My move to graduate school started off like a hallmark movie. Nebraska was just in my rearview mirror, a perfect metaphor for me closing one chapter to open another (cue Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” here).

And then, BAM…

I had blown a tire a mere 3 miles out of town. Needless to say, this mishap ruined my poetic moment; however, it also left me savvy about how to handle such an emergency. Here are some tips for you as you go off to college to prevent, prepare for and ‘patch up’ a flat tire.
College Student Changing a Car Tire
Proactive Prevention. Except for an unexpected puncture, many flats can be prevented through routine tire care. To actively avoid preventable flats, be sure to do the following:

  • Check your air pressure with a tire gauge. To find out what your pressure should be, check in your car owner’s manual (usually located in the glove box).
  • Keep an eye on your tire treads or the grooves in your tire with the penny test.
  • Rotate your tires when you change your oil.
  • Don’t overload your vehicle.

When ‘POP goes the…tire?” If you are driving at higher speeds when you pop a tire, keep calm and keep in mind these do’s and don’ts. Watch here for a great overview.

DON’T push the break

DON’T jerk the steering wheel before the car has slowed.

DO put on your emergency flashers/ hazard lights and keep the car going straight in your lane.

DO pull over once the car has slowed naturally to around 30 miles per hour.

Step by step Tutorial

  1. Safely put your car in park on level ground, engage the emergency break.
  2. Take off your hub-cap and use your wrench to partially loosen the lug nuts in a star-pattern.
  3. BEFORE you jack up your car, place a rock, brick, or piece of plywood in front of the wheel diagonally opposite the flat tire to prevent the car from slipping.
  4. Check your owner’s manual for the safest place to put your jack. Insert the handle and turn it clock-wise to raise the car.
  5. Remove the lug nuts completely and remove the tire.
  6. Put your spare tire on correctly by making sure the air valve is facing out.
  7. Replace your lug nuts in the same order that you loosened them, first partially and then completely.
  8. Lower the car by turning the jack handle counter clock-wise until the tire just hits the ground.
  9. Grab your tools, brick, rock, or plywood and get back on the road!

Here are some great videos to watch for an example of the steps above:

Check out other blogs in this series:

College Skills: What’s up with your paycheck?

College Skills: How to Create Your First Budget

College Skills: How to Buy a Car

College Skills: How to Grocery Shop