Flat tire avoidance
Routine inspection and tire maintenance is essential to their performance. In addition, paying attention to road hazards and avoiding them when possible can prolong the life of tires.
• Pressure: Tires should be maintained at the correct air pressure indicated on the sidewall or as advised by the manufacturer. Tires with too much air can be damaged by bumpy roads and potholes. Tires that are not inflated enough may increase friction on the roadway, resulting in a blowout. Check tire pressure routinely, after the tires have rested for three hours. Many vehicles now monitor tire pressure automatically and alert drivers through a signal on the dashboard.
• Wear: Inspecting tires for uneven wear should be a routine part of maintenance. If tires show uneven wear, they may be more susceptible to flats or blowouts. Tire rotations can help alleviate uneven wear and should be rotated every 5,000 miles.
• Treads: Look for worn tire treads. Check for wear bar indicator marks located between the tread pattern of the tires. If the wear bar is level with the treads, it’s time for new tires. Otherwise, place a quarter between the grooves of the tire. If the tread doesn’t extend beyond the top of Washington’s head, it’s a good idea to replace the tires.
• Construction: Drivers should try to avoid areas under construction. Rocks, nails, metal shards, glass and divots in the roads can cause punctures and eventually flats.
Flat tire repair
When flats occur, having the right tools and understanding the procedure for fixing the flat is key. Drivers will need an inflated spare tire, a jack, a lug wrench, bracing material (to keep the vehicle from rolling, such as a brick or piece of wood) and the vehicle’s owner’s manual.
• Spare tire: Spare tires are typically located in the trunk beneath the carpet-like mat covering the area. SUV drivers may have their spare tires mounted on the back of their vehicles, but some are located beneath the automobile. Periodically inspect spare tires to make sure they are inflated.
• Jack: A jack is necessary to change a flat tire. Scissor jacks are widely used and tend to be the jacks most people keep in their trunks. These jacks are lightweight and won’t take up much space, and the handle is typically the tire iron that comes with the vehicle. Some jacks are specially designed to fit the vehicles they came with, so when shopping for replacement jacks, make sure any you are considering are compatible with your car or truck.
• Lug wrench: A lug wrench is necessary to remove hubcaps or wheel covers. Drivers should determine if their vehicles require a special tool to remove wheel covers.
• Wheel wedges: Wheel wedges can be placed in front of or behind tires to prevent the car from rolling while drivers change their flats. When changing a rear tire, place the wedges in front of the front tires. When changing a front tire, place them behind the rear tires.
It is essential to fix the flat in a safe area away from traffic and on a flat surface.
• Use the owner’s manual to find the correct position to place the jack to lift the car.
• Remove hubcaps or center covers to access the lug nuts. With the lug wrench, loosen lug nuts in a counterclockwise direction.
• Take off the tire and put on the spare. Replace and tighten the lug nuts. Replace hubcaps or covers.
• Slowly lower the vehicle and drive cautiously to ensure the spare is in working order.
• Purchase a new tire or have a hole plugged or repaired at a tire center.