Flat tires are no fun. And with advancements in tire technology, they happen less frequently than they once did. In fact, some tires don’t even need to be changed if they blow out — they can “run flat” for a short period of time.
Still, flats and blowouts do occur, and most motorists dread the next step: changing the tire. A lot of people will actually sit in their car with the flat unattended, call a roadside-assistance service, and wait for a pro to do the dirty work.
That’s fine, but there are several things you can do to make changing a tire much easier and less intimidating. Obviously, you need to be acquainted with the process of jacking up the car, loosening the lug nuts, and removing the tire and wheel. But if you know how to do that and are still reluctant to make the change, here are some tips.
1. Know your jack
On most cars, the jack has to be assembled before it can be used to raise the car enough to remove the flat tire and replace it with the “donut,” or temporary spare — a small tire that is designed to get you to a service station for a proper tire repair or replacement.
You don’t want to wait until you have a flat to figure out the jack. It only takes about five minutes to put one together, so spend some prep time on it one afternoon. You’ll be glad you did if you have a blowout on a dark, rainy night.
2. Make sure the temporary spare is in good shape
The donut needs to be checked every so often. You don’t want it to also be flat — kind of defeats the purpose of having a backup.
The best way to do this is to make it a routine when you check your tire pressure. On modern cars, you’ll know you have tire pressure issues because the car will alert you via a warning light. So when you investigate that problem, take a few extra minutes to check out your temporary spare.
You don’t even have to do it yourself — you can have it done at almost any gas station and even some car washes.
The same applies if you have a full-size spare tire.
3. Prevent the flat in the first place
Speaking of checking your tire pressure, if you do it once a month or so, you’ll always know if your tires are in decent shape and not under- or overinflated.
It’s also a good practice to monitor wear and tear on your tires. Have a look at the condition of the tread. If it looks bad or uneven, you might need to replace one or more tires. But you also might need to rotate or realign your tires to even out the wear.
And be aware of how old your tires are. No tire lasts forever, and once it’s at the end of its life it’s far more likely to fail.