Flat Tires: Be Prepared for Anything

A man repairing his car's flat tireIf your vehicle feels a little uneven and steering is a bit heavier than usual, you may have a flat tire.  While the issue may seem common, things can get dangerous for you and your vehicle if it’s left unaddressed. The smallest loss of control can greatly increase your risks of being involved in a vehicular accident.

Flat tires are usually caused by punctures and wear on your treads. You can prevent flats from happening by exercising the following precautions:

  • Avoiding Over-Inflation – Too much air in your tires can make them too hard, resulting in a bumpier ride than what you normally should get. It also makes the vehicle uneven. This means weight - and subsequently wear - is focused on the lower side and the wheels on that side are at risk of flattening at a higher rate.
  • Avoiding Under-Inflation – Under-inflated tires can have the same effect. Because the vehicle is uneven, the under-inflated tires carry more of the pressure and wear out faster. As the treads get thinner, the likelihood of flattening increases.
  • Avoiding Rough Roads – Unless your vehicle’s wheels were made for rough terrain, avoid roads with potholes and debris. Jagged wood, shards of glass, nails, screws and sharp rocks can puncture a tire and flatten it instantly.
  • Regularly Checking Tire Pressure – Every driver should make it a habit to check his wheels before every trip. Most tires have pressure gauges built in. Make sure that the reading is accurate and within the bounds of what’s considered normal by the manufacturer.
  • Buying Durable Treads – Your safety is a good thing to invest in. When you buy tires, make sure you get them from credible brand names. If you have a driving style that requires thicker treads, go ahead and get those types of tires. They’ll last longer and stay in good condition, saving you money in the process even if you have to shell out more up front.

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how careful you are with your tires. Flats can and will happen at some point to most drivers. In case you have this emergency, the Department of Motor Vehicles recommends the following steps:

1. Pull Over to a Safe Spot – If you feel that you may have a flat tire, don’t stop right away and attempt to change it on the spot. Find a safe area where the surface is flat and there’s sufficient light to help you see. Never attempt stop your car in the middle of a highway unless it’s incapable of going any further. Your immediate safety depends on your ability to choose a neutral spot where you pose no obstruction to the traffic behind you.

2. Turn on Your Hazard Lights and Use an Early Warning Device – Make sure your vehicle is visible and that other drivers are warned that you’ve got a situation on your hands. Turn your hazard lights no and set up your early warning device (EWD) at least 10 feet behind your vehicle for good measure.

3. Loosen the Lug Nuts – Once you’ve secured your spot, get your toolbox out and start loosening the lug nuts that hold the flat tire in place.

4. Raise the Vehicle with a Jack – Don’t remove the tire just yet. You’ll have to get the car off the ground to do that. Pull out the jack from the toolbox and use it to lift the side of the car where the flat tire is.

5. Remove the Flat Tire – When the car is a few inches off the ground, it will be safe to remove the lug nuts and pull out the flat tire.

6. Replace it with the Spare – Pull out the spare tire and carefully fit it where you took out the flat one. Take the lug nuts again and wrench them tightly in place.

7. Lower the Vehicle – Gently lower the jack again until the vehicle’s spare tire touches the ground.

8. Place the Flat Tire Securely Where You Got the Spare – Place the flat tire securely where you got the spare and drive away. Take it to a nearby auto repair shop and get professionals to fix it for you.

Dealing with flat tires becomes simple when you practice all the precautions and you’ve studied basic troubleshooting. Stay calm, apply what you know and you should be fine.