If you spend a considerable amount of time in the car, flat tires are about as guaranteed as having to pay taxes. Damaged tires are much more common in areas with heavy construction and during periods of warmer weather. It’s important to know what to do and make sure you’re prepared before this inevitable and often times annoying event occurs. We recommend doing a maintenance check periodically to make sure that your car is equipped with the proper tools and a working spare before it’s too late! If you’re feeling adventurous and want to repair your own damaged tire, here are the 12 steps to repairing a flat tire that you can do at home.
Check the damaged tire for punctures and find the leak.
Finding the cause of the leak and locating where the tire is losing air is a very important step. Start by very gently running your hand over the outside of the tire to locate the foreign object but be very careful not to cut yourself. A better way of detecting the leak is to mix soap and water and pour it over the tire. Once covered, check the tire for bubbles and that will indicate exactly where the tire is leaking.
Note: if the sidewall of the tire is leaking, the damaged tire will need to be replaced.
Procure the necessary tools for fixing the damaged tire.
You will need the following:
- Car jack
- Lug wrench (tire iron)
- Tire plug kit
Loosen the lug nuts on the damaged tire.
The next step in this process is to loosen the lug nuts on the damaged tire. It’s critical to do this before you lift the vehicle up using a jack or hydraulic lift. Do not remove them completely but loosen them about a quarter turn. This will make taking them off much easier once the vehicle is properly lifted.
Lift the vehicle up using a jack or hydraulic lift.
It is necessary to lift the car up using a jack or hydraulic lift so that the damaged tire can be removed. This is an important part of the process and attention to detail at this phase is critical for your safety. Make sure the car is on a flat, even surface. Place bricks behind and in front of other wheels to prevent the car from rolling. Lastly, make sure to consult your vehicle manual to find the proper points of the vehicle to lift up on the jack. Once the car is fully lifted, remove the remaining lug nuts and take the damaged tire off of the car.
Remove the protruding object from the damaged tire with pliers.
Once you have located the source of the leak with the soap and water method (mentioned above), use pliers to remove the foreign object. It’s important to mark where the leak is occurring with chalk so that you know where to plug with the tire plug kit.
Clean the damaged area with the rasp tool.
Use the rasp tool included in the tire plug kit to clean the damaged area. This can be done by inserting the tool in and out of the hole quickly. The purpose of this process is to roughen the affected area so the plug will stay in place.
Thread the plug through the insertion tool.
Before you can actually plug the damaged tire, you will need to thread the plug material through the insertion tool that is included in the tire plug kit. This can be a tricky process, be sure to consult the instructions on the kit to make sure it is done precisely as indicated.
Force the plug into the hole of the damaged tire.
Use the insertion tool to force the plug into the hole of the damaged tire. This takes a considerable amount of force and strength. There should be roughly ½ inch of plug sticking out of each side of the hole once it is properly plugged. If your kit includes liquid adhesive, add some to the plug ahead of time which will act as a lubricant and promote a leak proof seal.
Cut away excess plug material from the newly repaired tire.
Use a knife, scissors or box cutter to cut away the excess plug material. This will ensure a smooth ride once the process is completed. It is also a good idea to add some extra adhesive to the outside of the repaired area as a final precaution.
Add air to the newly repaired tire.
Once you’ve given the adhesive or sealant time to dry, it’s time to add air to the newly repaired tire. We recommend using an air compressor and be sure to check that the tire is at the factory recommended psi using a tire gauge. Recommended air pressure can usually be located on a label on the door jam of the driver door.
Check the newly repaired tire for any additional leaks.
Repeat step number two and use the trusty soap solution to ensure that the tire is properly sealed and is not still leaking.
Reattach the repaired tire using the lug wrench.
Work the initial steps backwards to reattach the tire. Slide the wheel back onto the wheelbase and reattach the lug nuts while the vehicle is still lifted but do not tighten all the way. Once the wheel is reattached, lower the vehicle slowly and remove the jack. After the vehicle is lowered and weight is restored on the wheel, use the lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts.
While tire leaks tend to occur slowly over time, blow outs are another matter entirely. In the event of a tire blowout, do not immediately slam on the brakes. It’s important to drive through the blowout and slowly decrease speed. Put your hazard lights on immediately and continue to slowly and safely navigate to an area where you can safely address the damaged tire. A spare tire would need to be installed at this point or you would need to call for a tow.
Top Driver covers this type of information in all of our new driver courses. We understand the importance of arming the next generation of drivers with all of the necessary information to stay safe and make smart decisions on the road. Learn more about our Illinois, Michigan and Ohio teen driver programs today!