Fun Times: The Flat Tire

November 12, 2009

flat

I was having a marvelous day off last Monday. I slept in, got a little holiday shopping done, and was on my way to get my brows waxed when I heard a loud BOOM. It sounded as if something had hit the roof of my car and I was worried it cracked the glass on my sunroof. I pulled over, checked the top of my car and all looked fine. I also checked the rest of the car and everything looked fine so I drove on for a few miles. Nothing sounded or seemed out of the ordinary until I suddenly wasn’t able to accelerate. Shortly afterward, I started slowing down even though I was pressing the gas. I pulled over again, got out, and saw that I had a flat. I’ve only ever had a flat tire once before and also didn’t realize it was flat for quite some time (until a nice lady  flagged me down).

Even though I didn’t have many warning signs of a flat that I immediately recognized, it’s good to know what to look for. I can’t tell you how to change a flat (I know it’s supposed to be easy but I still haven’t learned how) but I can inform you of the basics of tire care:

-I always get my tires rotated on schedule. This helps them to wear evenly and it’s also a great way to know if you need any repair work done (retreading, etc.) or if your tire shop expert notices any potential problems for the future. They will also usually check your pressure (if not, ask them to). I take great care of my tires since they are pretty big investment and sometimes no matter what you do, flats will still happen. If you don’t know how many thousand miles to have them rotated, ask your local shop.

-You should also always check your tire pressure at least once a month. To do this, you can purchase a gauge, which is relatively inexpensive, at your auto parts store or any store that sells basic auto products (Target, Walmart). I prefer to have my own so that I can check the pressure anytime and anywhere. Most gas stations also have air you can fill your tires with and the hoses usually have a gauge that you can use for free. Side note for Californians: It is now illegal for gas stations to charge you for air use. To find out the desired pressure for your tires, there is often a chart on the driver side door of your vehicle, in your owner manual, or you can ask when you purchase your tires or have them rotated. The place I purchase my tires from will also check my levels for free and fill them if needed. Many places will also do this for free or a small fee.

-If you are in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately!  If you need to pull over due to a flat or stall (for any reason), try to do so safely and pull off to a safe spot. Grip your steering wheel firmly and steer carefully, minding traffic conditions around you. Do not slam on your brakes and don’t stop in traffic as it may cause an accident. Turn on your blinker to alert drivers of your lane change. If you remember to turn on your emergency flashers, now would be an ideal time to do so. Carefully exit your car (preferably on the side NOT adjacent to the road) and stand off to the side of the road.

-If you carry emergency flares, place them 300 feet away from your car. If you have a second pair, those should be placed about ten feet from the first set. Flares are especially needed at night or in bad weather to warn other drivers that you are on the side (or middle) of the road. There are now LED flares on the market that can be re-used several times.

-If you are not able to accelerate, it’s a good idea to pull over and inspect your tires. This, for me, has always been a sign that I had a flat.

-Some people hear a flapping sound or a boom when they have a flat. It’s always good to pull off and investigate.

-If you have a cell phone, always make certain it is charged or that you have a car charger in case of emergency. It is also a good idea to have emergency numbers on hand to refer to: road side assistance or a tow company, your highway patrol, and someone you can count on for a temporary loan if you don’t have charge or cash on hand (or someone who will be nice enough to drive you to a bank or ATM).

-I believe that it is best to over prepared then not prepared at all. I keep an emergency kit in my car that consists of: a blanket, plastic rain gear (pants and jacket), a change of warm clothes, socks, old shoes, two jackets, a gallon of water, flares, bungee cords, jumper cables, a travel-friendly tool kit, a large towel, paper towels, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, first aid kit, and a personal toiletry bag (new disposable razor, sample packs of cleanser, moisturizer, spf, eye cream, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, a small brush, extra hair pins, and a tooth-brush and tooth paste. Plus, I always carry two flash lights and I check the batteries every six months.

It’s always good to expect the best and also be ready for the worst.

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