94. Fix a Flat Tire

94. Fix a Flat Tire


Friday night, 11pm, and I'm already late for my friend's birthday party. I go out to my car and discover my rear passenger tire is flat. And not just low on air flat, but at 1 PSI, don't-you-dare-even-think-about-driving-on-flat. Great. What's a girl to do? My options were:

1) Have my friend who was staying with us fix it right there and then.

2) Call my roadside assistance.

3) Wallow in my bad luck and cancel my plans.

4) Forget about the flat tire until sunlight and find another way to my friend's birthday.

I, of course, opted for number 4. After all, it was late Friday night with no light (and thankfully no rain!) and while my friend's offer was kind, it wasn't necessary to change it right there and then. So off I went to the birthday party...

The next day, my problem remained--but it became an opportunity. This was my opportunity to cross an item off my list: 94. Fix a flat tire. My friend, Doug, was in town and an excellent handyman and teacher (he's been an accomplice/teacher/partner/coach for a few bucket list items now!), and off we went.

Note: this is written from memory so don't take it as instructions but rather as my recollection. As a friend noted (thanks Erich!), loosen the lug nuts before jacking the car up. I have it as a separate step but we did actually loosen them first. 

First, move your car to a flat area before you attempt to change out the tire. This is also a good time to try and take a look at what could be the problem. We noticed that there were 2 screws that had punctured the tire. (I know, how'd I manage to get TWO screws? What can I say--I'm talented.) Screws/nails are actually not a bad thing to find--punctures can be patched, slashed tires...not so much.

Second, take out your spare and all the tools. In my car, my spare is in my trunk so we moved everything from the trunk to the back seat and pulled out the spare and tools. The tools you'll need are a jack, lug wrench and some cars come with a metal extender/lever.

Third, you need to raise the car up so that you can safely remove the damaged tire. Before you do this, loosen the lugs with the lug wrench. Usually one good crank (with your body weight) will loosen it enough. Don't remove them yet though.  The jack will do this for you but you need to make sure you place it in the right spot. You want to place the jack under a part of the car that is reinforced (in front of the rear wheel or door), not a part that may move around. Usually the manual will tell you where to place the jack. Once you've found a place for the jack, hook in the extender and the lug wrench and twist away, raising the jack. (This was the part where Doug was instructing me on what to do and making sure I was doing it correctly--essentially supervising while I did the work. I'm sure he got more than a few, "What the hell?!" looks--letting a female do the work while he just watched.) You want to get the car high enough that the tire can easily be removed. Getting the tire a little off the ground is about right.

Fourth, Once the car is up high enough, loosen the lugs with the lug wrench. Usually one good crank (with your body weight) will loosen it enough for you to twist off the lug with your hands. Once the car is up, remove the lugs (already loosened before you jacked the car up), put them to the side and remove the tire. Take the spare and put it on, with the air valve side facing outward. Put the lugs back on (bottom ones on first so the tire doesn't fall off) and screw on with your hands. Then take the rod and tighten. When you do this, you want to go in a star formation. (Think about how you draw 5-point star and tighten in that order.) Go through this twice. For the second go-around, I was pretty much stepping on the wrench to get the lugs tighter. One quick bounce should be enough.

Fifth, Put the tire and tools back in the trunk and get yourself to a tire shop. I went to Les Schwab and got great service: fast, friendly and free! (I was confused by the last part--but they just said to come to them when it was time to replace my tires. I think I might just do that.)

And there you have it--number 94 on the bucket list has officially been ticked off.  What could have potentially been a really frustrating situation, turned out to be a great learning opportunity. I'm grateful to have friends who can teach me things (and be patient with me and my questions). Try looking at unexpected situations with a different perspective and who knows what you'll find!

Will I change it myself if it happens again? Depends on the situation--but at least now I know how to change it!

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