on the spare. Also make sure you have the tools you need to install the spare (like a car jack and lug wrench) and that your spare is properly aired up.
Repair: What to Do After a Flat Tire
Problem: all the prevention in the world doesn’t eliminate the possibility for flat tires. When a flat tire happens, make sure that you have the proper tools in place, and that you take the proper steps to get the problem fixed as soon as possible.
Put your spare on immediately, and properly. You have the tools to put the tire on, but make sure you actually know how to do it:
First, use the car jack to lift the car off the ground. Check your owner’s manual for the location where a car jack can lift the car without damaging it.
Second, remove the hub cab, if you have one, to expose the lug nuts. Use the lug wrench to remove the lug nuts and store them in the hubcap so you don’t lose them.
Third, remove the tire and put on the spare exactly in the same space.
Fourth, screw the lug nuts back into place and tighten them with the wrench. Tighten them slowly and alternate with opposite nuts (don’t tighten them in a circle). If you tighten them unevenly the tire will sit unevenly.
Finally, lower the jack and the car.
The spare tire should support the weight of the car, have full pressure, and be ready to drive by the time it is on your car.
- Only drive on the spare long enough to get to an auto repair shop. Spare tires are not tire replacements: they are only suitable for driving at certain speeds for a limited number of miles. Understand how long you can drive on the spare and use that to get to a specialist that can get a proper tire on.
- Get to your mechanic and get the tire repaired or replaced. Sometimes tires can be repaired… which can be a lifesaver if you’ve just bought new tires, or don’t have the cash for replacements. However, a flat tire might need to be replaced anyway, depending on its condition. If you have a dedicated mechanic who you trust to be honest with you, ask them what the best course is, and get an estimate on how much it will cost.
Prevent Flat Tires and Be Ready When They Happen
A flat tire can cause a lot of headache, accidents will happen, but do what you can. Check your tires, maintain proper air pressure, and keep the proper tools in place to help if the tire goes flat. And make sure that you have an auto repair shop nearby that can help you fix or replace your tires when they happen.
Trust us when we say that you don’t want to be on the side of the road on a cold rainy day, changing a tire.