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
2 thoughts on “Survival Plan 1 – Flat Tire”
I am enjoying reading your site and the various articles. Although I tend to “Agree to Disagree” with many sites and articles, I seem to agree more with your writings than with some other ones. I like the fact that you mention checking with local laws (many omit this) and view prepairdness not only in terms of TEOTWASKI, but every day issues (such as a flat tire). I want to throw in my own 2 cents worth on this topic, as I have dealt with various people regarding this issue (I used to work for a service centre).
1. Do not get those “Fix-a-Flat” spray cans. Yes, they work. Yes, they can be a time saver. But I know a few places that won’t change the tire if that crap is all over the tire and rim. If you are prepared to do it yourself, go for it. If you need to pay someone to do it for you, rethink it. Change the tire for the spare or call a tow truck.
2. Jumper Cables. While I generally agree with carying them, I recently had problems with my car’s electrical system. The garage that I take it to had to reset something in the computer to resolve the issue. He asked if I had jumpped another car recently, and I had. I explained how I set up the cables and he said that although I did it the right way, it still can mess up my car in the process. He recomended I go out and get a Batter Boost Pack instead. I did and have used it many times over the last few years. They do have to be replaced (the battery in it doesn’t last forever), but you can get one that has a 24V outlet, lights, air compressor, etc.
3. Reflectors. I would add that you should have 3 refector triangles (they fold up) and a reflective vest. At night you want to be seen and you want to direct people around your car.
4. Add some work gloves, hat, rain poncho and perhaps even a jump suit (to keep your suit clean) and you could work on most of your car parts if you knwo basic car repair.
Great articles. Keep up the good work!
First thing’s first, you have to get the area around the flat tire off the ground. It would be wise to make sure you position a strong enough jack properly under the car. The positioning will be critical since, if the car falls off of it, you could be looking at a very high repair bill.