Nine times out of ten, you’ll need to fix flat tires at the absolute worst moment. You’ll already be late for work, rushing from Rockland County to get to a meeting when you drive over a nail. Your car will slide into a curb on the coldest day of the year, popping your tire bead off the rim. It’ll be blisteringly hot while you drive through the most remote part of Nevada on vacation, without cell reception. When it happens, will you know what to do?
How DO you fix a flat tire? You need to know how to lift your vehicle with a tire jack. You’re going to need to loosen your wheel nuts and put your spare tire on. You’ll have to tighten your wheel again. And if you’re really in a pickle, you may even have to patch or plug your tire on your own, then reinstall it. Are you up to the task?
If you need some help to brush up on the procedures for fixing flats, read on.
What to Do When You Have a Flat Tire
Before you even think about dealing with your flat tire, there are a few prerequisites:
- Are you in a safe location?
- Do you have the equipment to change your flat tire?
- Is your spare tire accessible and full of air?
Step 1: Get your car in a safe location.
If you’re on the highway when your tire goes flat, pull as far over on the shoulder as you can. If you’re at home or in a parking lot, make sure you have room to work around your flat tire without getting run over.
- Park your car on a level, hard surface as much as possible. When you jack up your car, the jack could tip over if your car isn’t level. That’s bad news, especially if your hands, feet, or head are underneath.
- Set your emergency brake. You can never be too safe, right?
Step 2: Take inventory of your equipment.
You need a car jack, a tire wrench, and your wheel lock key (if equipped).
- If your jack is damaged or missing, you have a couple of options. One involves a cell phone and a tow truck. The other we will get to later.
Step 3: Get your spare tire out
Every car, truck, van, and SUV is different. You’ll have to figure out how to get it out. Good luck.
- When you’ve managed to get the spare tire out and on the ground, make sure it’s full of air. If you have a tire pressure gauge, ensure its pressure matches the figure on the door placard when you open the driver’s door.
- Here’s a tip: when you get your oil changed, have the repair shop check your spare tire pressure and top it up as necessary. It’s good practice, so you’re prepared in an emergency.
Once these things are set, it’s time to get down and dirty.
Once these things are set, it’s time to get down and dirty.
- Make sure you and your car are in a safe location, out of moving traffic.
- Locate your tire wrench, tire jack, and your wheel lock key.
- Remove your spare tire from the trunk or from under your vehicle.
How to Change a Flat Tire
Hopefully, you’re not wearing your Sunday best. Changing a tire is a dirty business, and there’s no way around it (unless you have coveralls and gloves in your car). So, get to work, install your spare tire, and get home to put on a fresh change of clothes.
Step1: Loosen the lug nuts
Just get them loose. Don’t take them off just yet!
- Use your tire wrench to ‘break loose’ each lug nut. Don’t wait until the tire is in the air – you won’t be able to safely get leverage on it.
- Turn the lug nuts counterclockwise with your tire wrench to loosen them
- Typically, the last person who tightened your lug nuts was the World’s Strongest Man or used industrial-grade power tools. To get the lug nuts loose, you may have to stand and bounce your weight on the tire wrench. It’s not an ideal situation, nor the safest.
- An extra bit of equipment to keep with your tire jack is a section of metal pipe that can slide over your tire wrench. It’ll give you more leverage, so you don’t have to perch on the wrench in your dress shoes.
Step 2: Jack the flat tire off the ground.
Your flat tire needs to be high enough off the ground to not just get your flat tire off, but to get the spare tire on. All that to say, give yourself a couple of inches of ground clearance.
- Your car has jack points. You can check your owner’s manual for their locations. If you’ve used it as firestarter, you can look underneath your car’s rocker panels to find the locations.
- Most cars have a reinforced pinch on the welded lip. Some may even be marked. If you’re not sure if the spot is safe to jack up your car, DON’T DO IT!!
- Using your tire jack isn’t too complicated, but you have to do it right. If you have a bottle jack, it either has a lever on the side to pump up and down or a crank that you have to turn. If your jack is a scissor-style jack, you’ll need to use your tire wrench to crank it up.
- Place the jack flat on firm ground under the jack point. Crank the jack until your wheel is in the air.
- If you have access to a big block of wood, a large rock, or something else that could support your car’s weight, slide it under the lifted wheel’s suspension. I the jack kicks out, at least the car won’t drop onto your head.
Alright, I promised you a way to lift your car without a jack. It’s not the safest way, nor is it recommended. But it’s possible. Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to, like if a life depends on it, because it could seriously damage your vehicle. Quite badly.
Find a piece of wood timber, a log section, pipe, or some other piece of material that can support your car’s weight and then some. Prop one end against your control arm, and jam the other end against the ground. Now drive your vehicle forward slowly. The wood will act as a lever, pushing your wheel up into the air. Now QUICKLY put a support under your car before it falls.
Step 3: Remove the lug nuts.
Remember loosening them on the ground earlier? Here’s where you’ll thank yourself for doing that. If you didn’t, curse under your breath, lower your car, loosen them off, then lift it all over again.
- Use the tire wrench to remove all the lug nuts. Keep track of your lug nuts.
Step 4: Change the wheel.
Take the flat tire off your car, roll it towards your trunk, then lightly kick it in frustration. You’ll feel better.
- Lift your spare tire into place, lining up the studs with the holes in the rim.
- Hand-tighten the lug nuts, then tighten them best you can with the tire wrench while your car is still in the air.
Step 5: Lower your car down
Be gentle about it… Lower the jack all the way down and remove it from under your vehicle.
- Re-tighten all the lug nuts while your tire is now on the ground again. If you’re using a pipe, use it for leverage to tighten the lug nuts, but don’t go too crazy.
Once your tire is changed, put your jack and tools away nicely so they’re ready if there’s ever a next time.
To change your flat tire:
- Break your lug nuts loose while the car is still on the ground.
- Lift your wheel in the air with your tire jack.
- Remove all the lug nuts completely.
- Take the flat tire off and place the spare tire on the studs.
- Tighten the lug nuts and lower the car.
- Re-tighten the lug nuts when the car is resting on the ground.
How to Fix Flat Tires
What if you don’t have a spare tire? Or when you get home, how do you deal with your flat tire? You have a couple of choices.
Plug Your Tire
A non-approved repair method but one that could assist you in getting to safety is a tire plug. If you have a nail in your tire or a small hole you’ve located, a plug can temporarily get you somewhere that can fix it properly.
Step 1: Pull the nail from your tire.
Don’t lose track of the hole!
Step 2: Clean the hole with the reamer.
Run the reamer through the hole just once or twice to clean it up.
Step 3: Goop up the hole
Inject rubber cement into the hole in your tire, or coat your tire plug with the rubber cement.
Step 4: Plug the hole.
Using the tire plugger and one plug, jam the plug into the hole you just reamed.
Step 5: Fill up your tire.
Using a compressor, fill your tire according to the driver’s door placard specs.
Again, tire plugs are NOT an approved repair in Rockland County for a tire leak. The process can damage the radial belts in your tire, the plug can come out, or it may not seal completely. Only use a tire plug in an emergency, then have it properly repaired as soon as you are able.
To plug your tire:
- Mark the hole in your tire and remove the cause of the puncture.
- Ream the hole in your tire to clean dirt, moisture and corrosion out.
- Inject rubber cement into the puncture.
- Push the tire plug into the hole.
- Fill the tire with air.
Patch Your Tire
The approved method for tire repairs is a plug-patch from the inside of the tire. It should be left to tire repair professionals because it requires taking the tire off the bead and re-seating it on the rim after repair.
If you’re in Rockland County, NY, there’s a better option than fixing your flat tire by yourself. Give us a call and we’ll do it for you. Whether you’re on the side of the road, at home in your driveway, or parked in the lot at work, we’ll come change your tire and fix your leak on the spot.
And if you’re elsewhere in New York, we’re still here for you. You’ll find mobile tire repair shops all over the state right here in our listings. It’s just another way we’ve got your back.