According to the AAA, a flat tire accounts for about one-third of all roadside emergencies. They estimate that approximately seven U.S. drivers suffer experience a flat tire every second. Nevertheless, only 70 percent of the vehicles on the roads have spare tires to replace them in times of emergency. However, even the AAA notes that changing a flat tire, in theory, is a far cry from dealing with the realities.
In the real world, those lug nuts don’t want to come loose if they were last tightened with an impact gun or have rusted. Even if they were properly torqued, they may be seized into place. Furthermore, standing on the side of the road and jacking up your vehicle is dangerous because traffic is whizzing by and might not see you. The jacks, themselves, are often wobbly and can collapse suddenly if they are not positioned properly on a level and hard pavement.
What Can I Do?
It is recommended that you pull off to the shoulder or even a large central divide if it is closer on an interstate. Once you are pulled over, you can call for assistance and have a tow truck come to replace the tire for you or tow you to a shop for repairs. If you have run-flat tires, you can pull off at the next exit and find a service shop to repair the puncture or replace the tire.
How Do I Change the Flat Tire?
If you really want to be prepared to change the tire yourself, you should upgrade your roadside tool kit. Go to the auto store and purchase an impact socket with a 1/2″ drive that perfectly fits your wheel lug nuts. Most car lug nuts are 19 to 24mm in size. You should also purchase a torque wrench that can tighten the lug nuts within to the specific torque recommended by the manufacturer for your vehicle. In addition, you should always carry a can of penetrating oil to break up rust in your trunk and a long 1/2″ drive breaker bar to get good leverage on those lug nuts.
If you really want to be safe, you can purchase a small hydraulic automotive jack to carry in your trunk. This is much easier to use in an emergency than the types of scissor jacks that come with most vehicles. You should also be aware of where the jack points are on your vehicle. There are small tabs or reinforced metal near each wheel. The rocker panels may have a small arrow pointing to the approximate location.
Changing a tire is straightforward:
1. Move the vehicle to level ground.
2. Apply penetrating oil to dissolve rust.
3. Loosen the lug nuts using the breaker bar.
4. Raise the jack just enough to remove the tire.
5. Replace the tire.
6. Finger-tighten the lug nuts into place.
7. Lower the jack.
8. Retighten the lug nuts using a torque pattern.
9. Check the torque with two final passes using a torque wrench.
A torque pattern is a way of evenly distributing the torque. If you tighten one lug nut too much, it can create a false perception that the wheel is flush with the hub. If you tighten one halfway and the lug nut opposite of it halfway, in a rotating pattern, you will slowly move the wheel face closer to the face of the hub. This ensures that the wheel is flush and that the force is evenly distributed.
In most cases, it is easier to call for assistance if you need a tire changed. However, if you are handy with tools and don’t have time to be waiting around for help, a few upgrades to your trunk toolbox can make it easy.