5 Car Maintenance Tasks You Should NEVER Forget

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car mechanic doing repairs on a car that wasn't maintainedWe know that taking your car to the mechanic is not the most exciting part of your day.  It’s not like meeting with friends or going to a great movie, but regular car maintenance is a VERY important part of keeping your car running smoothly.  If you want to keep your car going, don’t forget to schedule (and keep) regular appointments for these important car maintenance tasks.

Oil changes

There’s a reason that oil changes are first on the list, and should be a high priority when your car is getting close to the mileage your mechanic tells you (it can vary).  An engine without regular oil changes is prone to part breakdowns due to inadequate lubrication.  If you don’t want to end up with a long list of engine repairs, follow your mechanic’s instructions and make regular appointments for oil changes.

Rotating tires

Tire rotation doesn’t seem like a big deal, but regular rotation is important for the life of your tires and car suspension.  Rotating your tires (or having your mechanic rotate your tires) ensures that your tires wear evenly, can prevent surprise flats, and extend the life of your tires. A regular inspection of your tires also gives you (or your mechanic) the opportunity to find small holes on your tire that can be fixed before they become more of a problem.

Replacing the air filter

We won’t go into great detail about how disgusting your air filter can get if not replaced, but we will tell you that part of your regular car maintenance should include replacing or cleaning that gross air filter. If you don’t, a dirty air filter can deprive your engine of air, causing performance issues and damage over the life of your car.  To know when it’s time to replace your air filter, ask your mechanic to check it at your next scheduled oil change.

Replacing spark plugs

Your spark plugs should be changed every 30,000-100,000 miles, depending on the kind of spark plugs in your car or truck.  Spark plugs ignite the fuel-air mixture in your cylinder, creating the combustion that starts and keeps your car engine in motion.  If you wait too long to replace the spark plugs, other parts of your car may need to be replaced as well.

Checking the battery

Over time, the performance of your car battery declines, leaving you stranded.  That’s why a regular inspection of your battery and connections is so important.  Batteries usually give out around the 3-5 year mark.  Ask your mechanic to check your battery periodically so you can replace it before your car starts rough—or doesn’t start it all.

7 Last Minute Car Preps Before Your Thanksgiving Trip  

cars on highway headed out for ThanksgivingThe list of preparing for holiday travel can get very long: packing, making any dishes you volunteered to bring, laundry…the list can go on and on.  The most overlooked items on your list are the preparations that get you your holiday travel destination: getting your car ready for the trip.  Before you head out on the road with the thousands of other Wisconsinites, make sure you’ve checked off all the items on the checklist that gets your car travel-ready (or made a last minute appointment with your mechanic before you hit the road).

Check (and listen to) your brakes

Your brakes are important for your safety whether you are traveling down the street or across the country.  Before you head out for Thanksgiving, have a mechanic check your brakes or pay special attention for these signs of failing brakes before your trip.

Check your tire pressure

Nothing can ruin your Thanksgiving travel like a flat tire from low tire pressure.  Use a tire pressure gauge to check your tire pressure, or have your mechanic check to make sure you have correct tire pressure when you get an oil change.

Check your tire tread

Have a mechanic check the tread wear indicators, or check them yourself with this simple test: when you put a penny in the tread of your tires, you shouldn’t be able to see all of Lincoln’s head. If you can, it’s time for new tires that can get you to your Thanksgiving destination and back home.

Check your battery (and battery connections)

Cold temperatures are hard on batteries (especially sub-freezing temps, depending on where you’re headed for Thanksgivng). Colder temperatures turn your car fluids to the consistency of molasses; this means your battery has to work extra hard to start your engine.  To make sure your battery starts every time on your trip, inspect your battery connections, clean off any corrosion or rust, and watch for any signs your battery needs to be replaced. 

Make sure you have headlights, brake lights & blinkers

Depending on how soon you need to get there—and how much you like your friends or family and the length of your visit—you’re probably going to need headlights and taillights.  You always need brake lights and blinkers.  Check every light on your vehicle before you hit the road, and make an emergency trip to the auto parts store or to your mechanic if any of your lights isn’t, well, lighting.

Replace your windshield wipers and washer

Windshield wipers are one of the cheapest and most valuable parts of your car—especially when it’s raining or snowing.  Fill up your windshield washer, check your windshield wipers, and replace any parts that aren’t doing their job.

Check your oil

Oil is vital to the health of your engine on your Thanksgiving road trip, and for every trip you intend to make in your car for the near future.  Check you oil level, and get it changed if you haven’t done so recently.  The good news is you still have time to make an appointment before you head out on your Thanksgiving road trip.

6 Checks that Get Your Truck Ready for Hunting

woods where hunters head into after readying truck for huntingSocial media, outdoor stores, garages…they’re all full of hunters getting ready to go.  If you’re one of them, you’re probably biting at the bit to get out in the woods and are getting all your hunting gear ready.  Don’t forget to prep one of the most important parts of your hunting supplies: your truck.  This year’s hunt is sure to have more than a few hiccups if you can’t get out into the woods if you’re dealing with a random breakdown.  Here are six key areas of your hunting truck to inspect, and prep, before you head out on opening day.

Battery

If you’re itching to get out to your stand, you don’t want to be delayed by an old battery.  When the temps drop, truck batteries tend to flare up—or not flare up when your truck needs peak power to start up because your truck fluids turn to the same consistency as molasses.  If your truck battery is showing signs that its next start might be the last (i.e. slow start-ups, rough starting, sudden dead batteries, numerous recharges, or just an old battery), check your battery connections or contact a mechanic to check your truck battery and install a new one (so you can get all the rest of your hunting gear ready).

Truck bed

Prep your truck bed for all the heavy lifting that comes with the hunt; every hunter uses a different method: a tarp, good pressure wash, bed liner.  Whatever you do, make sure your truck bed is clean and ready for your deer hunt.

Lights

You can’t count on a full moon during hunting season; it’s best to have alternate lighting for when you need it to get out of the woods or when you’re dragging your trophy back to the truck.  Check your headlights and any auxiliary lights you have rigged up for the occasion so you have lights when you need it.

Brakes

Your time in the stand is going to be limited if you’re dealing with the fallout from an accident because of failing brakes.  If your brake pedal is soft, brakes make squealing sounds, truck is shaking or showing any other signs of failing brakes, replace your brakes before you head out on opening day.  If you don’t have time, schedule an appointment with your mechanic before you head out.

Fluids

Check your oil, windshield washer, and transmission fluid so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises.  Make sure your oil level is optimal, and you’re not in need of a oil change before you head out (if so, set up an appointment ASAP so you can just go).  Fill up your windshield washer just in case the weather gets nasty. Check you transmission fluid to make sure it’s a clean red color and there are no metal shards in the fluid.  If it is, get your transmission checked before you head out (and can’t get home, though maybe that’s a good thing).

Tires

A flat tire can put a real damper on any hunting trip, especially when you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere.  Check your tire pressure to make sure you’re not going to be stuck with a flat and to make sure you’re getting optimal gas mileage (so you’re not stopping every 10 miles for gas).  As long as you’re at it, check for adequate tire tread so the only thing you’re worried about this hunting season is how you’re going to get that huge buck out of the woods.

Winterizing Your Car Checklist

winter road that car needs to be winterized forEven if it doesn’t feel right now like one of our freezing Wisconsin winter days, there’s no time like the present to prep your car for all the ice and snow that’s sure to come.  Winterizing your car may seem like another item to add to an already busy to-do list, but you’ll find it pays off when you’re faced with another day of winter driving.

Give your battery a good look.

Winter is hard on car batteries because the fluids in your auto turn to the consistency of molasses; your car needs more power to start up and an old or corroded battery just won’t cut it.  To make sure you aren’t stranded this winter, ask your mechanic to check the battery posts for corrosion and connections for wear and tear.  If your battery is older than 3-5 years or shows these signs of a weak battery, ask about the cost of replacement.

Check your tires

Your tires are your first line of defense when winter driving, so having them checked now can make sure you have traction when you need it and minimize your risk for a flat tire. Ask your mechanic to make sure your tires are at peak air pressure, and there is enough tire tread for maximum traction during wintry, slippery road conditions.

If you are worried about the traction of your tires (some car tires can be slippery even during summer), ask your mechanic if you need snow tires.  For Wisconsinites who don’t have to drive in the snow, or head south for the winter, snow tires are not a necessity. But if you need to drive to get to work or school, or you want the freedom to venture out into the snow whenever you want, snow tires are built specifically for maximum traction during the worst winter driving conditions.

Swap out your windshield wipers.

Be proactive so you’re not blinded in an already blinding winter storm. Install new windshield wipers before the first flakes fall, or ask your mechanic to add new windshield wipers at your next oil change. To make sure your view is clear, make sure your windshield wiper fluid is at the full level.  Locate the windshield washer reservoir under your head, and fill it up as needed.

Check your antifreeze

 If you’ve been adding water all summer to your radiator, now is the time to make sure you have the correct 50-50 antifreeze mixture that won’t freeze when the temperatures drop.  It’s for a good reason; a radiator full of water can crack when the water freezes.

Check your oil fill level

To make sure you’re not stranded when it’s freezing cold, check your oil level so your engine stays running when you need it the most.  Turn off your engine and grab a paper towel. Open the hood of your car and locate your dipstick. Pull your dipstick out and wipe off the end. Put the dipstick back in and pull it out. Your dipstick has little lines on it; make sure your oil level is between the two lines (and not above the max line). If your oil level is low, add oil. Make sure you added enough by checking the oil again when you are done. If you find your oil level is consistently low, talk to your mechanic at your next appointment. A low oil level can indicate an oil leak or another issue that you need resolved before winter.

Transmission fluid

Transmission fluid breaks down over time and needs to be periodically checked and evaluated (not as often as oil, but regularly). There is a process for checking transmission fluid; you can find directions here. If you don’t feel comfortable checking it, ask your mechanic to check your transmission fluid at your next oil change appointment. Transmission fluid should be red, but gets darker in color as it breaks down. Use car manufacturer guidelines and if your car is having issues shifting to determine if your transmission fluid needs to be flushed.

Make sure your four wheel drive is four, not three, wheel drive.

Four wheel drive is not typically used during summer, and you don’t want to find out that it doesn’t work when you need it during winter driving.  Ask your mechanic to inspect your four wheel drive and make sure you can use it when the snow gets deep.

Pack a winter safety kit

Even with all the steps you’re taking to winterize your car, accidents happen. To make sure you’re prepared for the worst winter emergencies, pack a winter safety kit with essentials such as:

  • Roadside assistance card or tow truck phone number
  • Flashlight
  • Blanket
  • Jack and lug wrench
  • Jumper cables
  • Boots
  • Shovel
  • First aid kit

Pack your supplies in a waterproof container and keep it in an area of your car that can be easily accessed at any time.  Most importantly, pack it now before your stranded in the snow because you didn’t winterize your car.

4 Things to Look for in Your Next Set of Car Tires

car tires on gray backgroundBuying new tires for your car is not as exciting as purchasing a new car or installing a pool in your backyard.  It is, however, one of the necessities of being a car owner—that is, if you want to get to your destination safely both during our hot Wisconsin summers and freezing winter blizzards.  Tires are what get you there.

So how do you choose that new set of wheels that checks off all your criteria and fits your budget? Here’s four factors to consider and use to buy your next set of tires for your car.

How your present set of tires did

The easiest way to start tire shopping is to look at what you have on your car and think about how satisfied you are with their performance.  Think about what you like or don’t like about the tire such as the ride, handling in the rain and snow, noise when driving, etc.

If you can’t think of anything your tires could do better, simplify your next tire buying decision.  Buy the same set of tires that are on your present car.  If you’re not happy with your present set, contact the pros to help you choose a tire that you’ll want to buy again.

What you want in your new set of tires

To narrow down your options for your next car tire, think about what you need them for.  If you need cars for your muscle car, look for tires with a higher speed rating. For a commuter car, look for tires that can provide a nice, quiet ride and maintains tread depth longer. Do your research, and be honest with yourself—and the experts you consult—about your driving style. If you have to venture out in the worst winter conditions, select a tire with a proven record on winter roads (or ask for recommendations for tires that handle well in snow).

Size

Tire sizes are found on your present set of tires, in your owner’s manual, or on the inside of the driver-side door. Look for a series of letters and numbers, such as P255/55R17.

Now for the common question, “what do the letters and numbers on my tire mean?” The first letter indicates what the tire is built for.  In our example, the P means that the tire is intended for passenger cars. You may also commonly see the letters LT, which is for a light truck. The first numbers (255) are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The second number (55) is the aspect ratio.  The number is a percentage, and the higher the percentage, the larger the sidewall of the tire. The last number (17) is the diameter of wheel that the tire fits on.

All season or snow

All-season tires, the most common tires on our cars, are designed for rain, heat, cold and snow. They give you a good all-around tire for those conditions, but the “take” is that they are not specially equipped for winter. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through winter precipitation, snow tires can dig down and find traction on even the roughest roads. If you HAVE to venture out on winter roads because of work or school, snow tires get you there.

Once you’ve gone through these simple questions, ask your friends what has worked for them and read through online reviews for outside opinions. Remember to screen the reviews and look for others who drive in similar conditions. You’re not going to have the same experience as a driver in Florida—driving conditions and weather is different in Wisconsin. Also take into account their driving style. Some drivers are harder on tires than others, and their tires reflect that difference in wear.

Budget

You can set a budget for buying tires before your purchase or once you see the general cost of tires for your car.  Once you have an idea on how much you’re willing to pay for your next set of tires, discuss your options with the person who works on your car the most: your mechanic.  With their recommendations and your list of criteria, you can purchase a set of tires that isn’t as exciting as a new snowmobile, but it’ll be just as much fun to drive.

Do I need new tires for winter?

winter road that car needs new tires forThe Farmer’s Almanac predicted a cold and snowy winter. Whether you believe the prediction or not, it pays to start preparing now for all that comes with winter: icy sidewalks, cold winds, winter driving.  Just as you prepare your home for winter, fall is the ideal time to get your car ready too—especially your tires.

Tires are your primary defense during winter driving. Your tire’s tread and compound can make the difference between a winter accident and safe drive home. So how do you know when you need new tires for winter?  How can you tell when it’s time to put on new snow or all-season tires? (Find out the difference in our recent blog post.)

Tire Hardness

Though we often think of tires in need of replacement, the sign is not always so obvious.  Even with minimal mileage, tires can harden over time, reducing your traction. If you want to find out if your tires are hard, ask your mechanic at your next oil change to check your tires.

Leaks

Tires with a chronic leak are not always a lost cause. Sometimes tires with punctures can be fixed by a mechanic, but other times the problem can stem from a tire that is not sealing properly or other issue.  If you feel like you’re always adding air to your tire or you have a constant flat, schedule an appointment to get your tires inspected and fixed so you’re not stranded with a flat in subzero weather.

No (or very little) tire tread

Use the old coin trick to check the tread of each tire. Place a penny in the tread of your tire because tires can wear differently, leaving some tires with uneven tread depth (which is why a regular tire rotation is important). If you can completely see Abraham Lincoln’s head, you need new tires.

Cracking & blistering

If you have cracks or blisters on the sidewall of your tire, you need to get your tires checked as soon as possible. Excessive cracking or blisters are tire injuries that can lead to a blow out, leaving you stranded by the side of the road in a winter storm.

Tread wear indicator bars

When you first buy new tires, you can’t see tread wear indicator bars. As the tread of your tire starts to wear, inevitably you start to notice bars in the bottom of the groove around your tire. As the name implies, tread wear indicator bars are a clear sign you need to get your tires to your mechanic to see if you need new tires before winter.

If you can’t tell if your tires need to be replaced before winter (they don’t always), or you’re looking for new tires, contact Tire-rifik or schedule an appointment to get your tires checked.  A few minutes of preparation can save you time and funds once the snow arrives.

Snow Tires Versus All-Season Tires: do you need snow tires?

wintry road in the middle of snow stormAs much as we Wisconsinites like to live in denial, it’s time to prepare for the inevitable snow that’s sure to blanket our roads and lead to some, well, interesting winter driving.  It’s also an excellent time to buy tires to get through all the snow and ice that our Wisconsin winter is sure to throw at us (plus some).  Many of the top tire manufacturers are offering rebates that make that new set of tires for your car or truck not just a must, but also incredibly affordable when you add in the rebates and offers on the market.

Before you sign on the dotted line, though, you need to understand what you’re buying—and mounting—on your car.  We know a thing or two (or three or hundred) about tires, and here’s our breakdown of the common snow tires versus all-season tires question—and a few other things you need to know (anything else, just ask us).

Snow tires versus all-season tires

Snow tires are specifically designed for traction and handling through all the snow that comes with winter driving. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through snow and ice, snow tires can find traction on even the roughest roads.

Remember as you shop for snow tires that traction control, common on many vehicles, is not a replacement for snow tires; traction control adjusts the speed of your tires to conditions, but does not give your vehicle more traction while driving.

All-season tires are exactly what they say: tires construction for any weather condition and temperature. They give you a good all-around tire for general driving conditions, but are not specially designed for winter driving.

What to look for in your next set of tires

Purchasing the right set of tires for your car or truck is based on three key factors: 1) tire size 2) your expectations for your next set of tires and 3) driving style.

It’s easy to find the size of the tire you need. Tire sizes are found on your current tire on your car, in your user manual and often on the inside of the driver-side door. (There are cars that can take more than one truck size-check your user manual.) Look for a letter and a series of numbers, such as P255/55R17.

The P in the tire size indicates that the tire is intended for passenger cars. You may also see the letters LT, which is for a light truck. The first numbers are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The series of numbers, in this example 55, is the aspect ratio.  The number is a percentage, and the higher the percentage, the larger the sidewall of the tire. The last number, 17 in this case, is the diameter of wheel that the tire fits on.

Once you’ve determined the size you need, do your research (or ask your mechanic who knows your vehicle and can recommend tires) when buying tires, and be honest with yourself about your driving style. If you need cars for a muscle car you drive hard, tires with a higher speed rating and increased handling fit the bill. For daily driving, you probably don’t need tires with a higher speed rating, but you should look for tires that can provide handling, a quiet and smooth ride, and adequate tire tread wear.

Another strategy for choosing the right tires is to stick with what works. If you are happy with the performance of the current tires on your vehicle, replace your old tires with the same tires that you had before.

Snow tires

If you have to venture out in the worst winter conditions, select a set of tires with a proven record on winter roads. Beyond size, choose a set of snow tires with improved handling and traction; again the exact set is going to depend on your driving style.  A set of snow tires for a truck that has to head out onto the farm is going to have different tread pattern and depth than a set that can get you to your job on the highways.

Snow tires should be mounted when the temperature dips below 40 on a regular basis and removed when the temperatures start hitting the upper 40’s or low 50’s. Be careful not to remove tires too soon; you don’t want to get stuck in a spring snow storm on all-season tires when you bought a set of snow tires for safety and increased traction.

Snow tires can be mounted on your current set of rims and you all-season tires dismounted (schedule an appointment here) or you can purchase a second set of rims specifically for your snow tires. With a second set of rims, you don’t have to go through the hassle of being without a vehicle while your mechanic remounts tires.

The cost of your snow tires depends on the size of tires and what you want in a set of tires; you can find out the cost of snow tires, contact us to find out your snow tire options and cost—before the snow hits.

Truck Repair & Maintenance Tips that Keep Your Truck on the Road

truck working in field with combineAsk any pick-up truck owner and they’ll tell you: a truck is more than just a truck.  It’s a workhorse, a heavy hauler, a tow truck when needed, and a reliable part of your vehicle fleet.  Maintaining the latter part—reliability—of your truck requires a truck maintenance and repair schedule that minimizes breakdowns and keeps your workhorse working.

Make preventative maintenance a priority

When you’re busy hauling or your truck is working fine, it’s easy to just keep working. But don’t let that purring engine and reliable tow fool you; preventative maintenance is essential to extend the life of your truck—and how long it can work for you.

Establish a regular schedule of oil changes, transmission oil changes, and tire rotation with a local mechanic to keep your truck going (or maintain the schedule yourself).  Package as much of your service and maintenance together into one visit to limit the days your truck is out service.  In between scheduling oil changes and maintenance, check your oil and tire pressure on a regular basis.  Don’t let your TPMS sensor tell you when to check your tire pressure; we’ve seen customers whose tires were more than 10 pounds low without triggering the TPMS sensor.  If you don’t have time, find a mechanic who you can trust with your truck—and can get it done quickly so you can get back to work.

Put good tires on your truck

As tempting as it may be to purchase and mount the first set of tires you find, do your homework and select the right set of truck tires. Look for tires that can handle the weight of the loads you haul, provides maximum off-road traction, and on-road handling.  Buying the right kind of truck tires is not only an investment in daily driving; the right tires wear correctly, preventing breakdowns and protecting suspension parts.

Once you have the right tires mounted, check your tire pressure regularly for a smooth ride, protected suspension parts, and optimum fuel efficiency. Check your tire pressure when the tires are cold (have not been driven for three hours) on a regular seasonal basis.

Keep the number of a good road service company handy

When your workhorse pickup does break down, store the number of a good road service company in your wallet or phone.  A good road service company responds to your breakdown and gets your pickup working again—saving you time and getting your truck (and you) working again.

4 Ways to Make Sure Your Tires Last Longer

cars on highway with tires that last a long timeOver the life of your car, new tires can be one of the most expensive replacements—and one of the most important safety aspects of your car, especially when you need traction (like when it’s raining and snowing!).  Here’s how to get the most out of your next set of tires—both for performance and budget.

Check your tire pressure.

An underinflated or overinflated tire can accelerate the tread wear of your tires, causing you to need new tires sooner. With an overinflated tire, less of the tread is touching the road, accelerating the wearing of certain parts of your tire tread. The result: you need to replace a tire because parts of it are more worn than others. An underinflated tire does the opposite: more of the tire is wearing down faster. Tires not wearing properly can cause blown tires and needs more frequent tire replacement.

To avoid uneven tire tread wear, check your tire pressure by using a tire pressure gauge, or by asking your mechanic to fill your tires to the proper pounds per square inch (PSI) listed in your owner’s manual or on a decal on the bottom of your door frame (driver’s side). Don’t forget to check your spare tire, in addition to all four tires. One final warning: don’t wait for your TPMS warning light on your dashboard to come on to check your tire pressure.  By, then it may be too late because many TPMS lights don’t appear until your car is 20% under standard air pressure.

Tires can actually lose or gain pressure with the seasons. Check your tire pressure seasonally, or ask your mechanic to check your tire pressure at every oil change appointment.

Rotate your tires.

Tires need to be rotated to maintain even wear on each tire, which extends the life of your tires. This is especially true for front wheel drive vehicles which use the front tires primarily for traction. There is no hard-and-fast rule for when your car needs a tire rotation, but a good general guideline to use is every 5-8,000 miles (sometimes less for the warranty-ask your mechanic or tire salesman). Usually that number coincides with an oil change appointment depending on how many miles you drive.

Remember too, that the way you rotate your car may vary from the traditional front to back and cross in the front.  Asymmetric and uni-directional tires, or vehicles with different size tires on the front and back, may need a different tire rotation.  Check your owner’s manual or talk to your mechanic to find out when, and how, your tires need to be rotated.

Check for uneven tire wear—and car alignment.

Uneven tire wear can occur on a car out of alignment, so a tire rotation is also a good chance to check the wear patterns on your car for signs your car needs an alignment.  You can also tell in another way: when you drive.

An unbalanced car typically has a vibration or shake that becomes progressively worse as the car’s speed increases. The speed at which the vibration first becomes apparent varies depending on the size and weight of the tires and wheels, the size and weight of the car, the sensitivity of the steering and suspension, and the amount of imbalance. The vibration or shake usually starts in at 35 to 45 mph and increases in intensity as your speed increases. A car out of alignment can wear down your tires prematurely, as well as your car’s suspension parts.

Be aware of worn car suspension parts.

Worn car suspension parts can wear your tires unevenly and prematurely.  Watch for signs of worn suspension parts, such as if your car leans abruptly forward when you brake, oil on your shock, sudden pulling to the right or left, or a lot of bouncing when driving.  Include your vigilant driving with regular tire maintenance and checks and you’ve done everything you can to make sure your tires are a long-term investment—and not a short-term mistake.

Does my flat tire need a fix or replacement?

mechanic repairing flat tire on carYou’re stranded because of a random flat tire puncture. You’re annoyed because you have to keep adding air to your tire that keeps going flat. You’re irritated by the tire that is stuck in your tire.  You’re frustrated—all because of a flat tire on your car when you need to get somewhere.  Unfortunately, your flat could be more than an inconvenience; it can also be an expensive inconvenience.  How expensive is determined by a number of factors, but the good news is that flat tire may not mean you automatically need to replace your tire.

Your options for a flat tire

Liquid tire fix kit-Those liquid tire sealant repair products on television may allow you to drive on that flat tire, but it’s a temporary repair.  The caveat that comes with these repair kits is that they are only useful for small tire punctures that occur in the tread and require you to take your car to a repair shop for a long-term fix.

Tire fix-There are a couple of different ways that a small tire puncture can be fixed, either with a plug or a patch.  Both are more than temporary fixes, but need to be done properly for long-term results.  If you want to take on fixing your tire as a DIY project, make sure you do your research so you don’t do any more damage to the tire and don’t compromise safety.  If you’re not confident, contact a repair shop to repair your tire for far less than the cost of replacement (depending on the tire model and type).

Replacement-This is the most obvious solution to a flat tire, but where to put the flat tire for long-term use is not as obvious as you think.  You can purchase a whole set of tires for a smooth ride, or a pair for a nice ride.  Ask your mechanic whether to put the tires on the front or back.  If you have to purchase one tire, contact your mechanic for a tire rotation (if one hasn’t been done recently) with placement of the tire in the optimum location.  If you just throw a new tire on your car, you are going to have a bumpy ride and can damage other parts of your car and affect your alignment.

When your tire can’t be fixed

When the puncture is in the sidewall or shoulder-Because of the flex of these parts of your tire and for the long-term safety of your car, tires with punctures in these areas—-even small holes—cannot be fixed.

When the damage is a large cut-If the damage to your tire is large (usually more than a quarter inch as a general rule) or is a long, straight cut, a patch or plug is not going to do the long-term job.

When it’s been fixed multiple times-If you are a repeat offender with numerous punctures and patches, another patch is not recommended especially if the holes are close together on the tire.

When you’ve been driving around with a damaged tire for awhile-If the nail has been stuck in the tire for awhile, or you’ve been driving with the damage for any period of time, the damage to your tire (interior and exterior) may be too severe to fix the tire.

Fix or replace?

If you don’t know whether to fix or replace your tire, head to a mechanic so the tire can be inspected and you can get back on the road again.