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How to Confidently Deal with a Flat Tire

Getting a flat tire can be one of the most dangerous things to happen during driving. And not handling the situation properly can lead to a costly accident or even injury.

So how do you respond to a flat tire?
The most important thing is to keep calm.

Think of yourself as the first responder to your own emergency.

What are some key traits of a good first responder?

  • A calm demeanor.
  • Knowledge and skills.
  • Practical decision-making.

This article is designed to empower anyone with the know-how for dealing with a flat tire. Make a print-out and keep it in your vehicle. This way you’ll have the knowledge and tools to deal successfully with this emergency whenever you need it. You can do this.

1. Do not panic

If a tire blows out while you are moving, let your inner first responder take command. Stay calm. Do not hit the brakes or abruptly turn the steering wheel. This will cause you to slide uncontrollably.

Instead, take your foot off the accelerator slowly. If traveling downhill, gently tap the brakes to reduce speed. Keep cool.

2. Switch on your flashers

This is one of the rare occasions where you can, and should, turn on your hazard indicators while your vehicle is moving. Do this as soon as you notice that you have a flat tire. If you have road flares, you could ignite one or more near your vehicle in clear sight of oncoming vehicles. Or use a roadside tool equipped with a bank of high-visibility red LEDs.

3. Look for a safe spot to change your tire

Try to stop

  • on a wide shoulder 
  • on a flat, straight section of the road. 

Even better, try and pull into a parking lot with empty spaces if possible. Do your best to position your vehicle far from all traffic. Keep your emergency flashers activated.

4. Make calls

When your car is stopped in a safe location, place calls to:

  • A roadside service provider (if you are a subscriber to one); they may send a technician to assist you, though wait times can be unpredictable;
  • The local Highway Patrol; at the very least, they may send a vehicle to the scene to make your disabled car more visible;
  • Family members; so they know your situation.

5. Assess your equipment

  • These items should be included in your vehicle:
  • Owner’s manual (handy for identifying where items are located).
  • Tire (often a “run-flat” tire is good for roughly 50 miles of travel).
  • Car Jack.
  • Wrench/pry bar combo.

If you like being a well-prepared motorist, you should add these emergency-kit items to your vehicle:

  • Rain jacket.
  • Gloves.
  • Flares, reflective triangles or red warning lights.
  • Tire blocks: blocks to place behind (or in front of) tires so the vehicle will not roll when one end is jacked in the air. Large rocks will also work. Wheel chocks (wedges) are also available to immobilize a vehicle.
  • Light: A multipurpose repair light is the ideal choice. One example: autoAssist by INGEAR is a worklight/flashlight combo that, when the flashlight head is extended, converts into a minitower of high-intensity light designed to illuminate a large area, making hands-free repair possible. Position adaptability is a key factor, and the autoAssist can stand on its base, be suspended by its hook, or be anchored to any metallic surface, even at a 90-dgree angle, with its dual base magnets.

6. Pry off the hubcap/wheel cover

Do this before elevating the vehicle using the car jack. The hubcap is easier to remove if the tire is unable to rotate.

7. Loosen the lug nuts

Use the wrench to loosen, but not fully remove, the nuts. It may take considerable force to get the nuts to begin turning. Once loosened, leave the nuts attached to their bolts by a few turns.

8. Position the car jack

On most vehicles, look for a small indent along the molding where a small metal section is accessible. That’s where you insert the top portion of the jack. Even in daylight, your light can be handy in locating this area.

9. Lift the vehicle

Crank the jack until the flat tire can be removed. Make sure the jack raises the vehicle high enough to accept the replacement tire. Do not let hands or other body parts go beneath the vehicle once it has been elevated.

10. Remove the lug nuts, then the tire

At this point, you should be able to remove the nuts by hand. Once they are removed, pull the tire off the hub and

  • Mount the spare.
  • Tighten the lug nuts as much as you can.
  • Reverse-crank the jack to lower the vehicle.
  • Once the replaced tire is resting on the ground, further tighten the lug nuts.
  • Replace the hubcap/wheel cover. Use the light to check its connection.
  • Return equipment to its storage locations.

Estimated time for the task: 25 minutes if you have changed a tire on this vehicle in the past, 45 minutes if this is your first attempt.

Tip: Practice these steps at home, in your garage or an empty parking lot, when you are not under pressure. The process will then seem familiar when you are thrust into an emergency situation.

Having the knowledge of how to fix a flat gives you peace of mind when the unexpected pops up. Now you know you have the knowledge. Go forward and travel in confidence.

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