So you’re driving along and suddenly you feel that dreaded thump thump of a flat tire. Don’t panic! Flat tires are a common occurrence that most drivers will experience at some point. With some basic preparation and knowledge, you can safely change your own tire or call for assistance. This guide will walk you through step-by-step what you should do if you get a flat tire while driving.
Here’s a quick answer:
If you get a flat tire while driving, safely pull over, activate hazard lights, and assess if you can change it yourself. If so, use car jack to lift, lug wrench to loosen nuts, and swap the flat for your spare. Lower the car, tighten the nuts, and proceed cautiously to a tire shop for repair. Call for help if unable to swap it yourself.
Assess the Situation
The first thing to do is pull over to a safe location like the shoulder of the highway or a parking lot. Activate your hazard lights so other drivers know you’re having an issue. Before getting out to inspect the damage, make sure you’re pulled over far enough not to impede traffic.
Once parked, turn the car off, put it in park and engage the parking brake. This will prevent the vehicle from moving while you’re working on it. Grab any supplies you may need like the owner’s manual, a flashlight, and the car jack.
Now you can exit the vehicle and assess the situation. Do a walk around to spot which tire is flat. Don’t immediately pull anything out of the trunk just yet.
Call For Assistance (Optional)
If you feel it’s unsafe to change the tire yourself or you don’t have the proper equipment, call for roadside assistance. Most new cars come with a roadside assistance membership. Your insurance company may also offer this.
If you don’t have roadside assistance, you can try calling family or friends, or a tow truck service to change the tire. Just know this option comes with extra fees.
Retrieve the Tools
If you’ve determined you can safely change the tire, grab all the necessary tools usually found in the trunk:
|Replacement for flat tire
|Lifts vehicle to remove flat
|Loosens lug nuts
|Blocks for other tires
Your owner’s manual will illustrate where these items are stored in your vehicle. Ensure they are all accounted for before proceeding.
Lift the Vehicle
Refer to the owner’s manual for manufacture guidance on lifting your vehicle properly with the car jack. You want to find a solid jacking point on the frame near the flat tire.
Position the jack and start cranking it to lift the vehicle. Only raise it enough so the flat tire clears the ground by a few inches.
Remove the Lug Nuts and Flat Tire
With the flat tire lifted off the ground, use your lug wrench to begin loosening the nuts holding the wheel in place. Don’t try removing the nuts or wheel just yet.
Once all nuts are broken loose, you can finish removing them with your fingers and set aside. Carefully pull the wheel straight off the mounting studs and set it aside.
Mount the Spare Tire
Pick up your spare tire and line it up on the wheel mounting studs where you removed the flat. Push it on straight avoiding cross-threading the nuts.
Hand tighten all lug nuts crisscross style until the wheel is flush against the brake pads. This ensures even contact.
Use the lug wrench to tighten the nuts more following a star or crisscross pattern. Check your owner’s manual for the proper lug nut torque.
Lower the Vehicle
With the spare securely installed and nuts tightened, slowly crank the jack to lower the vehicle. Ensure the tire makes full contact with the road when lowering.
Remove the jack once lowered and store it away. Also remove wheel chocks from the remaining tires if you used them.
Seek Repair (Optional)
A spare tire is meant only for temporary use to get you to a tire shop. Plan to have the flat professionally repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
Most punctures in the tread area can be patched. Sidewall punctures often require full tire replacement. An inspection can determine if it’s safe to repair or needs replacing.
There you go! While not the ideal situation, a flat doesn’t have to ruin your day. Follow these key steps during a flat tire to safely change it or call for assistance. With the right preparation, you can handle this minor car maintenance task. Stay safe!
1. What should I do if I get a flat tire while driving at high speeds?
If possible, gradually decrease your speed. Hold the steering wheel firmly and slowly pull over to a safe location like the shoulder. Avoid braking hard or jerking the steering wheel. Activate your hazard lights once stopped.
2. What if I don’t have a spare or my spare is flat too?
Call for roadside assistance. Most policies offer towing to a nearby tire shop. If you don’t have coverage, contact a tow provider to change the flat with your replacement tire purchased enroute or onsite.
3. How do I properly use wheel chocks when changing a flat?
Wheel chocks or blocks go in front and behind the tires that remain on the ground when lifting your vehicle with the jack. This prevents accidental rolling that could be dangerous when changing the tire.
4. Can I change a flat if I have a doughnut spare tire?
Yes, doughnut spares have limited mileage capabilities but otherwise can safely function to get you to a tire shop for repair or replacement. Follow the same steps to mount it. Then immediately go to a shop.
5. What if I loosen the lug nuts but can’t get them off by hand?
Sometimes lug nuts seize up from rust and corrosion. Use a rubber mallet or small hammer to knock the wheel from behind and loosen it up. Tap lightly around the wheel until it breaks free. Lift and pull straight off the studs.