What to do when you get a Flat Tire…

Let’s face it – no one wants to have a flat tire, especially when the end result is being stranded on the side of the road with other cars whizzing by almost smug in their four-good-wheel conditions. But there’s more to flat tires than the annoyance and frustration they breed.

Anatomy of a Flat Tire

When a tire loses all of its air, it also loses its buoyancy and the ability to bear weight. Except in the sorts of tires known as “run flat,” the sidewalls are too weak to support the weight of a vehicle without the added strength of air pressure.

Any tire, new or old, can go flat if it is punctured, or if it’s leaking for some ofther reason. Generally speaking, the thicker treads on new tires are more resistant to punctures than older, worn-out treads, but those deeper treats can also increase the risk of a puncture if you drive over a nail or some other sharp object, by “channeling ” the object deep between the treads.

Sometimes tires go flat when a vehicle has been sitting still for too long – weeks or months in a cold garage, for example – or if there’s a slow leak. This is why it’s a wise idea to make a visual inspection of all four of your car’s tires before driving it.  Flat tires look sort of mushy, and may bulge slightly.

If a tire goes flat while you’re driving, you’ll hear and feel a thump-thump-thump vibration from your vehicle’s suspension, and, at least in the case of a front tire, your vehicle will pull toward the side that has gone flat.

Do Not Drive

Either way, you should never continue driving on a flat. Without any internal air pressure the sidewalls of the tire will be pinched between the road and the wheel rim, and driving even as much as half a mile could be enough to either cut the tire, or damage the wheel.

This is equally important if the air pressure in your tire is merely low, and not completely gone. You can do serious damage to both the tire and the wheel, necessitating the replacement of both.
In addition to the risk to the tire and wheel, driving on an under-inflated or flat tire puts you at risk because your car will have less control, and things like turning will take more effort and offer less response. At the very least, you’ll experience significant drag.

If You Get a Flat Tire While Driving

Slow down and pull over to the side of the road as soon as it’s safe to do so. Never stop in the middle of the road, especially if you’re on a busy highway – you’re likely to get rear-ended or killed.
Put your car as far onto the right shoulder as you can, to reduce the risk of someone running into you. This also leaves room in case it’s a tire on the left side of the car that must be changed.
Turn on your hazard lights, so other drivers will see you. It’s also  a good idea to raise the hood, as this is a universal signal for help, and helps make the profile of your car bigger and more visible. If it’s dark or foggy and you have a safety flare, warning light, or reflective triangle, place it a bit behind your vehicle as an additional alert to other drivers.
If you have the necessary tools to change your tire, go ahead and do so, being as swift and as sure as you can. If your spare tire is a “donut” – a smaller than average tire – be aware that it’s meant for temporary use only.
If you don’t have the right tools, either call your insurance company’s or auto club’s roadside assistance number, or call the police or highway patrol for help. If you’re one of the five people left on the planet who don’t have a cell phone, or if your cell phone has no signal, you may have to wait for someone to drive by, or hope that another driver offers assistance. Be careful with the latter. Most people are really kind and helpful, but some are much less scrupulous.
Wait for help outside the vehicle whenever possible, standing away from the road. If the neighborhood where you’re stranded seems dangerous, or if there’s inclement weather, stay inside your car.

After a Flat Tire

So you’ve changed your flat tire. Now what?

If you’re driving on a donut, you’ll want to bring your old tire to your mechanic or a local tire store to have it repaired (if possible) or replaced. Make sure that if you do this, you get the donut back, so that you can return it to you car, in case of another flat.

If the spare tire is simply an extra full-sized tire, have the old one repaired, or replace it, and store it as your “new” spare.

The tire that has been replaced will not have the same wear on its treads as the rest of your tires do, so be prepared for driving to feel a bit uneven. This may be a good time to consider having your tires rotated.

Flat tires are inconvenient, at best, and dangerous if they occur in the middle of a busy highway. Knowing what to expect and how to handle it doesn’t reduce the annoyance, but it should help you approach your next flat tire with a bit more calm.

Article courtesy of: http://www.estatecarinsure.com/essays/flat_tires.htm

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