Nothing can delay road trips more suddenly than flat tires. Unfortunately, because tires are the only part of the vehicle constantly in contact with the road, wear and tear is to be expected.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that flat tires and blowouts are a leading cause of highway traffic accidents. Even though flats cannot be prevented, there are ways to make tires less vulnerable and make vehicles safer along the way.
Flat tire avoidance
Routine inspection and tire maintenance is essential to their performance. In addition, paying attention to road hazards and avoiding them when possible can prolong the life of tires.
Tire pressure: Tires should be maintained at the correct air pressure indicated on the sidewall or as advised by the manufacturer. Tires with too much air can be damaged by bumpy roads and potholes. Tires that are not inflated enough may increase friction on the roadway, resulting in a blowout. Check tire pressure routinely, and do so when the tires have rested for three hours. Many vehicles now monitor tire pressure automatically and alert drivers through a signal on the dashboard.
Tire wear: The advisors at Select Auto Imports say that inspecting tires for uneven wear should be a routine part of maintenance. If tires show uneven wear, they may be more susceptible to flats or blowouts. Tire rotations can help alleviate uneven wear. The NHTSA recommends tires be rotated every 5,000 miles.
Tire treads: The Allstate Insurance company says to look for worn tire treads. Check for wear bar indicator marks located between the tread pattern of the tires. If the wear bar is level with the treads, it's time for new tires. Otherwise, place a quarter between the grooves of the tire. If the tread doesn't extend beyond the top of Washington's head, it's a good idea to replace the tires.
Construction sites: Drivers should try to avoid areas under construction. Rocks, nails, metal shards, glass, and divots in the roads can cause punctures and eventually flats.
Flat tire repair
When flats occur, having the right tools and understanding the procedure for fixing the flat is key.
Drivers will need an inflated spare tire, a jack, a lug wrench, bracing material (to keep the vehicle from rolling, such as a brick or piece of wood), and the vehicle's owner's manual. Goodyear says it is essential to fix the flat in a safe area away from traffic and on a flat surface.
• Use the owner's manual to find the correct position to place the jack to lift the car.
• Remove hubcaps or center covers to access the lug nuts. With the lug wrench, loosen lug nuts in a counterclockwise direction.
• Take off the tire and put on the spare. Replace and tighten the lug nuts. Replace hubcaps or covers.
• Slowly lower the vehicle and drive cautiously to ensure the spare is in working order.
• Purchase a new tire or have a hole plugged or repaired at a tire center.