A flat tire shouldn’t be reason for panic. “In schools where drivers’ education isn’t available,” observes one educator, “tire changing ought to be included in home economics.” The Car Care Council suggests that motorists who are unprepared to deal with a flat tire are faced not only with added expense and inconvenience; they also are more vulnerable to foul weather and roadside crime.
Among the obstacles is a spare tire that’s buried under layers of trunk junk. Not only is it hard to reach, it may have gone flat during its long period of hibernation. In another scenario the jack and/or jack handle might be missing.
If everything is where it should be and ready to use, will the driver know how to do so? The Council offers a few suggestions to help the victim of a flat tire to get back on the road quickly and safely.
First and foremost, familiarize yourself with the procedure before the real situation arises. Jacking up the vehicle and removing the wheel does require some preparation, so a “dry run” in the driveway or other safe place is a good idea.
Determine whether or not the vehicle is equipped with anti-theft lug nuts and, if so, where the lug nut key is located. Some cars have locking wheel covers.
Jacking procedures vary from vehicle to vehicle, so do your owner’s manual homework before beginning. It may warn if the spare is a miniaturized space-saver, to drive it slowly, as recommended on the sidewall. The sooner you can get a real wheel and good tire back on your vehicle, the better.
Since most flats are cause by damage to the tire, usually a puncture, says the Council, anything less than quality repairs can affect the integrity of the tire. The best way to repair a tire is to have it removed from the rim, the inside inspected and corrective measures taken. The quick plug, done from the outside, no longer is recommended by the tire industry. According to experts, the repair could fail, inviting a blowout.
One emergency solution is a pressurized can that seals the puncture and inflates the tire until you can get to a service dealer. Another is a pump that plugs into the cigarette lighter receptacle to inflate a low, but not flat, tire. Much better, when available, is the air hose at the service station.
The best idea, urges the Council, is to check inflation of all tires, including the spare, regularly. For maximum tire life, have them rotated and balanced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the "Be Car Care Aware" campaign, educating consumers about the benefits of regular vehicle maintenance and repair. For more information visit www.carcare.org.