Back to Basics – fixing a flat tire

In our second installment of Back to Basics, we want to briefly focus on a skill that could end up being (if it’s not already) very important – fixing a flat tire.  Many of you may already know what this entails, but we don’t want to take anything for granted.  Simply follow these steps and you’ll be on your way in record time:

  • If your flat tire happens while moving, find the closest and safest place to the side of the road (preferably as far away from oncoming traffic as possible) and park your car.  You may benefit from using your emergency hazard lights, to notify nearby drivers and increase visibility.
  • A step often used but not entirely necessary is opening and leaving your trunk or hood up, to signify a repair in progress.  If it’s dark and you have them available, emergency flares are most preferable.  At this point you’ll also want to “chock” the 3 remaining wheels with large rocks or an equivalent.  This is in case your e-brake or transmission malfunctions.  Not likely both will fail, but possible.  Remember, better safe than sorry.
  • Engage your emergency brake (again, often overlooked but definitely most safe practice).
  • Remove your tire repair kit from the vehicle.  Most manufacturers locate these in the trunk, but not all.  Also, kits vary but all should have the basic essentials necessary for changing to your spare tire.
  • Locate your lug-nuts (some vehicles may require hubcaps to be removed first but many allow access to your lug-nuts without removal).  With the lug-nut wrench from your tire repair kit, loosen (but do not remove) all lug-nuts on the wheel.  This is where the age old adage “Lefty loosey, righty tighty” will come into play, we’re sure you remember that one.
  • Remove the jack from your tire repair kit and position it on a stable part of your vehicle’s frame.  This “jack spot” is located in different spots depending on the make/model of your vehicle, so you’ll want to consult your owners manual for best positioning.  You only need to lift the vehicle high enough for the tire you’re removing to be an inch off the ground.
  • Now, it is safe to completely remove the lug-nuts you loosened earlier.
  • Gently slide the wheel off your axle and place it in the trunk, replacing it with your spare (which you SHOULD have).  If you don’t have a spare, every step up to this point will have been done in vain, unfortunately.
  • Make sure you install the spare tire in the proper direction.  You might laugh but it’s easy to confuse.  Best thing to do is keep the valve stem (part of the tire that accepts air) to the outside.
  • Here’s one of the most important steps, so pay close attention.  Remember that first star you drew as a kid, when you connected five straight lines to make the star pattern?  OK, you’re going to replicate that exactly.  Start with the top lug-nut, tighten it WITH YOUR HAND and continue with the star-pattern until you’ve hand-tightened all five.
  • Lower the vehicle and remove the chocks from the wheels.
  • Use your lug-nut wrench to tighten your lug-nuts the rest of the way, utilizing the star pattern once again.
  • Clean up, making sure to return all items to their original location (which makes it considerably easier next time you need them).
  • Contact your local auto repair center for repair on your flat tire, your spare is only temporary.

Like riding a bicycle for the first time, once you’ve completed these steps you’ll not likely forget.  We hope recall of them is not necessary multiple times, but should that be the case, you are now better educated and empowered to handle the situation.
Safe travels!

Written by cargrandrapids