Technology has made our cars smarter and more capable than ever before, but the simple truth of rubber tires is that sometimes they go flat. Usually, they are simple to fix. With a little basic knowledge and a few common tools, you can be back on the road in just a few minutes.
Fixing a tire can mean different things in certain situations. We’ll discuss three basic scenarios: using a patch kit, changing your flat tire for a spare and applying repair sealant.
Using a Patch Kit
For leaks caused by screws and nails, a simple patch kit can have you back on the road without using a spare. With the car stable on flat ground and the parking brake set, use a jack to lift the affected tire off the ground. Remove the lug nuts using a tire iron and then pull the wheel off the car.
Locate the leak and use a tire patch kit to drive a plug into the hole. You can drive on a patched tire for about 100 miles or up to three days before having it inspected by a professional.
Swapping Out for a Spare
There might be situations where the affected tire can’t be patched. For example, if a tire has a larger opening than a hole from a nail or screw, a basic patch kit won’t make it usable again. In that case, only a professional shop will have the equipment to remove and repair the tire.
If you have a spare tire, it’s often located beneath the trunk mat, or in some vehicles mounted beneath the car. You might want to practice getting your spare free if you’re not familiar with it so you’ll know how to if needed. Repeat the steps to remove the tire from our first scenario and then swap the spare tire with the full-size one you removed.
What if your car doesn’t come with a spare? About one-in-three new vehicles don’t include a spare tire. Instead, you get a can of sealant. To use it, you’ll need an air pump to refill the tire after you’ve sealed it. If you’re using a factory kit, there should be one included.
Spray the sealant into the tire’s air valve as instructed. When the entire can is empty, carefully disconnect the nozzle or hose and then add air to the tire. If at any point you see leakage or feel something might be functioning incorrectly, stop and review any documentation that came with the kit. Tire sealant is better than nothing if you’ve got a flat, but it’s not without its share of shortcomings.
This is one of the simplest repair operations there are, but it’s one of the most important. A vehicle without tires is not a car. We hope it will be a long time before you have to put this advice to use, but when you do, at least you’ll have an idea where to start. Have a good flat tire story to share? Post it in the comments below.