Feeling a little flat?
Summer is normally a time when many families climb in a vehicle and hit the road for a vacation.
Before venturing out for a big adventure, one of the things you should check out on your car is the tires.
Flat tires are no fun, whether on a long excursion or a trip to the nearest town, but they happen so there are some things to know before you go.
“There are many causes for flat tires,” Jerry Bromeland, who owns Jerry’s Tire and Service in Elmore, says. “Punctures from nails, glass and other debris are the most common things I find when fixing a flat tire.”
And seldom do flat tires happen when you are pulling into a tire shop, so it is handy for a person to know how to change their own tire.
I, unfortunately, have had way too many experiences changing flat tires on vehicles I have owned.
One of my first flat tires was while I was visiting my girlfriend at her family’s place. Some other friends of her family arrived after I had gotten there and came into the house and informed me I had a flat tire on my car.
My girlfriend’s father was, and still is, a shadetree mechanic. He still does most of the work on his own vehicles.
So I went outside to change the tire on my car thinking I would probably get some help.
What I got instead was an audience at the picture window of the house watching me while I jacked the car up, took off the flat tire and put on the spare.
I think it was a test by my girlfriend’s father to see if the guy his daughter was dating could actually change a tire.
I must have passed because he is now my father-in-law.
It is important to know what you are doing when changing a flat tire. Two of the things you have to know is the location of the spare tire and the car jack.
And, they can hide those items better than you might expect. Yes, some spare tires can still be found in trunks. Many are located beneath the vehicle, either towards the rear of the vehicle or, in the case of my van, under the center of the vehicle.
The jacks are another matter. They may be located in the trunk with the spare tire or hidden away in a side panel inside the vehicle. I have even seen jacks stored in the engine compartment.
It is a good idea to be familiar with the owner’s manual for your automobile. It will explain how to locate your spare tire, the location of the car jack and where to place the jack under the vehicle to safely raise it in order to change the tire.
Taking care of your tires can help prevent some unwanted circumstances.
“You should check your tires once a month,” Blue Earth Tire owner Kevin Krieger says. “Newer vehicles will have a sticker on the driver’s side door frame which will have tire and load information including the proper inflation pressure.”
If your set of wheels does not have this sticker, Krieger says to check the sidewall of the tire for the information.
“The sidewall will tell you what the maximum pressure for the tire is,” Krieger explains. “A person would not normally inflate the tire to its maximum pressure, but it does serve as a guide.”
Flat tires do not care about the weather either. They can happen during a thunderstorm or a blizzard. They can also occur late in the day or on a weekend when most all of the tire repair stores are closed.
I have experience with these circumstances also.
I had a van full of people including my wife, youngest son, my sister-in- law and two nephews.
We were traveling home on a Sunday evening after spending time at a family gathering of another sister- in-law who lives near Thief River Falls.
We had just passed Detroit Lakes when a tire on my van went flat.
Did I mention it was winter and the wind was howling, producing windchill readings in the negative numbers?
We were parked at the end of a short driveway out in the country. I changed the tire, putting on the spare donut while my wife and her sister held blankets around me to try and block the wind.
The man who lived in nearby house said the Wal-Mart back in Detroit Lakes was still open and called their car care center to let them know we were coming.
We thought we had caught a lucky break until we found out our flat tire was unrepairable and they were out of stock of any tires to fit my rim.
It was a long ride home on a spare donut tire that had a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour.
Krieger points out many newer vehicles are now equipped with technology which monitors your vehicle’s tire pressure.
“The mistake people will make is seeing the warning light come on and then waiting to check their tires 30 miles later at the next rest stop,” Krieger says. “The monitoring system tells you the pressure is low but does not tell you how fast the tire is losing pressure. Driving on a flat tire can ruin the tire so you should check your tires immediately after seeing the warning light.”
And punctures are not the only reason tires can lose pressure.
“Corrosion can build up on rims,” Bromeland explains. “Some of the corrosion is caused by chemicals reacting with aluminum rims. This generally causes a slow leak which means it may take a week or more to see that a tire is low on inflation.”
So, what are some steps a person should take to make sure their tires are ready to go before they head out on a road trip?
Dave Hurn, store manager at Bauer Built Tire and Service in Blue Earth, offers these tips.
“When you are busy checking the fluids in your vehicle, do not forget about your tires,” Hurn says. “Check them to make sure they are properly inflated and the tread is good and they are wearing properly. It is also a good idea to get down on your knees and inspect the condition of your tires. Check for cuts, cracks or splits in the tread or the sidewall area.”
When everything is checked out and ready to go, it is time to fill up your tank, put on your sunglasses, put on some good music, buckle up and get ready to hit the road for a memorable adventure. Memorable because of the fun you had, and not from having to fix a flat tire.