4 min read
You don't always have to wait for a tow truck. Change the flat tire yourself to get back on the road.
Unless you have a flying car, you’ll probably need to change a tire at some point. There's never a good time for a flat, but you can change a tire with basic equipment like a jack, a lug wrench, and a spare.
With a serious flat, you'll hear a loud thump and a flapping sound before your car starts vibrating.
What if the tire pressure light comes on before you notice these sights and sensations? High and low temperatures influence air pressure, so don’t rip the tire off if it isn't noticeably flat.
Listen for a hissing sound and look for cuts or holes after you get out of the car. If you’re at home with a low tire, mix soap and water in a spray bottle. Spray the affected tires, and bubbles will reveal the leak.
Keep a tire pressure gauge in your car and measure each tire. Consider buying a portable inflator, and stow it in your trunk for situations like these.
No Spare, Run-Flats, and the Donut
According to Consumer Reports, about a third of new cars don’t come with a spare. This helps manufacturers decrease vehicle weight and increase fuel efficiency.
Your car could have run-flat tires, too. Tire Rack says run-flats hold up for about 50 miles after a puncture or pressure change if you stay below 50 miles per hour.
You should also consider:
- The location of the flat tire
- How much weight you have in the vehicle
- The weather, temperatures, and potential slickness
Many cars have a “donut” spare that should be kept at 60 psi (pounds per square inch). Check your owner's manual for more specifics on your spare's tire pressure.
Changing a Tire
At this point, we’ll assume your tire is flatter than a pancake.
Follow these steps:
- Turn your car off, set the parking brake, and turn on your hazard lights. If you can, place a large rock or block of wood against the tires on the opposite side of your vehicle to keep it stable.
- Fetch the jack, lug wrench, and spare tire. You'll probably find all of these in the trunk.
- Remove the hubcap or wheel cover and set it face-down near the flat tire.
- Using your lug wrench, partially loosen all of the lug nuts before you jack up the vehicle.
- Place your jack. Most vehicles have a built-in notch where the jack fits. If you can’t find this notch, make sure your jack sits below the steel frame underneath the car.
- Jack the vehicle up until the flat tire is off the ground. Never put your hands or feet underneath the car or tire while it is on a jack.
- Remove the lug nuts and place them in the hubcap next to you.
- Grab the tire firmly, pull it straight off the rim, and place it behind your vehicle.
- Place your spare tire on the rim, aligning it to replace the lug nuts. If the tire does not fit on the rim, you might need to jack the car up another inch or two.
- Replace the lug nuts, tightening them with your hands. Do not use the lug wrench yet.
- Slowly lower your vehicle and remove the jack.
- Use the lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts. Move in a star pattern, so the alignment is even.
- Place the jack, lug wrench, hubcap, and flat tire in your vehicle and get it repaired as soon as possible. Donut spares don’t last long.
It’s not always smooth sailing. You could run into a lug nut that’s too tight.
You can stomp on the lug wrench to loosen the nut. The closer to the end of the wrench you get, the more torque you apply.
If that doesn’t work, try standing on the end of the wrench and lightly bouncing. Hold on to your car or another person just in case this works too well. You don’t want to face-plant!
If you can’t change the tire, towing services could cost you between $75 and $125 or $2 to $4 per mile.
You could avoid these costs with Roadside Rescue. It's available on all Pekin Insurance personal auto policies and automatically included for anyone who has a comprehensive personal auto policy.
Roadside Rescue includes:
- Tire changes
- Fuel delivery
- Lockout services
- And more!
Don’t let a flat leave you deflated. Talk to your local Pekin Insurance agent for affordable auto coverage and Roadside Rescue.