Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ch-Ch-Changes (Tires, that is)

Like many Americans, I went camping with family and friends this past weekend. Any trip has the potential for problems, and on this trip, we had a tire go flat about 15 miles down a dirt road. In this age of everyone having roadside assistance, the ability to change a tire is becoming a dying skill. That's fine in the city, but when you go places where cell signal doesn't exist, you have to learn to do it yourself.

Step Zero in changing a flat tire is knowing where your tire tools and spare tire are located. You should do this within the first day or two of owning a vehicle. Your owner's manual will give you the specific locations for these items.
  1. Make sure you can change your tire safely. Get as far off the road and away from hazards as possible, turn on your emergency flashers if there is traffic on the road, set your emergency brake and block the wheels on the side of your car opposite the flat. Changing a tire is inconvenient; having an incident while changing a tire can be deadly.
  2. Retrieve the spare tire and tools from their storage locations. Having them ready now will save time and effort later.
  3. Loosen your lug nuts before you jack the vehicle off the ground. The friction of the tire against the ground makes this far easier than it would be otherwise. Don't remove the lug nuts at this point; just break them loose so that you can spin them with your fingers.
  4. Locate the jacking point on your vehicle nearest the flat tire. The owner's manual will give you a general location for this, and when you look at the underside of your car, you'll usually be able to see a reinforced area where the jack goes. Older cars have solid frames and don't need these points, but newer cars aren't as stout, and can be damaged by jacking in other areas.
  5. Place the jack under the jack point and extend it fully to lift the car until the tire is fully off the ground. Be sure to lift high enough for the spare tire to fit on the lug studs. 
  6. Now remove the lug nuts and the tire.
  7. Seat the spare tire on the lug studs. Thread the lug nuts finger-tight to hold it in place. 
  8. Once all the nuts are tight, snug them down with the lug wrench.
  9. Lower the jack until the car is on the ground.
  10. Use the lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts in a cross pattern. The pattern used will depend on the number of lugs on your vehicle, as shown.
Click to Enlarge

If you have an undersized spare tire (often called a donut or dummy spare, and very popular in modern cars) proceed directly to a tire shop without exceeding 55 mph, because those tires are only rated for short distances and low speeds. Full sized spare tires can be driven normally until you can get to the shop.

Some days you have to be your own roadside assistance. Be ready.


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