Flat Tire 101: What to Do

flat tire

Image via Flickr

Most people think that having a flat tire is no big deal. Yet, do you know what to do if you actually get a flat? Think about it for a moment, don’t just assume. Do you have all of the tools in your car or truck? Do you have a spare tire? Is the spare tire the right size for your vehicle? If you can’t say yes to all of those questions, without a shadow of a doubt, then obviously you are not as prepared as you thought you were.

Flat tires can occur for a number of reasons. It could be due to the car sitting for an extended period of time and the air within the tire got cold and condensed. You could have driven over an obstruction and punctured the wall of the tire, or you could have had an old fashion blowout which can result from the tires getting far too hot.

Preparing for A Flat Tire

Most people assume that everything they need to change a flat tire is situated nicely in the trunk of the car, thanks to the manufacturer. Unfortunately, all you get is a tire iron and a small car jack. These are the bare bones basics required to change a tire, yet there are more things you could add to your vehicle to make the job a lot easier, such as:

  • Coveralls – These can be bought from hardware stores and paint stores around the world. You can even get cheap, disposable paper ones and replace them as needed.
  • Wipes – Hand wipes or even baby wipes will go a long way to helping you clean up after you finish changing the tire. Cars are very dirty machines, and there is a reason why every mechanic is always covered in grease.
  • Hands-free light source – Doesn’t matter if you have a standing flash light or a cheap, little LED, battery powered lantern, you want some sort of light source to make sure you can see what you are doing, and so people can see you.
  • 2 or 3-foot piece of pipe – The nuts on your tire are tightened with a torque wrench. This means that you are going to need as much leverage as you can get to loosen them up.
  • Instructions and car manual – Even if you are an expert at changing a tire yourself, other people such as your children or spouse, might not be. This is why having the manual and detailed instructions on what to do, and where everything is, is important.
  • Gallon size storage bag – A sealable storage bag should be used to store the bolts once removed from the tire. A lot of people put them into the hubcap, but if it gets bumped or flipped, your nuts are going to go flying and you will have to hunt them down.

Changing A Flat Tire

  1. Make sure the vehicle is pulled off to the shoulder or side of the road and turn your hazard lights on. Prior to exiting the vehicle, contact someone and inform them about the situation, give them your location and let them know you will contact them once you are finished.
  2. Refer to your owner’s manual to locate a “hard point” on the underside of your vehicle. Once this part of the frame has been located, position the jack under the car and begin to lift the vehicle. Make sure that the car is up high enough to safely remove the tire, roughly 3 to 4 inches off the ground.
  3. The next step involves removing the hubcap; you can use the tire iron to help remove this. After the hubcap has been removed, begin removing the nuts from the tire and placing them inside the storage bag.
  4. Remove the tire and roll it to the opposite side or rear of the car. Grab the spare and place it into position.
  5. Place the nuts back onto the bolts of the car and hand tighten them all. After they have been hand tightened, use the tire iron to tighten them the rest of the way.
  6. Reattach the hubcap and return all of the equipment to its proper location inside of the vehicle.
  7. Contact the person you originally spoke with and let them know that you have finished and will be driving momentarily.
  8. Check for traffic before moving back into the driving lane and turn off your hazard lights.
  9. Ensure you get your tire replaced as soon as possible. Spare tires are only meant for short term use, and the longer you drive on a spare, the more damage you may do to your vehicle.

Changing a tire doesn’t have to be a scary or complicated situation. It is a skill that everyone should have and if you do not know how to change a tire, ask someone who does to show you how. You can also use this article as a reference guide to ensure that no matter what happens, you are prepared thanks to Treadhunter!

What Is A Tire Patch?

 

File:Old tires 1.jpg

Image via Wikimedia

When someone mentions the word tire patch, most people think of a piece of rubber used to patch a hole of some sort. However, a tire patch is actually surface area of the tire that comes into direct contact with the ground. As hard as it may be to believe, the actual tire patch of your tire is only a little larger than the size of your hand.

Is Bigger Actually Better?

So how shocked would you be to find out that bigger doesn’t mean better, when it comes to the tire contact patch of your vehicle? Most passenger cars have a narrower tire, which gives them better control, a smooth ride and traction in snowy, cold weather conditions. Narrow tires have a longer path, while wider tires, have a shorter path. This means wider tires, even though they have the same size tire contact patch, will have greater handling and responsiveness. This is why so many high performance cars have wider tires.

Increasing Your Contact Patch

The only way to increase the size of your tire’s contact patch is to actually decrease the air pressure in the tires and increase the overall weight of your vehicle, as it pushes down on the ground. This causes more of the actual tire to come in direct contact with the ground.

The problem is, this can open your vehicle up to an entirely new set of issues, such as:

  • Increased risk of hydroplaning
  • Loss of straight driving traction
  • Increased resistance from the pavement reducing speed and overall performance
  • Diminished fuel efficiency

The best thing to do is leave your tire pressure at the manufacturer’s suggested standards. You could get a lift on your car or truck. This would allow you to get a taller/bigger tire, thus increasing your tire contact patch.

As you drive, the amount of friction and force put on the contact patch shifts. If you are cornering, it shifts to the outside of the tire. As the intensity of the turn increases, so does the force put on that contact patch of the tire. The wider the contact patch is, the more it can hold on to and hug the road.

Remember the movie Pretty Woman? Julia Robert’s character talked about the Lotus being able to handle like it was on rails. Basically, she was referencing the aspect ratio of the tires, the contact patch of those tires and the low profile of the suspension and vehicle itself. Low and wide, means fast and tight, when you are talking about turns.

On the other hand, if you have a tire that is slender, well inflated and a properly broken in tread, you will see a smoother, more comfortable ride. You will also see better gas mileage and traction control in poor driving conditions, such as snow.

Never pick a tire style based on how it looks. Always learn what each type of tire and style actually does. Once you know what each style does, compare it to your driving habits. The biggest mistake people make when shopping for tires is that they compare it to the type of driving they would “like to do” verses what they actually do. Taking the time to figure out the best solution to your particular tire needs will not only save you money, but will make driving a much safer and more enjoyable experience.

Get all the tire help and advice you need from the experts at Treadhunter.

Breaking in Your New Tires

tires

We have all heard it before. Whenever you buy a new car, you are supposed to take it easy for the first 500 miles and try to avoid long stints on the highway. This is partly because you do not want to put a lot of immediate strain on the engine and transmission. The tires are also another reason you should take it easy for the first 500 miles.

Why You Need to Take It Easy

When tire manufactures produce tires, they need to spray the inside of the molds with some form of lubrication, otherwise they would not be able to remove the tires from the mold. Even after completely drying the tires, the residue from the lubricant remains on the tire. This lubricant is designed to greatly reduce or eliminate any type of friction that the tire has from the mold. This means that your tires are also unable to grip the road properly.

Taking the first 500 miles easy on your new tires will allow it to wear off without risking the safety of the vehicle occupants, or causing the vehicle to spin out of control and cause an accident. It does not matter if the car is brand new or 20 years old; when you get new tires, you have to take it easy for the first 500 miles.

Why Does My Car Drive Differently with New Tires

A lot of people will notice that their car or truck drives differently once they get new tires. The two most common reasons for this are:

  • The old tires had little or no tread left and you are not used to firmer control that comes from new tires.
  • Older tires that had decent tread life left had been properly broken in and had less flex to them. New tires flex and spread more at first, which makes them feel far less responsive initially.

Another reason is, often times, tire manufacturers trying to find a way to make one tire work for several different types of vehicles. If you went for a discounted brand of tire, you are going to notice a difference in performance (good or bad), regardless.

Other Effects of New Tires That Should Be Noted

One of the other major changes to your vehicle that you will notice right off the bat is that your gas mileage will drop. Ever notice how about 6 months or so after you purchase a new car, the mileage you get starts going up? That is because your tires are properly broken in. The deeper your tread, the more resistance is placed on the road, which causes deceleration. As the tire tread wears down, less resistance is generated, thus increasing how long your car can maintain speeds. This means less fuel consumption to maintain travel speeds, increasing your mileage.

New tires are about as well liked as bald tires; however, you can’t add more tread to a tire. Once it is used up, it’s gone. Replacing your tires will help begin the process anew. Properly breaking in your tires will help you get to that sweet spot, where you get better handling, control, grip and mileage.

Hydroplaning: What Causes it and How to Avoid it

hydro plane

When it comes to bad weather driving, three things stand out; black ice, snow and hydroplaning. Out of these three major bad weather driving conditions, many view hydroplaning as the scariest. The best way to avoid any type of bad weather driving situation is to learn about the conditions and take steps to prevent events, such as hydroplaning, from happening.

What Causes a Car to Hydroplane

Hydroplaning occurs when water forms a solid sheet between the road and the tires. It does not help matters that all roads have oil residue on them from all of the other vehicles that travel, as well as road work that often gets performed. Normally, the treads of the tire help to push the water out of the way to allow the tire to gain proper traction on the road. When oil residue is present, the water is unable to properly run off and gets a slick film on it. This prevents it from moving through the treads of your tires efficiently and decreases friction between the tire and the road.

If you have failed to properly maintain your tires by monitoring tread wear and rotating your tires as recommended, you can greatly increase the risk of hydroplaning. During heavy rain conditions, traveling at speeds greater than 35mph also increases the risk of hydroplaning. When traveling at 35mph or more, all it takes is 1/10th of an inch of water to hydroplane.

Avoiding Hydroplaning

While it is not always possible to avoid hydroplaning, you can do several things to help minimize the chances of it occurring. Some easy tips to follow to help avoid hydroplaning include:

  • Maintaining proper air pressure in your tires.
  • Avoid quick and sharp-style turns.
  • Avoid using cruise control.
  • Don’t use your hand-brake unless absolutely necessary.
  • Drive in the lowest possible gear you can safely.
  • Rotate and replace tires as needed.
  • Stay away from standing water and large puddles.
  • Drive in the center lanes (roads are pitched slightly to force water to the outer sides of the roads).
  • Try to drive in the tracks of the vehicle in front of you (this decreases the amount of water under your tires).
  • Turn the radio off and drive slowly. Look, listen and feel how your car is reacting to the driving conditions.

What to do if you Hydroplane

Hydroplaning can be avoided by taking the above mentioned tips into action. However, it should be noted that no matter how much preparation you do, there are times where it is just going to happen, regardless. If you are caught in a hydroplaning situation, here are a couple of tips to try and get your vehicle back under control.

  • Don’t panic. When you panic, you do not think or react properly and this could spell disaster.
  • In front wheel drive vehicles, gently accelerate and move to an open area of the road until you regain control.
  • In rear wheel drive vehicles take your foot off the accelerator and let the vehicle slow down naturally, until it regains traction.
  • If you are using cruise control, immediately disengage it.

Hydroplaning can be a very scary experience. Knowing what to do in the case of a hydroplaning situation, and tips to take to help prevent it from happening, can not only save your life, but the lives of other motorists as well. Shop new tires in your area for the best defense against hydroplaning!