How to change a flat tire

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Road Trip Advice:

 Flat Tire 
by Laurel Smith

Be familiar with your spare 
before you hit the road 

Imagine being at the side of the road on a busy Interstate highway with a flat tire.... ...Alone.... In the dark. 

Do you know how to change the tire, or will you be stuck for hours waiting for help?  I surveyed a few of my friends. Only one of them knew what to do. The others had no idea.

I found myself in a flat tire situation recently.  I was alone and about 50 miles from home out in the countryside on a dark interstate highway on a short 200 mile road trip. It was 7 pm in January so it was pitch dark and very cold.  My tire went flat. There was not a freeway exit in sight, so I pulled off the road as far as I possibly could.  Changing a tire by the side of the road is dangerous and somewhat scary.  Some of my anxiety was relieved though, because I knew what to do.

I had followed my father's advice, and when I first got my minivan, I spent an hour getting familiar with how to remove the spare tire and operate the jack. 

His advice:  Be familiar with your vehicle's tire-changing procedure before you go anywhere!  It's different for every make of vehicle. You will stay safer, and you will minimize further damage to your car if you already know how to remove your spare and operate the jack rather than try to figure it out in a break-down situation when you are already stressed. This is some of the best advice I have ever recieved (thanks Dad), and I want to emphasize it to all drivers everywhere! 

On my current minivan, the spare tire is underneath the car centered near the front just behind the front wheels.  My owner's manual told me how to access it.  I have to lower the spare tire on a cable by using a bar inside the car between the driver's seat and passenger's seat. Once the tire is lowered, I can remove it from it's protective covering. My owner's manual also taught me how to remove the jack from the storage compartment in the back and how to use the irons to operate it. Even more importantly, it told me where to place the jack under the car where it was designed to recieve it (for safety, and in order not to damage the vehicle). 

I would have had great difficulty having to figure this out in the dark and the freezing cold, by the side of the road with traffic whizzing by me. 

Here are some basic instructions for how to change a tire to get you started:

How to Change a Tire on Wikihow
How to Change a Flat Tire on eHow Video

These are great for basic know-how, but neither of these shows you how to remove your spare tire from it's storage. Make sure you know how your spare is stored so you can remove it. Only your owner's manual can tell you that. In fact, practice removing it.  And while you have it out, check that spare tire once in a while. Many people drive around with flat spares and they don't even know it!

More great advice:  Make sure you have a working flashlight in your car at all times! I recommend one that you can keep in your car and wind up such as a crank flashlight, rather than have to worry about batteries going dead .  My recent flat experience went fairly smoothly, but it would have been much easier if I'd had a working flashlight with me. Instead, I had to use the light from my cell phone to see the lug nuts and exactly where to place the jack. I can't imagine how my scenario would have gone if I were not already familiar with changing the tire on my car.

At any rate, instead of waiting for hours for roadside help (that I may not have even been able to get if I had been out of cell phone range), I was able to change the tire myself and be on my way in only a few minutes.

One more bit of advice I learned from my dad -- keep jumper cables in your car and  know how to use them too!  Thanks Dad!

--Laurel (Road Trip Mom)

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