You’re cruising along smoothly when suddenly it happens. You might know exactly why, or it may be a mystery. Either way, the moment you feel that thud beneath you followed by that strange rattle and difficulty steering, you know you have a flat tire and can count on a challenge ahead.
Every driver hopes they never encounter a flat tire. It’s certainly a hassle, but you can be back on the road rather quickly if you know how to fix a flat tire or whom to call for help.
What to do when you get a flat tire
A flat tire isn’t a reason to panic, but you need to act quickly and deliberately. Slow down, flash your emergency lights, and pull over as soon as possible. Find a spot with plenty of space, both for your safety and out of courtesy to others on the road. You’ll need time and room to work for fixing a flat tire. If you get a flat tire on a highway, it’s essential to avoid slamming on your brakes. Keep a slow but steady speed until you can pull over to the shoulder or exit. Learn more about driving on the highway.
What to do if you have a flat tire and no spare
Don’t have a spare tire? You’re not alone. Many auto manufacturers choose not to include a spare tire in newer cars. According to Consumer Reports, “Carmakers are skipping the spare because of regulatory pressure to squeeze more miles out of every gallon of fuel: Ditching the 40 or 50 pounds that a tire and jack usually add to a car’s weight helps to increase fuel economy slightly.”
If your car doesn’t come equipped with a spare tire, consider purchasing one yourself. If you want to save money, you could buy a tire repair kit and keep it in your trunk. Newer cars that don’t have a spare tire may have a tire repair kit. Of course, these recommendations aren’t quite useful if you find yourself stranded with no spare and no kit. If that’s the case, you’ll need a helpful friend, family member, perhaps a Good Samaritan, or roadside assistance.
Steps to replace or fix a flat tire
With a spare tire and repair kit on hand, replacing a flat tire is relatively easy. Dave McCurdy of Eco Driving USA gives the following steps:
- If the vehicle is on a hill, block or wedge the flat tire to avoid slipping. Take out your spare tire, tools, and car jack. Learn more about how to use a car jack.
- Loosen the lug nuts on the flat tire and place the jack below the frame. Lift the car with the jack.
- Remove the lug nuts on the flat tire and replace the flat tire with the spare.
- Secure the lug nuts in an “X” or crisscross pattern. Don’t tighten yet.
- Lower the vehicle and remove the jack.
- Tighten the lug nuts as firmly as you can.
It’s also possible to fix a flat tire with a repair kit using a sealant and air compressor. A kit will usually include detailed instructions on how to patch a flat tire. Keep in mind that a patched flat tire is only a temporary solution until you’re able to get a replacement.
Emergency tire repair and towing
If all else fails, you can call an auto or towing service in your area for assistance. If you pay for roadside assistance as an add-on to your auto insurance, you can call your insurer to get you back on the road fast. Flat tires are among the most common roadside assistance calls. A professional can come to fix your flat tire at no cost to you when you have this coverage and a spare tire, or only the cost of a spare tire if they need to bring one.
Now that you know what to do if you should get a flat tire even if you don’t have a spare, Learn helpful tips about driving at night and driving in fog. These are helpful skills that will keep you safe as a driver.