Tip Sheet

Do you know what to do when your car gets a flat tire?

First, don’t panic
PHOTO: Paulo Rafael Subido

It can happen to any motorist, anytime. Hopefully, not when you’re harassed and rushing to be somewhere. It’s really beyond our control, but when it happens, we should be prepared. What am I talking about? A flat tire.

It can even happen while you’re driving. If it’s the front tire that’s gone flat, you’ll feel it in the steering wheel, which will become much harder to turn and may even appear off-center. And whether it’s a front or rear tire that’s gone flat, there will be a sudden degradation in ride quality. If you feel this happening, slow down, pull over to the side of the road, and inspect your tires.

After the inspection confirms that you do have a flat tire and you have no experience being in a situation like this before, here are your options:

1. Call your roadside assistance provider.

This is the easiest way to address such an incident. Solve problems like this ahead of time by becoming a member of a local automobile club. This is cheap insurance. If you get a flat tire or any kind of car trouble, help is a mere phone call away. The club will dispatch a truck with a crew that will help you fix the problem on the spot, or take your car to a repair shop, if needed. I can’t tell you how many times the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP) has saved me from flat batteries, alternators gone bad, and busted radiator hoses. Flat tires are nothing to them. If you’re in the city, it usually takes them 30 minutes to an hour to get to you.

2. Walk around the vicinity and look for a vulcanizing shop.

This has happened to me a few times: I get a flat tire and, upon looking around, there’s a tire vulcanizing shop not 100 meters away from where I am. It can be a big shop or a hole-in-the-wall place. Just get them to take off the wheel, fix the flat, and install it back on the car after.

3. Use a can of Fix-a-Flat.

Keep a can of Fix-a-Flat in your car—it is very useful. If you encounter a flat and there’s nobody to help you, this can save you from the dirty job of having to jack up the car, take a filthy wheel off, and put another one on. Fix-a-Flat is a brand name, but there are several products that do the same thing. The product is a can of compressed air mixed with sealant. If the hole is small enough, you can attach the Fix-a-Flat’s nozzle hose into the tire valve and fill the tire with air and sealant. The tire will be reinflated and the hole will be ‘plugged.’ You can then go about your day. The repair should take a few minutes at most. Get yourself a can.

4. Bring out the tools and spare tire, and replace the flat tire yourself.

If there’s no one who can help you and the hole is too big for Fix-A-Flat, you have no other choice but to get down and dirty. Make sure your car is on the side of the road and you have ample room to work without being an obstruction to oncoming cars. Please be sure of this, as we wouldn’t want you to get hit by a car and injured while changing a flat tire.

Here’s how to change a tire:

  • Make sure the car is on a level surface, the gearshift is in Park or in gear, and the parking brake is engaged.
  • Take out the tools, the jack, and the spare tire. Before jacking up the car, loosen the lug nuts on the flat wheel first.
  • Position the jack on the jacking point nearest the flat tire. Lift the car up with the jack.
  • Using the tire wrench, loosen and remove the lug nuts on the wheel with the flat tire.
  • Remove the wheel.
  • Take your spare tire, align the holes on the wheel with the wheel studs on the hub, and push the wheel into the hub.
  • Screw the lug nuts into the studs until they’re snug onto the wheel. Using the tire wrench, tighten each nut onto the stud. Remember to tighten each of the nuts in a crisscross pattern, not in a circular pattern. This is to make sure that the wheel centers onto the hub properly.
  • Lower the car using the jack.
  • Do a final tightening of each lug nut with the tire wrench.
  • Gather all your tools and put them back in your car. I’ve actually been stupid enough to leave all my tools on the side of the road after fixing a flat on SLEX, only to discover them missing many months after. Don’t be like me.

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PHOTO: Paulo Rafael Subido
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