Back to Basics: How to Fix a Flat

Changing a tire can seem like a daunting task, but it’s a basic skill every car owner should have. Here are some options:

Fix-a-Flat

Fix-a-Flat and similar products have become fairly popular alternatives to changing a flat tire. While they’ve markedly improved since their initial release, they’re still temporary solutions and won’t always work as planned. Using a puncture sealant definitely isn’t a great option but, in most cases, it will at least fix the problem long enough to get you to a mechanic. Here’s how to use it:

1. Inflate the tire and find the leak. Listen for a hissing sound, feel for air, or use the old soap trick to find where the puncture is. Remove the object that caused the puncture if necessary.

2. Read the directions on the sealant you bought. Most require you to put the value at the top of the tire, attached the nozzle, and depress a button on the canister. After you inject the sealant, it’s important to drive your car to rotate the tire and evenly distribute the sealant.

3. Sometimes sealants don’t work, and you’ll need to break out the spare anyway. Either way, you’ll still need to get a new tire as soon as possible.

Changing the tire

Whether you’re swapping it out for a new tire or simply putting on the spare, here are the steps you should follow:

1. Find a safe location, put your hazard lights and parking brake, and put wedges under the tires, if you have them.

2. After you remove the hubcap, loosen the lug nuts with a lug wrench (tire iron) or impact wrench. It is important to remember to loosen, or break, the lug nuts before you jack up the vehicle. This way the weight of the vehicle is still on the wheels and it prevents them from spinning dangerously while you turn the lugs. You’ll also want to make sure you loosen the lug nuts in either a

3. Once the lugs have been loosened, it will be necessary to jack the care up so that the wheels can be removed. As mentioned above, this should be done on level concrete or some other hard, level surface. A good place for the jack is usually beneath the vehicle frame, alongside the tire that’s flat, but your service manual may recommend other jacking points. Follow the instructions for jack placement in your vehicle owner’s manual, as many vehicle frames have molded plastic on the bottom with a cleared area of exposed metal specifically for the jack.

To prevent the jack from settling under the weight of your vehicle and coming of balance you can place a small cut of wood (about 2×6 inches) beneath it before raising the vehicle.

4. When the jack is properly positioned, raise the vehicle until the flat tire is about six inches off the ground. Never put any part of your body under the vehicle during or after raising the vehicle with the jack.

5. Gripping the tire by the treads, pull it slowly toward you until it’s completely removed from the hub behind it and set it safely aside so it doesn’t roll away. Lift the new tire onto the hub and line up the rim with the lug bolts, pushing them through the rim. Put the lug nuts back on the lug bolts and tighten them as much as possible by hand.

6. Use the jack to lower the vehicle so that the spare tire is just resting on the ground but the full weight of the vehicle isn’t fully on the tire. Tighten the lug nuts with the wrench as much as possible, turning clockwise.

7. Once the lug nuts are completely tightened, lower the vehicle all the way to the ground and carefully remove the jack. Give the lug nuts another pull with the wrench to ensure they’re as tight as possible.

8. If the hubcap you took from the flat tire fits your spare, put it in place the same way you removed it initially. If it doesn’t fit, stow it away with the tire when you stow your equipment.

9. Put all of your equipment in your car before driving away. You should also check the tire pressure of the spare tire to make sure that it is safe to drive on. If the tire does need pressure, drive (slowly) to the nearest service station immediately.

10. Take your tire to a technician immediately. Temporary spare tires aren’t made to drive long distances or at high speeds, so drive cautiously until you’re able to visit a professional. After a quick inspection, they should be able to determine if your tire just needs a repair or if it’s time to replace it.

Call AAA

Most motor clubs have significantly changed or reduced their basic roadside assistance benefits. But, if you have an inflated spare tire and a AAA (or similar) membership, they can come assist you with swapping out the damaged tire. Membership ranges anywhere from $66-$126 per year depending on the plan and organization, plus $30-$65 per year for additional family members, and most organizations offer first- discounts. The great part is that membership isn’t attached to a single vehicle, the person carries the membership. As long as a member is in the car and carrying their card, their benefits can be used regardless of who was driving or who owns the car.

At V&F

The best way to fix a flat is to get a new tire right away. Driving around on a spare, or another temporary fix, is dangerous and can cause damage to affiliated engine parts.

A good set of tires is crucial to a vehicle’s overall health and performance; checking them frequently should be part of your preventative maintenance schedule. Your car’s manual will tell you how often to get your tires rotated and balanced, and your alignment checked. Treads should be visually inspected regularly and professionally checked about once a year for uneven or irregular wear, as well as cuts, punctures, and bruises along sidewalls. You should also monitor your tire pressure every few weeks. Tires should be replaced as soon as possible when worn or damaged, to avoid a costly blowout.

At V&F we offer:

  • Tire Sales
  • Tire Installations
  • Tire Rotation
  • Tire Balancing
  • Tire Replacement
  • Wheel Alignment
  • Tire Air Pressure Checks
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Repair & Service

If your car needs maintenance, repair, or tire replacement before this winter season, call us today at (413)314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.

For more information on tire safety and maintenance, check out this blog article from July.

Written by Nicole Palange

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