Fixing a flat tire is one of those invaluable life skills which you know will come in handy somewhere down the road. Unfortunately, it is one which many of us say that we will one day get around to perfecting, but far fewer of us take the time to learn the simple steps involved.
There are a couple of possible courses of action which you can take. You can either try to fix the current tire or you may find that a complete replacement is necessary. If you have plugged up the tire successfully, you may be able to drive for many miles on it, but you will need a replacement at the earliest possible opportunity. And if your tire is completely out of commission, you will need to replace it with the spare in your trunk.
So, in this blog post, we will go through two of the possible methods you have of fixing a flat tire. The first involves patching up your tire, while the second details a complete replacement job. By the end, you should have a good overview of the two possible methods, but it is worth trying them out in a practical situation, so you feel comfortable taking on at least one. You never know when it is going to come in handy, and it will stop you from having to go through the hassle and expense of calling out a repair truck.
Tools You Need
You should always drive around with the tools required to change a tire. Otherwise, you are not going to be able to complete any of the steps in the next section! So, make sure that you have a screwdriver, lug wrench, and a jack. You should also have a patch kit if you are going to go down this path. Other useful things to carry around include a flashlight, road marker, road flare, gloves, and jump leads. And you should also make sure that your spare tire is present and correct! Now is a good opportunity to check that everything is there. So, what are you waiting for? Get going!
Get to a Safe Location
Before doing anything else, you should ensure your own safety. Once you have discovered that you have a flat tire, you should pull over at the next safe place. Ideally, it will be down a side road or an area with reduced traffic. You should be looking for a visible location to lower the risk of other drivers running into you. Turn on your hazard lights to make your situation even more obvious, especially if you find yourself having to slow down significantly on a busy highway or main road. Also, make sure that you can exit the driver’s door safely. You should be looking for a flat road, as it can be dangerous to jack up your car on an incline.
Fixing Your Flat Tire
While many people prefer to replace the punctured tire with a new one, you may find that the hole is not particularly big. Patching up the tire may prove to be a viable solution to your problem. But bear in mind that this is only supposed to be a short-term remedy. You should not be driving around on a patched-up tire for a long period of time, and it is important that you have it replaced as soon as possible. Here are some steps that you can take if you think that this is the option that you would like to take.
- Step One: Remove the Wheel with the Flat Tire
Whether you are going to try to patch up the tire or replace it entirely, you are going to need to remove the wheel either way. Start by using a lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts but avoid removing them from the bolts just yet. Double check that you are parked on flat ground, your car is in gear and the parking brake is engaged before attempting to jack your car up. Check your owner’s manual for the proper lift points. Place the jack so it is even on the ground. When you start raising your car, check the cup fits into the proper portion of the frame. Make sure it is not twisting or going off-center. Now that the car is up on the jack, you can remove the lug nuts and the tire.
- Step Two: Locate the Leak
Now that you have removed the tire, you can inspect it to find the leak. If you are able to clearly identify what is causing the issue – whether this is a nail or something else – you can pull it out carefully. If you have a pair of pliers, these will come in useful here. If you unable to tell what has caused the leak, you will need to work out where it is. You can do this by running your hand over the tire to feel for any stuck objects. Otherwise, you should try listening for the unmistakeable sound of escaping air. If you are at home, you could try spraying the tire with some soapy water and looking out for any bubbling, which is likely to be a sign of where the leak has occurred. Obviously, you will have to make sure that it is a puncture which is small enough to fix yourself. Otherwise, you may find that replacement is the more appropriate action to take.
- Step Three: Plug the Hole
You should find a tool included in your plug kit which allows you to ream out the tire to ensure that your plug fits. Now is the time to actually plug up the hole. Use adhesives from the kit onto the plug and insert it into the hole until roughly two inches of material are sticking out. Now, let the adhesive dry and cut away the excess of the plug before putting it aside. Your other option is to use a special tire sealant. You will need to turn the tire until the wheel until the valve is at the top. You can put in the sealant in the same way that you would inflate your tire. Press the button to release the contents.
- Step Four: Test the Plug
Of course, you should not drive on the tire unless you have tested the plug to ensure that it holds firm. The best way of doing this is by listening and feeling for escaping air. But if you are at home, you can spray the tire with a mixture of soap and water. If the air is still escaping, it will cause bubbles to form wherever the puncture has occurred.
- Step Five: Refit the Wheel
Your final step is to refit the wheel back onto your car. So, reattach the tire and lug nuts, but tighten them to the point that they will stay on the vehicle. Now, you need to lower the car back to the ground and remove the jack. As soon as it is stably on four wheels, you can tighten all the lug nuts up in a star or X pattern depending on your type of vehicle. Check your owner’s manual for torque requirements. If you have chosen the sealant option, you will need to drive your car to rotate the tire and make sure that the sealant is distributed evenly, rather than a heavy lump forming inside.
Now, you should be fine to start driving again, but watch out for any signs that the tire is starting to go flat again. And remember, this is not a long-term solution and you will need to replace at the earliest possible opportunity.
Replacing Your Flat Tire
If the tire doesn’t look like it can be patched up, you don’t have the tools to undertake this job or you simply feel like putting on your spare tire is the better option, this is your other most obvious course of action. Again, you should start in the same way of finding a safe spot where you can undertake the work. Double check that you are on flat ground as jacking the car up on an incline can prove to be dangerous. Also, you should make sure that you have your spare tire in the vehicle and it is still in good condition. A screwdriver, lug wrench, and a jack are the main pieces of equipment that you will require. So, let’s go through the main steps involved in this second course of action.
- Step One: Remove the Affected Tire
The first step remains the same as the previous section. Make sure everyone is out of the car before attempting to raise it and get rid of any excess weight. Working in a star-pattern, loosen up the nuts, but don’t remove them entirely until after you have jacked up the vehicle. Check for the recommended jacking points of your vehicle to lift the side that you need to work on. Make sure that the jack is positioned on a flat and even surface and go slowly. You should raise your vehicle to the point that there is a little space underneath your wheel. When it is jacked up, this is the time to remove the lug nuts entirely to take off the tire. Once you have removed the lug nuts, you should put them in a safe place where they are not going to roll away and get lost.
- Step Two: Fit the Spare Tire
Now, you need to replace the flat tire with the spare. As previously mentioned, it is worth inspecting it to make sure that it is still in good condition and that it is the same or similar to your other tires. Once you have done this, put on the spare tire and reattach the lug nuts, but don’t tighten them up entirely. You can just use your hand in this initial stage. Now, you can start to lower your vehicle, so some of the weight is placed on the spare.
Pick up your lug wrench again and use it to tighten up all the lugs in a star-shaped pattern, which will help to make sure that the wheel is tightened evenly. After you have done one pass with your lug wrench, you can then do a second and third to make sure that the job is done properly.
- Step Three: Finish the Job
Finally, you need to lower your vehicle back down onto the ground. When it is completely back down, you should then tighten up the lugs as much as you can. Grab your flat tire and put it back in the trunk of your car – in the spare tire well if you have one. Put your jack and all your other tools back in the car. Now, you should be fine to drive away. Again, you shouldn’t drive on your spare tire for an extended period of time. Take your vehicle into your local tire-fitters at the earliest possible opportunity to get a new one.
Fixing a Flat Car Tire – A Skill Worth Having
Whether you decide to patch up your car tire or replace it entirely, having the knowledge of how to accomplish this basic task can end up saving you a lot of time and money further down the line. Otherwise, whenever this misfortune befalls you, you will have to go call out a repair company and shoulder the cost of a job which you could have done yourself. So, why not practice doing this job at home? This way, when you are encounter a flat tire when you are out on the roads, you will be ready to deal with it comfortably. Of all the advice which we have talked about in this blog post, the most important thing is to make sure that you are in a safe location before attempting this task. You don’t want to risk putting yourself in harm’s way.