What to do When You Have a Flat Tire…
Any way you slice it having a flat tire sucks; how bad it sucks depends on where you get your flat tire. There are two basic scenarios that you will have a flat tire. Either you will be parked somewhere and discover it when you walk out to your vehicle, or you will be driving down the road (which is much worse).
I have been in both situations and neither is fun, but if you know what to do you’re way ahead of the game. Let’s take a look at each of these situations to see what is the best way to proceed. We will also take a look at some frequently asked questions about having a flat tire at the end of this article.
What to do When You Have a Flat Tire in a Parked Situation…
Okay, so you walk out of your house or place of employment, ready to go and you notice that your car is a little lopsided. As you approach closer to inspect your vehicle; you see that one of your tires is flattened resting comfortably on the ground. While this is inconvenient it is better than having a blowout as you are driving down the road.
Check your surroundings and be aware of what is going on around you. If the area looks unsafe or if you are not comfortable it may be best to call someone immediately.
However, if you are comfortable taking care of the situation yourself proceed on.
Check out your tire
Give your tire a visual and physical inspection. Look at the tire to see if you can find what the culprit is. If you see a nail or screw or something else, now you know you have to get the tire fixed.
If you don’t see anything carefully run your hands over the surface of the tire. Feel for anything that may have caused the flat tire. If you don’t see or feel anything, you may simply have a slow leak.
At this point, you can take out your portable air compressor, inflate your tire to the correct PSI and wait. Yes, wait, for a minute and listen. If you hear air rushing out of the tire then it is not suitable to drive on and you will need to mount up your spare.
However, if you don’t hear anything, and the tire seems to be holding air; it should be safe to drive on. Only drive a short distance though. You will need to observe the tire to make sure that it doesn’t lose air again.
This is the best-case scenario if you have a flat tire. Assuming you will not always have the best-case scenario let’s continue.
What if I have A Flat and No Spare
So you’ve done your visual inspection, and you have a bonafide flat tire. ‘No problem’ you think, I will just put on my spare tire. Except, maybe you don’t have a spare.
Fortunately, there is a fantastic article over here that details what you can do if you have a flat tire and no spare. The shortlist is:
- A tire repair kit
- Calling a roadside service
What if you have a spare tire? This is good, now you can take care of the situation yourself and get back on the road. But how do you mount your spare tire?
How to Change a Flat Tire and Mount a Spare…
Okay, so you are going to tackle changing a tire. Good for you! It’s not difficult, but you do need to be careful.
Make sure you are on a level surface. Your vehicle will roll. Speaking from personal experience, that is not fun.
- Put your vehicle in park and put the emergency brake on. (I also like to use a set of wheel blocks for extra safety)
- Find the jack points on your vehicle. Your owner’s manual will indicate where the appropriate jack points are at.
- Position the jack and begin raising it up. (There are many types of jacks check here for scissor jacks or here on how to use a bottle jack.)
- When the jack catches and the car starts offering resistance, STOP! ( When it gets considerably harder to raise the car is when you want to stop.
- Now, loosen the lug nuts on the tire with the lug wrench. Just a little bit; you just want to break the nut free at this point.
- When all the lug nuts are loose, continue raising the car until the bottom of the tire is about an inch or two off the ground.
- Finish removing the lug nuts and remove the tire.
- Fit the spare tire to the wheel studs
- Replace the lug nuts back onto the wheel studs, first hand tighten them, and then loosely tighten them with the lug wrench
- SLOWLY lower the car back down, until it’s resting on all of its tires
- Finish tightening the lug nuts. This needs to be done in a star or criss-cross pattern so that the rim tightens evenly and snugly against the wheel hub. Don’t crank down on one lug nut at a time, rotate through the nuts until they are all firmly tightened.
- After this, I like to drive forward 20-30 feet or so and then back. Then I check the lug nuts one more time, just to make sure that they are firmly tightened.
- Now all that is left is cleanup. Collapse the jack all the way, pick up the flat tire. If there is room, you can stow it where the spare was. And you can be on your way.
Remember that, unless you have a full-size tire, the spare is only a temporary measure. You need to get your regular tire fixed or replaced as soon as possible.
While it is never fun to discover a flat tire at home or work, there is safety and you have options. Getting a flat tire while you are driving is a completely different situation.
What to do When You Get A Flat Tire on the Highway…
It happens at some point to everyone; you are driving down the road and you get a flat. Now there are tire blowouts and then there are flat tires. There are a few fundamental differences in how each situation is handled.
What to Do When You Have A Flat Tire
Many times you won’t know that you have a flat tire right away. It may take some time for the air to leak out of your tire. Then all of a sudden you hear the wump-wump-wump of a tire without air. The next thing you will feel is your car will be more difficult to control.
DON’T SLAM YOUR BRAKES ON! That is the worst thing you can do. Ease off the gas and get off the road to a safe place. When you park, try to make it to a level surface, because now you may need to change your flat tire.
Assuming you are in a safe location and your tire is not in terrible shape you can follow the procedures outlined above. Examine the tire, if there is only a little nail in it you may be able to use some Fix -a -Flat to get the tire reinflated. Despite the opinions of using Fix-A-Flat, if it gets you going again, it’s well worth it.
The best thing to do is to assess the situation and do what you are comfortable with.
What to do if You Have a Tire Blowout…
A tire blowout is a lot less fun than both of the above situations. They always happen suddenly and unexpectedly, but they can be handled if you know what to do.
The first thing to remember is, DON’T PANIC! There will be a lot of noise and your steering will become considerably more difficult. By maintaining your cool, you will stay on top of the situation.
The good people at idrivesafely.com offer some fine insights on how to handle a tire blowout. They include:
- Not Panicking
- Gaining control of your vehicle
- Getting off the road
You can read the whole article here.
Flat Tire FAQ’S
As drivers, we really do take our tires for granted. Many of us have no idea what to do if we get a flat tire. So we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about flat tires. Here we go in no particular order.
Who Do You Call for a Flat Tire?
So, you’re not too excited about the prospect of changing your own flat tire. I don’t blame you, it’s dirty, it can be unnerving, why bother? So who can you call?
Depending on where you are at, you could call family or friends to help you out; preferably ones who will be able to help you change your tire. Family or friends are free and they aren’t going to mind helping you.
If you are far from home, a roadside assistance program may be the way to go. This is of course if you are signed up for one. If you’re going on a road trip or generally find yourself in the car often; it may not be a bad idea to have a roadside assistance subscription.
Another option, along the same vein, is calling your insurance company. Some insurance companies provide normal roadside services, like gas, flat tire, and dead battery jump. Usually, you have to sign up for this service ahead of time. So again, if you are a heavy commuter or going on a long road trip, this may be worth investigating.
There are apps out there that claim to offer emergency services. I can not recommend any here as a majority of people had a poor experience with them.
Lastly, call a local shop. In the middle of the day, this should be no problem. They may have someone who can come out to help you. Most likely you will have a smartphone with you that should be able to locate a gas station or repair shop near your location.
Can I Call the Police for A Flat Tire?
Typically, no, you don’t call the police for a flat tire. Depending on where you are at; some local police are not even able to assist you with changing a flat tire. A local officer passing by, may pull over and turn his lights on to act as a warning. They may even give you verbal instructions on how to change your tire.
The exception to this would be a highway patrol officer; they may offer to render assistance if they happen upon you.
All in all, there are better options out there than calling the police if you have a flat tire.
How Far Can You Drive on A Flat Tire?
According to yourmechanic.com; you can potentially drive for several hundred yards at a low speed on a flat tire. Safety is of primary concern here, as was mentioned above, you want to find a safe place to get off the road. So, if you have to drive for a few hundred yards on a flat you can do so.
You don’t want to come to a dead stop in the middle of the road, which will create a whole new set of problems. Slow your vehicle down to around 15-20 MPH. This will allow you to maintain control of your vehicle and get you to a safe location to repair your tire.
Keep in mind that the longer you drive on a flat tire the more damage you will do to the tire. Driving 15-20 MPH for several hundred yards will most likely destroy the tire. Remember, though, that safety is paramount, and a new tire is a small price to pay.
This is not talking about a tire blow out. With a tire blowout, you don’t have the luxury of driving a few hundred yards. You need to get off the road as quickly and safely as possible.
How Many Miles Do Run-Flat Tires Last?
While having run-flat tires is certainly an advantage when you get a flat tire, it does not give you permission to keep driving as you normally would. Per Tirerack.com, on average a run-flat tire will give you about another 50 miles of extended driving.
This depends on a number of things. The amount of air pressure left in the tire, the temperature outside, the load on the wheels. All of this affects how far you can drive on run-flat tires.
Eventually, you will still need to have the tires repaired or replaced.
When you have a flat tire your options are limited. The bottom line is to slow down and get off the road as quickly and safely as possible and go from there.
What Happens When You Drive on A Flat Tire?
The short answer is nothing good happens when you drive on a flat tire. First, it compromises your ability to control your vehicle. Your steering and braking are both reduced when you have a flat tire. Not to mention trying to get your nerves under control. All of this is covered already though.
Second, it will severely damage your tire and rim. A flat tire doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced. However, prolonged riding on a flat tire will cause irreparable damage.
In addition to damaging the tire; the longer you spend driving on the flat, the greater the chance of damaging the rim of your car, too. This is especially bad if you are away from home because now you need to replace the rim as well.
The moral of the story, get off the road as soon as possible with a flat tire.
What do you do if you have a flat tire? Safety first, get off the road in a safe location. There is nothing like sitting on the side of the highway when an 80-ton semi comes cruising by at 75 mph. Or even dealing with the other crazy drivers out there.
Second, don’t panic and figure out what you are going to do. Are you going to fix the flat yourself? Are you going to put the spare tire on? Or are you going to call for help? These are all viable options.
Hopefully, you will never need this guide, but if you ever have a flat tire you will know what to do.