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By Lili Miller

Road side blowout! How to fix a flat tire

You are driving down the freeway, as you usually do, and then you hear it – flapping loose rubber rolling around a metal interior. A flat tire. This occurrence happens to everyone sooner or later, but it is being prepared for it which makes the situation vary amongst most.

There are roadside assistance services that offer assistance to subscribed drivers, but what happens when you cannot reach roadside assistance and you are left to your own devices and have to change your tire on your own? Do you know how to change a tire? Just in case you do encounter a flat tire, car manufacturers have made an almost universal process to the task that anyone should be able to accomplish.

Find a safe area to pull your vehicle over

Always find a safe spot to pull over when you have a flat. If you are on a city road, try to find a store or gas station parking lot – if at night, find a well-lit lot. If you are on a highway or freeway, try to take the next exit; it is the safest choice. If that is not an option, the first wide shoulder will suffice. My advice is even if you have to drive on a blown tire, try your best to exit the highway or freeway and get to an area with minimal traffic. A parking lot would be an ideal location if available.

If you must pull over to the shoulder, make sure approaching vehicles can see you. Do not park in the middle of a curve or an inclining area, as you do not want any accidents with other drivers to occur, nor would you like your vehicle to roll down a hill by itself. Remember, if you have a manual transmission, leave your vehicle in gear and set the parking brake.

Display safety equipment

Turn on the hazard lights as soon as you notice a flat tire. Usually, it is a red triangular button somewhere on the vehicle's front dashboard. Check your trunk for traffic safety tools. If you have to pull over to the shoulder, check your trunk for flares or traffic cones, use caution and surround your vehicle with them to help detour traffic as far away from your vehicle as possible. Keep any doors facing traffic closed, and take extra precautions when interacting with a vehicle on traffic facing side.

Retrieve the tools

Get your tools out of the trunk. Your tools would usually consist of, a jack, a lug nut wrench, and the spare tire. Sometimes, vehicles require a key to unlock certain types of rims. This key will be with your emergency tire replacement tools.

Loosen the lug nuts

Use the lug nut wrench to loosen your lug nuts. If you have hubcaps, remove them first. The lug nuts might be extremely tight. Turn the wrench counter-clockwise. If lug nuts are tightened, place the wrench on the lug nut and try standing on the wrench arm with your full weight or find a blunt object to bang on the wrench arm and get the lug nuts loose.

Jack up the vehicle

Place the car jack in the appropriate area underneath your vehicle. You can consult the owner's manual for the appropriate positioning of the jack. Jack the vehicle up till the tire is about 6 inches off the ground.

Remove the flat tire

Remove the lug nuts from the tire. Pull the tire off the screws toward yourself, brace yourself the tire and rim will feel heavier once you remove it from the wheel's base.

Put on the spare tire

Get the spare tire, line it up with the lug nut screws and place it on the screws. Push it toward the wheel's base, the opposite of how you removed the tire. Make sure the spare is pushed all the way up against the wheelbase, snug.

Put the lug nuts back on the tire

Put the lug nuts back on the tire. Do not tighten the lug nuts; secure them enough so the tire does not come off the screw.

Lower the vehicle back to the ground

Lower the jack and bring the vehicle back down to the ground. At this point, you can remove the jack from underneath the vehicle.

Tighten the lug nuts

Now that the vehicle is back on the ground, use the wrench to tighten the lug nuts. It helps to tighten one lug nut at about 50 percent then move to the lug nut across from that one and tighten it also at 50 percent. Keep doing this around the lug nut circle until all the lug nuts are as tight as they can be.

Put away tools and clean area

Put away the flat tire and your tools make sure not to leave any debris on the side of the road.

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