How to fix a flat tire faster than HERO can reach you

Chances are you'll have to deal with a flat tire at least once or twice in your life. And in Atlanta...

Chances are you'll have to deal with a flat tire at least once or twice in your life. And in Atlanta traffic, knowing how to fix a flat can keep you from suffering on the roadside longer than necessary. Just about anyone can learn to change a flat tire in 15 minutes or less, quicker than waiting for HERO or other roadside assistance services.

What to do right away

Particularly if you get a flat during rush hour traffic, you need to think of your safety first. As soon as you suspect a leaking tire or feel your tire blow or go flat, turn on your hazard lights and make your way safely to the shoulder. If possible, avoid soft shoulders and steep inclines as either would make it difficult to change your tire.

Put your car in park and put on your emergency brake to keep your car from rolling. Put your hood up and, if you have them, place warning reflectors or flares behind your car to show your vehicle is out of commission. Place rocks, logs or bricks behind your other tires if possible.

How to change your tire

Change your tire only once you and your vehicle are in a safe place. Call and let someone know where you are in case of any further difficulties. Get your jack, spare tire, tools and a flashlight out of your trunk.

Loosen your lug nuts (turn them counterclockwise) but don't remove them. If you have one lug nut that's different from the rest, that means you have locking lug nuts and will need to use your key to unlock it. Once all your lug nuts are loose, place your jack under the car's frame near the wheel well. Your car's frame may have a mark or indentation to indicate correct jack placement. Jack up your car a bit higher than you'll need to remove the flat. You'll need additional clearance for the full spare tire.

Remove the lug nuts and the tire and place the flat tire in your trunk. Put your spare tire on with the air pressure valve facing out. Put your lug nuts back on and tighten them clockwise. Start with a lug nut on one side and cross over to the other side to tighten the next nut to keep your wheel even.

What to do after you put on the spare

Lower and remove the jack. Then return it and your tools to the trunk. Remove the rocks from your other tires and pick up any reflectors or flare debris.

Next, drive to a tire shop to get your flat repaired or buy a new tire. Don't drive for too long on your spare. Spare tires are not rated for long distances. Tire shops can fix a flat fairly inexpensively while you wait.

Regularly inspect tire tread and tire pressure to reduce the risk of flat tires. For more information on fixing and maintaining tires, contact an Atlanta automotive professional.

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