Tires wear. Humans abuse them ruthlessly. We hit curbs, burn rubber and do donuts late at night. If someone drove on you for several thousand miles, you’d pop too. As sure as death and taxes, flat tires are a simple fact of life.
The worst part is they hit you at the least convenient times—like when you’re several Donettes and sodas deep into your drive and you realize that you’re about to burst, and boom there goes your tire. You’re desperate for a restroom, no amenities for miles. I mean, talk about a bummer. Not to say there’s any preferable time to get a flat. All one can do is be prepared, because flat tires always strike when their victims are most vulnerable. Flat tires find you late at night, no doubt alone in the middle of nowhere, no reception, no one to tell you what to do.
What then? Just sit around and wait for help to find you? Hun, if anybody’s coming, it’s that dude from Jeepers Creepers, so get moving. It’s a simple operation, honestly. All you need is your spare tire, a jack and a wrench. It’s also smart to have a flashlight, just in case your first flat catches you at night. Make sure you have all of these items in your car and that you know where they are—usually in a compartment in the trunk under the floor-mat or mounted on the back.
Pull over somewhere you have room to safely change the tire without oncoming traffic crushing you into a pulp. Make sure the ground is level (If it isn’t, your vehicle may roll). And before you do anything else, make sure your hazard lights are flashing. Leave your car in park. Remove your jack, lug wrench and spare from the back and have them ready. The first step is to jack up the car to the point that the jack is supporting the weight of the car but not quite lifting it. The owner’s manual will tell you where to place the jack, typically a few inches in front of the rear or behind the front wheel wells.
After that, remove the hubcap and loosen the lug nuts, but don’t remove them. To loosen them, make sure you turn them counter-clockwise, and remember not to loosen them in order, meaning the next lug you loosen should never be next to the one you just did. Once they’re loose, continue cranking up the jack until the tire is off the ground. Now you may remove the lug nuts all the way. Do not lose them! Never set them down and let them roll away. Remove the tire slowly and be careful—it’s heavy.
Align the spare tire with the bolts and slide it on. Replace the lug nuts on the bolts and tighten them in star-formation. Once they’re tight, collapse the jack. Once the jack has been removed and the spare is supporting the weight of your car, tighten the lug nuts one last time, again in star formation. And ta da, you’re done. Toss the old tire and the trunk and put your tools away.
Spare tires are a temporary fix and not intended to be driven over fifty miles, or over fifty miles an hour. Get your car to a mechanic right away. See if they can fix the flat, because it’s cheaper to repair a puncture than replace a tire. If the tire is indeed beyond repair, make sure it’s properly disposed of, or bring it home and make yourself a tire swing. I miss those things.
Lastly, I’d like to leave you with some helpful tire tips. First of all, make sure your spare has air in it every six months, as well as the rest of your tires. You can check your tire pressure at a gas station, but it’s handy to buy your own pressure gauge, which you can find for as little as twenty dollars online or at any auto parts or sporting goods store. The appropriate pressure (psi) should be printed on the side of the tire itself.
You should also take your car in to have the tires rotated routinely, every 7500 miles or so. This should cost as low as thirty dollars (USD). Tires typically last five years or fifty thousand miles before they wear too thin. If you continue driving on expired tires, you’re more likely to get a flat. So be responsible, and be prepared. If I can change a tire, so can you.