There’s nothing worse than hearing the pop and hiss of a tire gone flat. If you come across an unfortunate soul who has had a blow-out, follow these steps to help him on his way.
1. Move the car to a safe position. Safety is of utmost importance. If the car is not in a good spot, ask the driver to move it. Find a place close by where you are visible as possible, especially if it is dark. Stay away from traffic as possible while still being on a level surface. Driving on a flat tire increases the risk
2. Turn on the emergency or “hazard” lights.
3. Set the emergency or parking brake. Cars with automatic transmissions should be in park. Cars with manual transmissions should be in first gear or reverse. Find two large rocks and put them in front of and behind the tire opposite the flat. For example, if the driver’s side front tire is flat, place the rocks around the passenger’s side front tire. This will decrease the chance of the car rolling and potentially injuring you.
4. Protecting your hands. If you have gloves with you, put them on.
5. Find the spare tire and jack. Get out the owner’s manual for a diagram of the car. You will usually be able to remove the spare by unscrewing whatever bolts hold it in place in the trunk or, in a truck, under the bed. Take a moment right now to think about a flat tire – now, not when you are stuck on an interstate. Being familiar with your car and equipment will help fix not only your own car but others as well.
- Find your spare tire. It is usually on the floor of your trunk. Make sure it is properly inflated and easily accessible.
- Find your car’s jack. The jack is the most likely made of metal and is triangular.
- Find your lug nut remover. The lug nut remover (also called a lug nut wrench or tire iron) that came with your car is probably pretty useless. Buy one that is shaped like a cross, with three different-sized sockets and a pry end. Make sure that one of the sockets fits your car’s lug nuts securely.
6. Use a lug nut remover to loosen the lug nuts around the flat tire. Do these before you jack up the car – it’s easier. There are usually four or five lug nuts near the center of the wheel. They may be hidden underneath a hubcap or some sort of plate that you will need to pry off. Turn the lug nuts counterclockwise to loosen them, but don’t remove them just yet.
7. Jack up the car. Place the jack six to twelve inches behind a front flat tire or six to twelve inches in front of a rear flat tire. Raise the jack until it just touches the car, then position the jack exactly where you need it. Each car manufacturer has a special place for the jack to contact the car, so check the owner’s manual. Ensure that the jack is flat against the ground. Once the jack is securely in place, crank it until the car rises about six inches of the ground.
8. Remove the old tire. Remove the previously loosened lug nuts. You should be able to do this by hand. Put them in a spot where you won’t lose them. Grab the tire with two hands and pull it straight off. Keep your legs apart and stabilized as you crouch down so that you don’t fall over.
9. Put on the spare tire. It may take a little bit of shimmying to get the spare lined up correctly. Align the holes in the center of the spare with the threaded shafts they fit over. Push the spare in as far as it can go.
10. Replace the lug nuts. It is important that you do this correctly: Take the lug nuts and screw them on the shafts with your hands. Use your lug nut remover to get them flush to the tire, but don’t tighten them yet.
11. Gently lower the jack until the tire is just touching the ground.
12. Finish tightening the lug nuts. Tighten one of the lug nuts with just one turn of the wrench. Then do the same to the nut opposite that one. Now do the rest the same way. Repeat, jumping from lug nut to opposite lug nut until each one is tight. This ensures that they are tightened evenly.
13. Lower the car the rest of the way. When there is no longer weight on it, the jack will fall over. If you removed a hub cap or plate, put it back by holding one edge in place in place and banging on the opposite edge with the lug nut remover.
14. Put away the jack and flat tire. Put the jack back where you found it. Put the flat tire where the spare once was.
15. It is now safe for the owner to drive the car. There is a limit to how it is safe drive on a spare. Riding on a spare tire for an extended period could damage the car. Encourage the driver to get a new tire as soon as possible. Service stations should be able to help.
16. Take a moment to feel good. You did it! Bask in the glow of your accomplishment.
Here I come to Save the Day
If you have just come upon someone who needs help changing a tire, feel free to puff out your chest, put your hands on your hips, and say in a confident voice, “Don’t worry, I’m here to help.”
Do whatever you can to let the person with the flat know that you are not a predator, but ascertain that the person with a flat is not a predator either. There is no simple formula for doing this. You will rely on your gut instinct. Taking stock of your surroundings will help: Is the area well-traveled? Are you in a safe, visible spot? Are you near a town?
If you want to help but are a little wary, your best bet is to call the state police or highway patrol. Nothing wrong with getting a little back-up. You can let the stranded motorist know that you have already called the police for help but that you will help change the tire. This will assuage your fears and, perhaps, his.
note: originally posted at Exposeknowledge.com under the same author.