Having a flat tire is inevitable even how careful a driver you are, especially given the country's far-less-than-smooth roads. Most drivers will have experienced a flat tire at least once or more in their motoring life. For some, it might seem like an easy task, but for some, it is a terrifying experience. In reality, it is really simple and you can actually replace your tire in less than fifteen minutes... faster than a tow truck arrives in Metro Manila traffic.
Unfortunately, not all drivers know how to replace a flat tire. It's not a matter of the sexes, as it is just as sad that some men do not even know how to replace a flat tire. But just as well, every self-respecting man should know how to replace a flat tire. You will thank yourself for knowing how when the rare case of meeting a beautiful lady on the road with a flat tire arises. While the chances are one in a million, it is still easier than winning the lottery.
How to detect a flat?
But some drivers don’t even know how to detect a flat. It would be good to know that some modern cars do have tire pressure monitoring systems installed to warn you of a possible flat. But for those who don’t, you’ll have to go back to the simple, cheaper seat-of-the-pants feel.
The most obvious indication of a flat is an explosion which identifies a tire blowout. But for punctures which we don’t hear, you’ll feel a slight wobble and sudden unevenness in the steering. If this happens, best to pull to a safe part of the road or a service station to check if something’s wrong.
The first thing to do
First things first, do not panic. Your car is not going to explode; it is just a flat tire. Assuming you are running at safe and legal driving speed, you should be able to slow down your vehicle and move it to a safe position by the shoulder to avoid an accident. Let go of the accelerator/gas pedal and slowly apply the brakes to slow down your vehicle. Never slam on the brakes for safety reasons: you'll just lose control.
On the highway, you can move your car to the shoulder (Yes, the shoulder is really for emergency use. Trying to overtake on a shoulder is not a real emergency). On a city road, where there is no shoulder, the normal practice is to move your car to the outermost lane or rightmost part of the road. If there are emergency bays (like on EDSA), you may move your car there. Remember to use your turn signals and not your hazard warning signal before you pull to the side (drivers behind you do not read minds; better let them know what you’re planning to do). Only use your hazards when your vehicle is safely stopped. After you’ve to a complete stop, apply the parking brakes, and put your transmission into ‘Park’ if automatic or in gear to further prevent it from moving unnecessarily and turn off the ignition.
Make sure to use common sense before stopping on the side of the road. You are still in the Philippines where safety and security are optional. If you have a flat in an obscure place, make sure it is absolutely safe to stop otherwise just drive on until you reach a service station. It would also be wise to call a loved one or a friend that you had a flat tire and where are you just to let them know.
Proper use of Early Warning Device (EWD)
Deploy your early warning device (EWD). While required by law, nobody ever taught us how to use the EWD; not the driving instructor, and not even the LTO driver’s license exam had any part that included how to use the device. If you have two triangles in the box; a yellow one and a red one. Never place the two EWD triangles side by side. First, place the red triangle 3 meters or 10 feet away from your vehicle and place the yellow triangle another 6 meters or 20 feet further. The purpose of this is that yellow will attract the attention of oncoming traffic of an impending hazard and slow them down. If they missed the first warning the red would obviously signal them to stop because a hazard is already very near. If there is only one triangle, a red one; place it 6 meters or 20 feet away. These distances are for city driving speeds. On the highway, you may need to place your EWD as far as 100 feet away because cars will be running at a much faster speed.
How to fix your flat?
While most cars come with spare tires, some are equipped with other remedies as they are not equipped with spares for space-saving or lightening purposes. These cars come equipped with either Run Flat Tires, tire sealants in pressurized cans, or a special tire sealing solution and a portable air compressor. In the case of the former, you can drive your car safely to a service station or if your destination is close enough, proceed there and call for professional help. For tire sealants, these will allow you to drive for several hundred kilometers before having your tire puncture repaired.
Prepare necessary tools
To replace a flat tire on a normal car, you will need a jack, tire wrench, and obviously a spare tire in good operable condition with the proper level of inflation. For some pickups, MPVs, and SUVs, the spare tire might be located outside the car and require a special tool to lower the tire. All the tools mentioned should come with a brand new vehicle. If you bought your car used, best to check if these are complete and replace as necessary. The last thing you want in a flat tire situation is not having the right tools.
How to replace a flat tire
- While not yet jacked up, just loosen the lug nuts of the wheel with the damaged tire using the tire wrench, because the load of the car will give you leverage in loosening the nuts while the car is on the ground. However, once loosened, do not remove the wheel nuts.
- Place the jack in proper jacking point of the vehicle (usually indicated on the jack in newer cars, when in doubt consult your vehicle owner’s manual) and slowly raise the car.
- It would be safe to put your spare underneath the car in case the jack fails, so as not to further damage the vehicle or get yourself hurt.
- Completely loosen and remove wheel nuts, and remove the wheel with the flat tire.
- Place the spare tire and slowly screw on the wheel nuts by hand for two to three turns. (This will avoid damaging the thread of wheel studs in extreme cases.)
- Carefully tighten wheel nuts in a ‘cross’ pattern to make sure the wheel hub is evenly flushed in your car. (You wouldn’t want your wheel to go ahead of your car, would you?).
- Lower the car back on the ground by turning the jack in the opposite direction and remove the jack once the vehicle is back on the ground.
- Tighten the wheel nuts once again as tight as you can to make sure your newly replaced wheel is safely secured.
- Put your tools back to where you got them.
- Don’t forget to bring your damaged tire to a service shop so it’s ready for next time. Most shops can fix a flat tire while you wait for a relatively inexpensive price.
Emergency Roadside Assistance Services
For cars that are not equipped with spare tires and suffer blowouts or punctured sidewalls, you will have to call a tow truck. There are several 24-hour per use service providers like Auto Transporter or membership-based providers like the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) you can call for help. The response times for these services vary depending on traffic and where you are, but it is always good to know that you can rely on someone aside from the government.