How to Change a Flat Tire

Aug 25 21:00 2003 Stephen Bucaro Print This Article

Few things are as inconvenient as getting a flat tire. Itcan make you late for an appointment, and when you doarrive, you are either frazzled or filthy from theexperience. If you don't know how to change a tire, theexperience is made much worse by having to wait forsomeone to come to your assistance.

Most women couldn't care less about the workings of amotor vehicle and how to change a tire. Unfortunately mostmodern men are as helpless in this respect as most women.I refer to men who can't change their own flat tire as,Guest Postingpardon the expression, "girly-boys".

In this article I will provide simple instructions toprepare you for the inevitable inconvenience of getting aflat tire. Anyone can easily change a tire, even a womanor a girly-boy. But first lets talk about how to avoidgetting a flat tire in the first place.

One way to get a flat tire is when a nail or other sharpobject penetrates your tire. In the old days this wouldcause your tire to go flat within seconds. Today's modernsteel belted radial tires usually just develop a slow leakwhen penetrated. Even if not penetrated by a sharp object,a tire will gradually lose its air pressure. The way toavoid the inconvenience of getting a flat tire is to checkall your tires air pressure regularly.

Today's modern steel-belted radial tires bulge out at theside a little even when they have proper pressure, so youcan't tell by just looking at them if they have properpressure. You need to use a tire pressure gauge. Gaugescome in two main types. One type has a rod that comesjetting out at the end. The other type has a dial. Ineither case you use the gauge by removing the littleplastic cap from the tire's air valve and quickly pushingthe valve end of the gauge onto the tire valve.

You will get a little "hiss" when you do this. If you didit correctly, the gauge will give an accurate indicationof the tires air pressure. Sometimes it takes a littlepractice to get an accurate reading. Compare the readingyou get with the maximum psi (pounds per square inch)written on the sidewall of the tire. Car tires usuallyhave a maximum of 32 psi. Full size light truck tires canhave a maximum of 80 psi.

If the air pressure is too low, there is a risk of thetire breaking lose from the wheel. This would causedangerous rapid deflation of the tire. When a car tire'spressure gets below about 24 psi you risk rapid deflation.If the pressure is too high, there is a risk of the treadseparating from the steal belt. This can also cause rapiddeflation, but usually it just gives you a very bumpyride.

The way to avoid getting a flat tire is to check the airpressure in all your tires regularly. By "regularly" Imean at least once each month. By "all your tires" I meanincluding the spare. It is very common for a person toremove a flat from their vehicle just to learn that theirspare is also flat.

If you find one of your tires has low pressure, you needto pump it up to the proper value. Air pumps come in twomain types. One type has a cord with a plug that goes intoyour cars cigarette lighter. The other type has a cordthat plugs into an AC outlet.

The cigarette lighter type has the advantage that you cancarry it in your car and possibly re-inflate a flat tireat the side of the road, saving the messy job of changingthe tire for later. The disadvantage is that they workvery slowly and can draw down a cars battery. The AC powercord type has the advantage that it can fill tires morequickly, but it‘s rare to find an AC outlet at the side ofthe road.

Possibly the most important thing to know about tires, iswhat to do if you get a flat while speeding down theexpressway. The most important thing NOT to do is slamon the breaks! This is a common cause of roll-overs. Justlet your foot off the gas and look for a level area at theside of the road to pull off.

People that don't know how to change a tire frequentlykeep driving on the flat tire, in search of a servicestation, until the tire is totally shredded. Then insteadof paying ten dollars to fix a flat, they have to pay ahundred dollars for a new tire. Fortunately after you usethe information in this article, you won't get caught inthat situation.

To fix a flat tire you have to jack up the car and replacethe flat tire with your spare tire. Unfortunately manypeople don't even know where the jack is, and some don'teven know how to get the spare out. Don't wait untilyou're stranded by the side of the road to start lookingfor your jack and figuring how to get the spare out.

In the old days, the spare tire and jack where always inthe trunk of the car. Now with mini-vans and SUVs, vehiclemanufacturers have become very creative with hiding thespare tire and jack. Below is a list of places where youmight find the jack.

- in the trunk
- under or behind the seat
- hidden behind a panel
- under the hood

Below is a list of places where you might find the spare tire.

- in the trunk
- under the vehicle
- hanging on the back of the vehicle
- hidden behind a panel

Go out to your car right now and locate your jack andspare tire. You may need to locate your owners manualfirst to learn how to locate and use your specific jackto change a flat tire. It's better to figure it out nowrather than waiting until you're stranded by the side ofthe road.

If you have never jacked up your car, now is the time topractice. As mentioned earlier, the vehicle should be onlevel ground. The jack usually needs to be positioned ata "peg" or "slot" under the chassis near the tire to beremoved. At first don't jack the car up so high that thetire leaves the ground. Just jack it up to take most ofthe weight of the car off the tire.

Then use the lug wrench to "break" the lug nuts lose. Tobreak them lose you have to turn them counter-clockwise.Breaking the lug nuts lose might take a little muscle. Ifyou left the bottom of the tire on the ground, this willhelp by preventing the tire from spinning or the vehiclefrom rocking. "Breaking" the nut lose means loosening itenough so you can get it off easy, kind of like a jarwith a stuck lid. Just break them lose at this point,don't remove them.

If you're not strong enough to get the lug nuts loose,now is the time to find that out. It is also not uncommonfor a tire mechanic to over-torque lug nuts, or striptreads so the lug nut can't be removed. To get the lugnuts off you may have to use "leverage". That is, make thehandle of the wrench longer, for example by putting a pipeover it. In any case now is the time to learn aboutproblems with getting the lug nuts off - not when yourstranded at the side of the road.

After you have broken the lug nuts lose, jack the vehicleup higher. Jack it up just high enough so that the tireleaves the ground. Then remove the lug nuts and the tire.

There are two types of spare tires. You are lucky if youhave a full-sized spare. Most cars today have a "space-saver" spare. A space-saver is thinner than a regulartire. The space-saver works like a regular tire, but thereare two things to be aware of. First, space-savers arerated for only 50 mph. They are intended just to get youto the service station. Second, the air pressurerequirement for a space-saver is usually much higher thanthe regular tires for your car. Make sure you keep itfilled to the proper pressure.

Next put the spare tire over the lug studs and put the lugnuts back on. Start the lug nuts with your fingers to makesure you don‘t cross treads. After you have the lug nutsstarted, use the wrench to turn them on all the way. Afterthe lug nuts are all the way on, jack the vehicle backdown until the tire touches the ground. Now you can torquethe nuts down tight.

There is always the question; how tight do I make the lugnuts? There is actually a specification (which tireservice personnel usually ignore). For example; 95 ft. lbs. as indicated on a torque wrench. But for the averageperson without a torque wrench, it's a matter of feel.

You want to tighten the lug nuts tight enough so that youare confident they won't come lose while you are driving,yet not so tight that you can never get them off again.Don't be a super man and tighten them until you strip thethreads or break the stud. Just make them tight enough sothat you are confident they won't come lose while you aredriving. It's a matter of feel. After you have tightenedthe lug nuts, remove the jack.

Fix or replace the flat tire ASAP. Murphy's law number 66states that if you don't have a good spare tire you willimmediately get a flat tire. Fix or replace the flat tireon the next weekend if you can't do it sooner.

If you don't know how to locate the jack, access thespare, and replace a tire on your vehicle, I suggest yougo do it right now for practice. If you are prepared andconfident, getting a flat tire will be a minorinconvenience, rather than a bad experience that screws upyour entire day.

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Stephen Bucaro
Stephen Bucaro

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