While run-flat tire technology, roadside assistance programs and tire-changing helper robots have certainly come a long way, a flat tire is an inevitable part of the driving experience. Despite great measures taken to make tires tough enough to withstand the rigors of modern motoring, nefarious forces are perpetually plotting to relieve them of their air. Errant mattresses, tumbling pallets, mangled step ladders, and other, more insidious road hazards, such as boxes full of roofing nails dropped from a truck, all conspire to flatten the pneumatic miracle that is the modern automobile tire.
Until the day we drive atomic-powered cars that float on a cushion of powerful yet harmless radioactivity, we're stuck with tires. A good flat tire is the one you discover as you stroll, keys in hand, to your stationary vehicle. The bad flat tire is that sudden blowout in mid cruise. Either way, the task at hand is clear; get the wheel with the flat tire off the vehicle and put the spare wheel and air-filled tire where that one used to be.
Advisory bulletin number one: Be prepared. The worst time to learn how to change a tire is in the summer heat, while several kinds of biting insects feast at the stranded-motorist buffet. The best time to prepare for the inevitable Changing of the Tire is long before it happens. A lazy afternoon in the driveway is a good time to learn how to use the emergency jack and prepare for your flat-tire future. This small investment in time will pay off when roadside assistance cannot be reached due to a recalcitrant cell phone, or when the helper robot is down for repairs.
Regular inspection of spare tire pressure is a capital idea. Lowering the vehicle onto the spare is the wrong time to find out there's not any air in that tire, either. Check the spare tire air pressure at the same frequency as the rest of the tires. This spare requires 60psi!
Ugh, It Happened
Never attempt to change a tire on the side of a shoulderless highway, steep incline, blind corner, edge of a scenic roadside chasm, or other potentially dangerous situation. Always pull the vehicle slowly away from impending doom and into a safe area first.
Locate and remove the spare tire. Temporary spares are designed to be just that, and are to be used only for short distances at slow speeds (usually under 50 mph).
Find and remove the emergency jack. If luck is good, the lug wrench or tool kit may also reside in the same location.
Informative and entertaining instructions are usually not far from the spare itself. These instructions are also in the owner's manual. Heed all warnings — especially concerning the emergency jack points.
Turn engine off. Apply parking brake. Before raising vehicle first use the lug wrench to break loose, but not remove the lug nuts. Unless you happen to drive an old Plymouth with bizarre reverse-thread wheel studs, removing and installing nuts is always the same. Righty tighty. Lefty loosey. Putting your foot down also helps here.
Place the emergency jack under the jack point and raise the vehicle just enough to remove wheel and tire. The moniker of the jack is well chosen. Emergencies only! Stay out from under the vehicle while using often spindly emergency jacks.
Remove the lug nuts, and set them aside together in a safe place. Hubcaps or hats work well to prevent misplaced nuts.
Lift the temporary spare onto the wheel studs. Thread the lug nuts onto the studs by hand first.
Snug up and seat the lug nuts against the wheel with the lug wrench before lowering vehicle. Tighten the lug nuts in a criss-cross pattern. Tighten one nut, then the one furthest from the first one.
Slowly lower the vehicle. Remove the emergency jack. Finish tightening the nuts in criss-cross pattern. Drive at reasonable speeds to the nearest tire service center. Happy motoring.
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Parts: Oil and Filter Change [internal]