If you haven't had one yet, you will eventually: the dreaded flat tire. You’re driving along, probably to work, and the car pulls to one side or loses momentum as the air escapes. Some cars have a tire pressure monitoring system that flashes, letting you know which wheel to check, or just turning on a light. So what now?
- Turn on your hazards and pull off the road as quickly and safely as your are able. The shoulders on the highways were invented just for this kind of thing! (Make sure you don’t try to drive too far on a flat tire, you could do serious damage to your wheel or your drivetrain, turning a flat tire into a costly repair.)
- Safely exit the car and identify which tire is flat. Hopefully you already know where your spare tire is and know that it’s full of air, but if you don’t, check your owners manual for the location of your spare. Most passenger cars store them in a compartment inside the trunk of the car. There should be a jack stored near the tire.
- At this point, some people choose to call for help. And that’s OK! AAA and 511 are designed to aid stranded motorists. If you are injured, have a disability, or just aren’t strong enough to get the job done, calling for help is the safest option. If your spare tire is damaged or also flat, you should call for help. Roadside assistance can pump up your spare for your or tow your car to a tire shop, whichever makes more sense.
- Gather your tools: pull the spare, the jack, and the wheel wrench out of your car and place them near the flat tire.
- Use the wheel wrench to break loose the lug nuts on the wheel. Don’t take them all the way off! You just want the weight of the car to help you loosen the nut before you lift the car up. Otherwise when you try and loosen them, the wheel will just spin.
- Put the jack together (if necessary) following the instructions found on the jack, in your owners manual, or near where the jack is stored in the car. Look carefully under the car and pick a safe point to lift the car from. The frame rails are the best option, but most importantly you don’t want to lift from anything that could be damaged by the weight of the car (eg: the oil pan, important suspension parts).
- Slowly and carefully jack up the car. If at any point the car feels unstable in the air, lower it back down and try again. You only need to lift the car up so the flat tire is about 3-4” above the ground.
- When the car is lifted, finish taking off the lug nuts and remove the wheel from the car. Stand up your spare and roll it over to the axle, lining up the holes to install the spare. If you didn’t lift the car up enough to get the spare on, do so now. Put the lug nuts on the wheel finger tight.
- Lower the car and use the lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts. Make sure you get all of them and tighten them in a criss-cross pattern. Place your tools and your flat tire in your car.
- That’s it! Now you’re ready to drive carefully to a tire shop (or Convoy Auto Repair if you’re near San Diego) to have your flat tire repaired or replaced. Make sure to obey the instructions on your spare tire to prevent further accident or injury. Most spare tires are only rated to 55mph and for 50 miles of driving, so you will need to adjust your driving while you are using it.
The number one best arget="_blank" title="Convoy Auto Repair Blog - Tread Depth">safe amount of tread, but sometimes flats are unavoidable. Our roads are full of debris like screws, nails, and glass, all of which have been known to flatten even brand new tires. Drive safe!
If you haven’t had one yet, you will eventually: the dreaded flat tire.