Along with the spare tire and associated tools, It's a good idea to keep the following items in the trunk of your car:
- Jumper cables. Don't know how to use them? Click here.
- A small first aid kit.
- If your car has locking wheel nuts, keep the key somewhere obvious, like next to the jack.
- A poncho.
- Durning the winter time, a tow strap can come in handy, should you overestimate your driving skills or need to pull someone free.
There is usually room to stash these items under the trunk floor, around the spare tire.
If you plan on a long-distance trip through isolated areas or will be doing extended driving in inclement weather, pack an extra jacket and gloves. It's not a bad idea to toss a phone charger, a couple bottles of water, and some granola bars in the car as well, just in case you get stranded.
How to check your tire pressure
Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% for every 1 PSI drop in pressure of all four tires.*
So, what does 0.3% really mean? If you let your pressure drop by even a few PSI (like what can happen naturally during cold weather), you could be spending quite a bit more at the pump. An extra dollar here and there might not sound like much, but if you drive 12,000 miles a year, that's almost $120 down the drain.
||Cost/100 miles ($3/gallon)
Checking your tire pressure is quick, easy, and can save you money. Incorrectly inflated tires are also a safety hazard, so follow these quick steps to make sure that you're in good shape:
- Locate a tire pressure gauge. If you don't have one, they can be as inexpensive as a few dollars and areavailable at a variety of stores.
- Locate the recommended tire pressures for your car (in PSI, or pounds per square inch). These are in the manual and usually on the driver or passenger door jamb. It will look something like this the photo on the right. Note: the "Max PSI" listed on your tire sidewall is more than likely not the recommended pressure for your car.
- Unscrew the valve stem and press the end of the gauge on the exposed valve.
- Compare the reading to the recommended pressure and adjust as necessary. An easy way to add air is to use an air compressor at a gas station.
- Replace the valve stem.
- Do this monthly, or whenever your car alerts you to a low tire.
- Don't forget to occasionally check your spare tire pressure! It's not going to do much good it it's flat too...
*Information taken from http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/maintain.jsp
Other maintenance items
Here are some simple things to check to keep your car in good shape:
- Top off your wndshield washer fluid. This is especially important during the winter months. Refer to your manual for details, but there is usually a bottle with blue washer fluid under the hood. Be sure to not confuse this with engine coolant!
- Check the oil. Cars today can go several thousand miles between oil changes, so it's a good idea to check the level every so often. Refer to your manual for specifics on your car, but generally speaking, pop the hood and remove the dipstick (typically with a red or orange handle) and make sure the oil level is between the two marks. Do this on a level surface. Add oil as necessary. Again, refer to your manual for more details.
- Check your tire tread depth. Bald tires contribute to all kinds of safety problems, from hyrdoplaning in wet weather to poor winter traction. Use the penny test to make sure you're in good shape. It's easy: stick a penny in your tread, and if you can see the top of Abe's head, it's probably time for new tires. You can also look for the horizontal wear bars that are built in to the tire.
What to do about a flat tire
Many newer cars will alert you if you get a flat tire, or even if you have low tire pressure. Look for a symbol similar to the image on the left. You may also notice your car pulling to one side of the road. If this happens, smoothly pull off to the shoulder or an open area away from traffic.
Tip: check your tire pressure monthly. They'll last longer and save you money at the pump.
If you have a newer car, it may have come with free roadside assistance for a period of time. The phone number will be in your manual or perhaps on a side window. If you do not have that coverage and do not feel comfortable changing your own tire, you can always call a tow service or a friend. Otherwise, follow these steps*:
- Find a flat, stable and safe place to change your tire. You need a solid, level surface that will restrict the car from rolling. If you are near a road, park as far from traffic as possible and turn on your emergency flashers (hazard lights). Avoid soft ground and hills.
- Apply the parking brake and put car into "Park" position. If you have a standard transmission, put your vehicle in first or reverse.
- Place a heavy object (e.g., rock, concrete, spare wheel, etc.) in front of the front and back tires.
- Take out the spare tire and the jack. Place the jack under the frame near the tire that you are going to change. Ensure that the jack is in contact with the metal portion of your car's frame.
- Many cars have molded plastic along the bottom. If you don't place the jack in the right spot, it will crack the plastic when you start lifting. If you're not sure about the right place to put the jack, read your owner's manual.
- For most modern uni-body cars, there is a small notch or mark just behind the front wheel wells, or in front of the rear wheel wells where the jack is intended to be placed.
- For most trucks or older cars that have a frame, look to place the jack on one of the beams of the frame just behind the front tire or in front of the rear tire.
- Raise the jack until it is supporting (but not lifting) the car. The jack should be firmly in place against the underside of the vehicle. Check to make sure that the jack is perpendicular to the ground.
- Remove the hub cap and loosen the nuts by turning counterclockwise. Don't take them all the way off; just break the resistance. By keeping the wheel on the ground when you first loosen the nuts, you'll make that you're turning the nuts instead of the wheel.
- Use the wrench that came with your car or a standard cross wrench. Your wrench may have different sizes of openings on different ends. A correctly-sized wrench will slip easily over the nut, but will not rattle.
- It can take quite a lot of force to break your lug nuts free. If all else fails, you can use your body weight or stomp on the wrench (be absolutely certain you are turning it the correct way - counter clockwise).
- A cross wrench will give you much more torque than a standard single-handled wrench.
- Pump or crank the jack to lift the tire off the ground. You need to lift it high enough to remove the flat tire and replace it with a spare.
- As you lift, make sure that the car is stable. If you notice any instability, lower the jack and fix the problem before fully lifting the car.
- If you notice the jack lifting at an angle or leaning, lower and reposition it so that it can lift straight up.
- Remove the nuts the rest of the way. Turn them counter clockwise until they are loose. Repeat with all lug nuts, then remove the nuts completely.
- Remove the tire. Place the flat tire under the vehicle so in the event of a jack failure the vehicle will fall on the old wheel, hopefully preventing injury. If the jack is placed on a flat, solid base, you shouldn't have any problems.
- The tire might be stuck due to rust. You could try hitting the inside half of the tire with a rubber mallet to loosen the tire, or use the spare tire to hit the outside half.
- Place the spare tire on the hub. Take care to align the rim of the spare tire with the wheel bolts, then put on the lug nuts.
- Tighten the nuts by hand until they are all snug. They should turn easily at first.
- Using the wrench, tighten the nuts as much as possible using a star pattern. To ensure the tire is balanced, don't completely tighten the nuts one at a time. Going in a star pattern around the tire, one nut across from another, give each nut a full turn until they are equally tight.
- Avoid using so much force that you risk upsetting the jack. You will tighten the lug nuts again once the car is down and there is no risk of it falling.
- Lower the car without applying full weight on the tire. Tighten the nuts as much as possible.
- Lower the car to the ground fully and remove the jack. Finish tightening the nuts and replace the hubcap.
- Put the old tire in your trunk and take it to a mechanic. Get an estimate for the cost of repair. Small punctures can usually be repaired for less than $15. If the tire is not repairable, they can dispose of it properly and sell you a replacement.
Temporary spare tires are just that - temporary. Take your damaged tire to a repair shop as soon as possible.
*Information taken from http://www.wikihow.com/Change-a-Tire