Flat Wrong: Mistakes to Avoid When Changing a Flat Tire

Oct 6, 2017

“He can’t even change a tire” sounds like a line in a country song, but this struggle is more common than some might think. For years, roadside maintenance was just part of driving. Anyone who’s seen A Christmas Story knows that. (Oh fudge!) But today blowouts and other minor mishaps happen less frequently, thanks to better tires and more durable parts. So now, a flat tire can be enough to make you lose your lug nuts. We reached out to our followers on Facebook to discover mistakes they’ve encountered, and here are some of the most common.

01. Changing In Traffic

Randy Hackett wrote, “Never do it in traffic! Better to ruin a rim driving to a safe area...”

Good point, Randy. Safety always comes first. A blown tire can cause adrenaline to spike, so take a deep breath and remember to get off the road safely rather than as fast as possible. If you’re on the highway, make sure to pull over deep into the right shoulder to get far away from traffic. You may have to ride a rim, but then again, what other time do you get to use your hazard lights? 

02. Using An Old Spare

From Anthony Walden: “Make sure your spare has air in it and isn't old and rotted out. Tried to help many a person change a tire with that problem.”

Thanks, Anthony. If your spare tire stays tucked away for years, it can rot. A rotted, cracked, or weak spare tire might hold air, but after you bolt it on and drive away, it could blow out and leave you right back where you started. Save time and energy. If your spare looks as if the walking dead became a car tire, call a tow truck. 

03. Driving Around On A Spare

Connor Jared Nepomuceno and Corey Stevens tackled this one nicely. Their comments are at the bottom. 

Trucks and SUVs might have a full-sized spare, but many cars have a compact spare. A compact spare is designed to get you from a blowout to a repair shop. It’s not made to drive around like a regular tire. Even if you have a full sized spare, it’s a good idea to drive straight to a repair shop because the spare’s tread could be much newer than the tread on the other three tires. An imbalance can cause safety problems or worsen driving performance. 

Connor: “Spares aren't meant to do more than 65 mph and are only good for 500 miles total usage, and that assumes they are inflated to the full 60psi."

Corey: “Tire size and tread wear especially with four wheel drives, most people are unaware that Subaru for example actually recommends that you rotate in your spare so that it wears down the same time as the rest of your tires this is to protect your differential in the event you need your spare tire [sic].”

04. Changing On An Incline

Allstylin Higgi offered a good note for this next one: “First of all make sure you're on level ground.”

As stated before, a blowout can cause adrenaline to spike. You might want to change the tire as fast as possible, but slow down, eager beaver. Before you pull out the jack—or the owner’s manual to find the jack—drive to level ground. Otherwise, you could jack up the car, pull off the flat tire, and then the car could fall off the jack. Ever heard a car frame smack the asphalt? It’s not pretty. 

Mr. Higgi went on to mention a note on safety: “And set the E-BRAKE, Before you jack it up and stabilize, and then after you put it down and make sure you go back and tighten all the lug nuts [sic].” 

Many of our followers brought up this one. And that brings up our last item. 

05. Loose Lug Nuts, No E-Brake

Safety first, ladies and gentlemen. Before you jack up the car, set the hand brake. After you’ve bolted on the spare, lowered the car and removed the jack, tighten down the lug nuts one more time. Ralphie’s dad would be proud.

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Tags: Maintenance, DIY