Let’s start simple. You might think this is a no-brainer, but more and more these days, people are not equipped to handle a simple flat tire. I know this because while I was watching the last Superbowl someone rang the doorbell needing help with a blowout. Her spare was flat and she had no compressor. I missed about twenty minutes of the game.
Because a flat tire is a relatively common experience, it pays to be prepared.
The purpose of this section is not to give you step-by-step tire-changing instructions, which vary from one vehicle to another, but to give you general principles of preparation.
Check the owner’s manual. Some vehicles have quirky ways of attaching the spare tire, and you don’t want to be figuring this out on a cold rainy night with the baby screaming in the back seat.
Practice changing a tire in the comfort of your own driveway. Important: block your tires to keep the car from rolling, and work on level ground.
Check the spare now and then to be sure you have air in it.
Buy a mini air compressor that plugs into the cigarette lighter in your car. You can buy one as part of a travel emergency kit at Amazon. Foot pumps are also available, but I haven’t found one good enough to recommend.
Check your tires now and then. You can’t always avoid punctures due to road hazard, but overworn tread and old, cracked rubber are common causes of blowouts, and those are avoidable.
You should also assemble a travel emergency kit, or you can buy one at Amazon through the SNO Store. Every roadside assistance kit I’ve seen (including the one I bought) omits some items I recommend, but you can just add them to the kit. It’s a good place to start.
There are two schools of thought about the quality of the tools. Some say that you should only have the best tools, since you don’t want a failure in an emergency. I suggest that if cost is an issue, a cheap adjustable wrench is better in an emergency than no wrench at all. Even cheap tools will usually work for awhile, and since these are emergency tools, they won’t see much use. If you’re buying a pre-assembled kit, just be sure to inspect everything when it arrives. Just get something together, and improve your resources as you can.
- 12-volt mini air compressor
- jumper cables
- adjustable wrench
- multi-bit screwdriver
- multi-tool or swiss army knife
- hazard reflector (flares optional)
- air pressure gauge
- electrician’s tape
- spray lubricant (e.g. WD-40)
Note: This is not a full travel emergency kit. We’ll discuss that in a future post. This kit is just to make sure you can fix a flat tire and get back on the road.
If you have a flat
Pull off the road as far as you can safely get.
First, see if you can determine the cause. A blowout will be obvious. If there’s no obvious damage, it might be a slow leak. Try the fix-a-flat. If it works, drive home carefully and change the tire where it’s safer — in your driveway.
If you need to change the tire on the spot, first move your vehicle to the closest level ground you can find without getting close to the traffic.
Set out your hazard reflector or flares and chock your tires so the car doesn’t roll. If you’re changing a front tire the parking brake should be adequate, but follow the instructions in your manual.
Make sure you have adequate air pressure in the spare.
Very important: get a new tire as soon as possible, so you’ll be prepared for the next flat.
Coming Soon (in no particular order):
- What’s in You Bug Out Bag?
- Every Day Carry
- Short Term Power Outage
- Long Term Power Outage
- Road Trip
- Living off the Grid
- Financial Planning
- Stocking Commodity Money for Emergencies