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12 Winter Breakdown Tips

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car winter breakdownNo one wants to be stranded by a winter car breakdown, but sadly do they do happen. When they do happen, it’s nice to have a trusted local car repair shop. These winter car breakdown tips are for that in-between time when you’re stranded on the side of the road. You know what we’re talking about: when the car suddenly starts making odd noises, or stutters (no gas?), or won’t start. You’re stuck. You’re stranded. Here’s what to do while you wait for help:

  • Keep up with required maintenance to avoid breakdowns (use these car maintenance tips to prevent winter car breakdowns).
  • Try not to stop on a curve or hill.
  • Turn on your flashers so you are visible to other cars.
  • Pull over as far out of the road as possible without getting stuck.
  • Carry the name of your trusted roadside assistance provider.
  • Keep your cell phone charged so you can make an emergency call.
  • When calling for help, give as much information as possible about your location (i.e. closest businesses, closest highway exits, etc.)
  • Always carry an emergency car kit.
  • Stay with your vehicle.
  • If the vehicle still runs, turn it on periodically for warmth. (Make sure the exhaust pipe does not get blocked by ice or snow.)
  • If the road is slippery, be careful about getting out of the car (both for your own safety and because of other cars coming).
  • Get the vehicle towed to your trusted car repair shop ASAP so you can get back on the road.

10 Cold Weather Driving Tips

winter driving on snowy rural road at sunset Wisconsin winters can be brutal, and so can driving in them. Icy roads, winter storms, and everything in between (such as a wintry mix) can make winter driving hazardous for even the most experienced drivers. No one wants to get stranded in the middle on one of our infamous sub-zero Wisconsin days or when the snow is piling up on our roads. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of winter driving tips that keep you on the road and keep you safe during the cold.

Don’t warm up the car in a closed garage.

Warming up the car is common practice in Wisconsin; it can also become deadly if the vehicle is left running in an enclosed garage. Exhaust gases can build up in an enclosed space and cause serious injury or even death.

Make sure your tires are kept at the proper tire pressure.

Tires are your car’s sole contact with the road, making them a vital part of safe winter driving. Sudden drops in temperature can cause the tire pressure to drop below the recommended pounds-per-square-inch. Flat tires are hazardous during the winter, and can lead to lower gas mileage and premature tire replacement. Often, you can’t see when tire pressure is low and many tire pressure monitor sensor warning dash lights won’t go on until they are 20% under pressure. Know when the tire PSI (pounds-per-square-inch) on your car or tire is low. Check the decal in the driver’s side door or owner’s manual for the optimal PSI. Use a tire pressure monitor to check the tire pressure regularly and when the temperature suddenly drops.

Keep your phone charged.

When you are stranded, a cell phone can be an invaluable way to get assistance. Keep the cell phone charged so it is there when needed. Program in the name and number of a local towing company or keep their number in the glove compartment.

Check your tire tread.

Bald tires do not channel water properly and can be incredibly unsafe on icy or wet winter roads. Visually inspect tires regularly, and do the penny test when the tread seems low. During the penny test, put the penny into the tire tread. If Abraham Lincoln’s head is completely visible, the tire tread is low and should be replaced for safe winter driving.

Brake early.

Vehicle brakes are a key part of safe winter driving, especially when the roads are snowy or icy. Allowing extra distance and time for braking is one of the top cold weather driving tips. For that reason, get the vehicles regularly checked at every oil change and watch for signs of failing brakes. These signs can include: squealing or grinding noises when braking, a pulsating brake pedal, or when the car pulls to one side when braking. Schedule an appointment immediately when any of the signs of failing brakes occurs during driving.

Plan for extra traveling time.

Driving slowly is the safest way to travel during snow storms or when roads are icy. For that reason, watch the weather reports, plan accordingly, and schedule extra traveling time. When driving, allow extra space in front of the vehicle; driving too close can cause an accident when roads are slippery or conditions are hazardous.

Don’t stop on a hill or around a curve.

When conditions are snowy and visibility is low, it can be difficult to stop and see other vehicles. Avoid stopping on a hill or around a curve; the mere presence of a car can cause an accident, a sudden fishtail, or a vehicle into the ditch.

Avoid sudden acceleration.  

Slippery roads and sudden acceleration are a dangerous combination. Slowly accelerate at intersections and keep speeds low when encountering vehicles that are stranded or stuck in the snow.

Check the battery.

The extreme temperatures (both cold and hot) of Wisconsin can damage car batteries and lead to breakdowns. Over time, car batteries do not have the maximum power required to start up the car during freezing temperatures. Don’t get stranded because of a dead battery; replace batteries every 3-5 years and watch for signs of a failing battery. Rough starting or an occasional battery jump are both signs that the battery is ready for replacement. Schedule an appointment to get the battery replaced and avoid an inconvenient winter breakdown.

Stock up your emergency kit.

Never head out during winter without a well-stocked winter emergency kit. Before driving, make sure to pack a shovel, first aid kit, window scraper, cold winter gear, flashlight, and blanket. Jumper cables, a lug wrench, and jack are all-weather emergency supplies that should always be on hand for those just-in-case situations.

Cold Weather Car Maintenance You Shouldn’t Forget

truck driving in wisconsin winterWinter weather driving in Wisconsin is inevitable, and so is the impact on our vehicles. Cold Wisconsin weather is hard on drivers and their cars. The frigid cold weather temperatures can do a number on cars, leaving drivers stranded in the cold weather—or worse, in the ditch. Avoiding snow banks (as in, being stuck in them) is a key reason to schedule an appointment to get essential cold weather car maintenance done before the first day of winter (or at least before the Wisconsin snow storm).

Battery Test

Contrary to the popular myth, the heat of summer is harder on vehicle batteries than the cold. Hot temperatures can cause battery fluids to evaporate and do permanent damage. Winter temperatures turn vehicle fluids to the consistency of molasses, requiring more power for starting up. Batteries can start to signal they are failing, such as rough starting or needing an occasional jumping.

What to do: Before the temperatures bottom out, ask a mechanic to test the battery. It can also be wise to track the age of the vehicle battery, which tends to fail 3-5 years after purchase.

Windshield Wipers

This cold weather car maintenance tip may seem insignificant, but can be very important when driving in winter conditions. Windshield wipers in good condition can make driving in one of our famous Wisconsin winter storms a lot easier. Good visibility is essential when snow is flying and slush is being thrown on the windshield.

What to do: Swap your old windshield wipers for new ones before winter starts. Use this video and blog as a guide. If any assistance is needed, ask a mechanic to install new windshield wipers at the next oil change.

Brakes

When the roads are icy, stopping safely is more than a luxury; it’s a necessity. Worn brakes can be a main contributor to a car accident, especially when conditions are hazardous. Sometimes, there are overt signs of worn brakes, such as a squealing or grinding sound, longer stopping distance, or a vibrating brake pedal. In other cases, the signs are not obvious.

What to do: Ask a mechanic to do a visual check of the brakes before winter. This can easily be done when snow tires are mounted or during a tire rotation. If the brakes are worn, get them replaced as soon as possible for safe driving.

Tires

Tires play a significant role in safe winter driving, because they are the primary contact between the vehicle and the road. Bald tires (tires with low tread) do not channel water correctly, which is especially important during slushy winter driving conditions. Tire pressure can also be lower during the cold temperatures, which can also play a part in safety and gas mileage.

What to do: Do a visual inspection of the tires (or ask a mechanic to check the tires). Look for inadequate tire tread, cupping, uneven wear, and punctures. To check tire tread, do the penny trick. Place a penny into the tread of the tire, then check to see how much of Abraham Lincoln’s head is visible above the tread. If Lincoln’s head is completely visible, the tire tread is low and the set of tires need to be replaced. Because tires can wear unevenly, place the penny in several places around the tire. On a regular basis, check the tire pressure to ensure that it is kept at the optimal tire pressure.

Fluids

Cold weather driving can become more difficult with low vehicle fluids, making this cold weather car maintenance task a required and regular check. All vehicle fluids should be kept at optimal levels to avoid break-downs and safe winter driving.

What to do: Check the antifreeze level in the reservoir to avoid engine overheating (use this video about checking the antifreeze level in a car). Regularly check the oil level so the engine is properly lubricated and can run longer. For optimal visibility, check the windshield washer so the windshield stays clean during a hazardous winter driving. If the vehicle needs an oil change, ask the mechanic to check all vehicle fluids at the appointment.

Emergency Kit

This winter weather maintenance task is easy (and can even be done inside). A car emergency kit can be invaluable when stranded on an incredibly frigid day or during a snow storm. Because these situations are unpredictable, stock up an emergency kit before the temperatures dip below freezing.

What to do: Pack a waterproof container with the essentials: a shovel, towing company card/phone number, flashlight, blanket, first aid kit, jumper cables, jack and lug wrench, boots, rags, and hand sanitizer. Keep the emergency kit in the vehicle at all times in a convenient and accessible location.

Why do tires need to be balanced?

car with tires that need to be balancedTire balancing, also called wheel balancing, is an important part of buying tires and getting more miles out of a set of tires—and also a very misunderstood car maintenance task. That’s why we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions about tire balancing—and a few questions car owners don’t ask, but should.

What is tire balancing?

Tire balancing is the process of ensuring that the tires are spinning evenly (balanced). During tire balancing, the tires and rims are removed from the vehicle and analyzed on a specialized machine. Based on the data, weights are strategically attached to the rim to balance the tire. These weights are typically made of a metal alloy, such as lead or zinc. Tire balancing should be done by an experienced technician; contact a local mechanic with the tire balancing equipment to ensure the process is done properly.

Why do tires need to be balanced?

Tires and wheels, even when brand new, are never perfectly round. The combination of a not-perfect tire and rim creates an imbalance, causing a strong vibration at high speeds (such as on highways), loud ride, and uneven tire wear. Tires that wear unevenly can be prone to random flats and premature tire replacement. Put simply, tires that wear down to the tire tread bars on the outside or inside may need to be replaced even if the rest of the tire tread is adequate, costing the owner more throughout the life of the vehicle.

How often do tires need balancing?

Contact a mechanic to balance tires whenever purchasing a new set (use this guide to buy the right set of tires). Tires should be balanced throughout the life of the tires. Goodyear recommends that tires should be balanced every 3-6,000 miles.

How can I tell if my tires need to be balanced?

There are some obvious signs that a set of tires needs to be balanced. Drivers driving with unbalanced tires notice a shake in the steering wheel and floorboard when traveling at higher speeds. Mechanics can also notice uneven tire wear when rotating tires. Regular tire rotations are another important step car owners should take to get more miles out of the tires and ensure even tire wear; an appointment for tire rotation should be made every 5-8,000 miles.

Shopping for Tires? 10 Tire Terms You Should Know

tire that needs to be inspected for small holeBuying new tires shouldn’t feel like a day in a foreign land—especially when buying the right set of tires is so important. Tires are the vehicle’s sole point of contact with the road; when roads are wet or icy, that point of contact becomes a vital safety measure. For that reason, it makes cents (pun intended) to learn the terms that come with tire shopping so you can purchase the right tires for your car or truck (and for your wallet).

All-Season Tires

All-season tires are manufactured to perform in a variety of conditions year-round. With all-season tires, there is a give-and-take. While these tires offer a quiet ride and are a good all-around tire for general driving conditions, all-season tires are not specifically designed for winter driving. If driving on icy roads is a must during Wisconsin winters, snow tires are usually recommended.

Balance

Tire balancing is an essential part of buying new tires and ongoing tire maintenance. Tires, even new tires, can be imbalanced on a set of rims, resulting in vibrations and uneven or premature tire tread wear. During tire balancing, the mechanic scans the tire and wheel rim and adds weights so the tire spins evenly. When purchasing tires, make sure that the mounting process includes a tire balance. Schedule a follow-up tire balance every 6,000 miles to maintain an evenly balanced tire (and an evenly wearing tire so tires do not need to be replaced more often than needed).

Mounting

New tires are mounted on to a set of rims after a purchase. Old tires are removed, or unmounted, from the previous wheel rims.

Overinflation

Overinflation is when a tire is filled with too much tire pressure. Tires with too much tire pressure can decrease gas mileage and cause the uneven wear of tire treads. Think of an overinflated tire as a ball with too much air; only part of the ball touches the ground, just as only part of the tire comes into contact with the road. This can cause parts of the tire tread to wear more than other parts and cause the car owner to pay for tires earlier and more often. Maintaining proper tire pressure is an essential part of car ownership. The correct tire pressure can be found on a decal on the inside of the driver door and in the user manual (use these directions to check tire pressure on a regular basis).

Penny Test

The penny test is the way to check a tire tread to ensure there is enough for safe driving; bald tires (tires with low tread) can be dangerous to drive on, especially when roads are wet or icy. Bald tires are also more prone to blowouts.

To do the penny test, place a penny into the tread of the tire. Check to see how much of Abraham Lincoln’s head you can see above the tread. If Lincoln’s head can be completely seen, the tire tread is low. The penny test should be performed at multiple places around the tire; tires can wear unevenly. If the penny test shows an extremely uneven tire tread wear, schedule an appointment with a mechanic to determine the cause of uneven wear. Uneven tire wear can be a sign of a problem, such as a worn suspension part, alignment issue, or improper tire pressure.

Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI)

Pounds per square inch, or PSI, is the amount of pressure that should be in a tire. The correct PSI of a tire can be found on a decal on the inside of the driver door and in a user manual. Tire pressure should be checked every month or when there is a drop in the air temperature. For directions on how to check tire pressure, click here.

Rims

Rims, or wheel rims, are the circular metal parts that tires are mounted on. When tire balancing, weights are applied directly to wheel rims. Wheel rims do need to be replaced when there is an excessive amount of corrosion or other conditions that can cause the rims to leak air.

Snow Tires

Snow tires are specifically designed for traction and handling on icy and wet winter roads. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through snow and ice, snow tires can find traction. It is important to note that traction control is not a replacement for snow tires; traction control adjusts the speed of tires to conditions, but does not give a vehicle more traction while driving.

Because snow tires are designed specifically for winter conditions, drivers should make an appointment to have snow tires mounted when the temperature dips below 40 degrees on a regular basis. The snow tires should be removed when the temperatures are consistently in the upper 40s or low 50s.

Tire Aspect Ratio

The tire aspect ratio are the measurements that, collectively, indicate the size of the tire. The tire aspect ratio is found on the tire currently on the car, in the user manual, and, often, on the inside of the driver-side door. (Some vehicles can be fitted with different size tires-check your user manual.) Tire aspect ratios contain a letter and a series of numbers, such as P235/55R17.

The P in the tire aspect ratio indicates that the tire is intended for passenger cars. Other tire aspect ratio letters could be LT, ST, C, or T. The first numbers of the tire aspect ratio 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.

Tire Tread

The tire tread is the surface of a tire; tire treads are specifically designed for certain purposes, such as for snowy road conditions or for heavy commercial use. Tire treads are also important to monitor; low tire tread can cause improper water channeling, unsafe driving, and premature blow outs.

8 (Proven!) Ways to Increase Gas Mileage

person filling up car and trying to figure out how to increase gas mileageGas mileage theories are, as the old saying goes, “a dime a dozen” on the internet. And while the list of theories is plentiful, not every theory is proven to save you dimes—or even pennies. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of proven ways to increase—and maintain—the peak gas mileage that saves you at the pump.

Don’t accelerate or brake suddenly.

The same tips that keep you safe as you drive can also save money at the pump. Except for in emergencies, avoid sudden hard accelerations and braking. Unfortunately, both driving habits use more fuel and decrease fuel mileage. Try to keep

Keep your tires at the correct tire pressure.

Low or high tire pressure can cost you money in more ways than one; underinflated or over-inflated tires wear down more quickly, requiring premature tire replacement. For gas mileage, tires with too much pressure or not enough can make you stop at the pump more often. To get the most miles out of a tank of gas, check the owner’s manual or decal on the inside of the driver door for the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure. Check the tire pressure often (directions for checking tire pressure here) and add air as needed. If you can’t or don’t have time to check the tire pressure, ask your mechanic to check the tire pressure at your next appointment.

Avoid incessant idling.

Letting your car warm up may keep you comfortable as you drive, but it also drops your gas mileage. Even on the coldest days, try to avoid idling for long periods of time.

Replace the air filter promptly.

Clogged air filters decrease the efficiency of the engine and decrease fuel mileage. Check the vehicle manual for the exact mileage for air filter replacement recommended by the auto manufacturer (or ask the mechanic to check the air filter at your next oil change). As a general rule, an engine air filter should be replaced every 30,000 miles or 3 years; however, the engine air filter should be replaced more often if the vehicle manufacturer specifies or if the vehicle is driven on roads that are usually very dusty.

Don’t weigh the car down.

For prime gas mileage, avoid carrying a lot of heavy “stuff” that can add weight to the car. Though it may seem insignificant, a car with a heavy load can cost you pennies every day and can add up very quickly.

Replace the spark plugs promptly.

Because spark plugs are responsible for the spark that ignites the fuel-air mixture in your engine, spark plugs can cause your fuel mileage to drop. Ask your mechanic when is the right mileage to replace the spark plugs; depending on the spark plugs chosen, these car parts should be replaced every 30-100,000 miles. If left too long, the engine can misfire, which can abruptly cause gas mileage to drop.

Avoid storage containers.

As nice as an extra storage container or bike rack is, additional storage containers cause aerodynamic drag and can significantly drop fuel mileage. Even an empty bike rack can decrease fuel mileage, adding up over the life of the vehicle.

Minimize using the AC.

Air conditioning may be a welcome cool down on a hot day, but it also uses more gas. When possible, opt for open windows over air conditioning—unless traveling at high speeds. Keeping the window open while traveling on the freeway can reduce gas mileage and cost you more at your next fill-up.

When should I change the engine air filter in my car?

young man adding oil and checking engine air filterAn engine air filter may seem a small and insignificant part of a vehicle (after all, how many people talk about getting their cabin air filter changed?), but an engine air filter plays an important role in protecting and extending the life of an engine. An engine filter catches dirt and contaminants before they enter the motor.

There is another filter, the cabin air filter, on the car that needs to be replaced regularly. The cabin air filter catches debris before it enters the vehicle and ensures the air quality in the vehicle cabin.

Why should I change my engine air filter?

A dirty engine filter can become clogged, compromising the performance and fuel efficiency of the engine. Unlike other part replacements, there are no obvious signs that the engine air filter should be replaced. Typically, the decline in performance is gradual over time without any overt signs. In some cases, a dirty air filter can cause engine misfiring or a drop in gas mileage. Fortunately, a mechanic can tell if an engine air filter needs to be replaced with a visual inspection. Ask a mechanic to check when scheduling the next oil change.

How often should I change my engine air filter?

The schedule for engine air filter replacement varies on road conditions and vehicle specifications. Check the vehicle manual for the exact mileage recommended by the auto manufacturer. As a general rule, an engine air filter should be replaced every 30,000 miles or 3 years; however, the engine air filter should be replaced more often if the vehicle manufacturer specifies or if the vehicle is driven on roads that are usually very dusty. Some vehicle manufacturers also say the air filter should be replaced if the car is driven often in very hot and heavy traffic conditions.

Your Complete Car Maintenance Checklist

car getting oil change in need of part replacementWant your car to last a long time? Regular maintenance is an important part of keeping your car on the road and reaching “high mileage beauty” status. If you don’t have the time (or expertise) to keep up with regular car checks and maintenance, finding a mechanic you can trust can be just as vital for getting as many miles as possible out of your vehicle. Once you’ve found that mechanic, schedule regular car appointments (and allocate time as needed for do-it-yourself checks) to keep up with your car maintenance checklist.

Regular Car Checks

___Check tire pressure

___Check oil level

___Check windshield washer

___Check headlights and tail lights

___Check transmission fluid (every 3,000 miles)

___Check belts and hoses (every 3,000 miles)

___Check battery and cables (every 3,000 miles)

___Check tire tread for amount of tread and signs of unbalanced car (every 3,000 miles and more often as the tires wear)

Replacement Schedule

___ Oil Change (Change oil every 3-10,000 miles depending on the auto manufacturer recommendations.)

___Cabin Air Filter (Replace every 15-30,000 miles or once a year. Check the owner’s manual for their recommendation.)

___ Air Filter (Replace every 15-30,000 miles depending on driving conditions. If you drive through dusty areas, your air filter is going to need to be replaced every 15,000 miles.)

___ Brakes (Replace every 25-70,000 miles. The exact mileage depends on the type of brakes, driving style, type of vehicle, and amount of braking. Watch for these signs of brake failure and ask your mechanic to check them at every oil change.)

___ Tires (Replace every 30-60,000 miles depending on the type of tires and amount of miles driven)

___ Spark plugs (Replace every 30-100,000 miles depending on the kind of spark plugs)

___Power Steering Fluid (Flush every 30-100,000 fluid. Have the system checked if the fluid is low)

___Automatic Transmission Fluid (Replace every 50-150,000 miles. Check the transmission fluid for condition and consult the owner’s manual to determine exact mileage for replacement.)

___ Battery (Replace every 3-5 years)

___Fuel Pump (Replace every 60-90,000 miles depending on condition. Check it every 30,000 miles.)

Your replacement schedule may be slightly different, depending on the amount of miles and kind of driving you do. For a customized maintenance list for your vehicle, ask your mechanic for their recommendations and follow their schedule closely.  

7 Back-to-School Car Maintenance Tasks to Tackle Before Your Student Hits the Road

teen in car learning to drive and to do car maintenanceFor those of us with high school and college students, back-to-school is about more than just purchasing back packs and notebooks. It’s also about making sure your student’s set of wheels stays on the road and they can get safely back and forth to school (and sports games and wherever else they head…). While car maintenance is an ongoing task (throughout the school year), there are steps you can take to ensure that your student’s car is safe and ready for miles of back-to-school driving.

Change the oil.

An oil change is essential car maintenance task that ensures a long-lasting and smooth-running engine. Clean oil properly lubricates and lengthens the life of the engine. Schedule an oil change for your student’s car before school starts, and schedule regular oil changes throughout the school year.

Test the brakes.

Properly-functioning brakes are one of the most important vehicle safety systems. Put simply, you don’t want the brakes to fail when your student needs them most. Have your mechanic do a full inspection of the brakes to ensure that the brakes wear evenly and there are adequate brake pads. Teach your student to look for signs of brake replacement, such as a vibration, squealing, soft pedal, or a pulling to the right or left.

Check tire pressure.

A tire with the right amount of air pressure is not only important for safety but can also can save money on gas mileage. Check the tire pressure to ensure that the air pressure is the same as indicated on the decal on the driver’s side door. Teach your student to check the air on a regular basis (use this guide to teach your teen car maintenance basics). The air pressure should be checked on a regular basis, whenever the tire appears low, or when the TPMS sensor lights up on the dash. Add a tire pressure gauge to the emergency kit for easy access.

Rotate tires.

Tire rotation ensures that tires wear evenly, contributes to a smooth ride, and lengthens the life of the tires. The pattern of the tire rotation is different for every vehicle; front wheel drive cars are rotated slightly different than four-wheel drive and rear wheel drive vehicles. If a car has different tire sizes, the same size tires are rotated. Schedule a tire rotation every 6-8,000 miles or every 6 months.

Check tire tread.

To make sure your student isn’t driving around on bald tires (which can be extremely dangerous), check the tire tread to ensure there is enough tread for safe driving. There is an easy way to do this; use the penny trick (and show your student how to do so as well). Put a penny into the tire tread. If you can see all of Abraham Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace the tires.

Test the battery.

No parent wants to get an SOS call from their stranded child. Batteries typically fail every 3-5 years; have your battery tested to ensure it is in good enough shape to make it through the school year. If there is any doubt, replace the battery so your student is not stuck with a dead battery. To prepare your student for the occasional dead battery from a light left on, add charging cables to the emergency kit and teach them how to jump a dead battery.

Stock an emergency kit.

A well-stocked emergency kit can be invaluable if your student ends up stranded on the side of the road or in a parking lot. Pack supplies that can be helpful in any kind of weather, such as on a snowy winter day. Place all the supplies into a durable, waterproof container. The car emergency supply kit should contain:

  • Roadside assistance card or tow truck phone number
  • Flashlight
  • Blanket
  • Jack and lug wrench
  • Jumper cables
  • Winter boots
  • Snow shovel
  • First aid kit
  • Rags and hand sanitizer

How can I prevent a flat tire?

tire removed because it has a small leak that can lead to a flatA flat car tire when you’re trying to get somewhere. Nothing can bring a bigger feeling of dread (other than a car that won’t start) and annoyance—especially when you’re in a hurry. A flat tire can’t always be prevented (here’s a local phone number to call for road service for a flat tire), but there are a few ways you can prevent your next flat tire.

Check for small leaks.

A small leak can turn into a big problem—and a big price tag—if not caught early. Depending on the size and location of the weak, small leaks can be fixed without having to replace the tire. However, if the tire is not repaired a small leak can get bigger and need to be replaced. If your tire repeatedly goes flat, check for small leaks by listening and looking. Some leaks are large enough that you can hear them. Other leaks can be found by spraying soapy water onto the tire. The presence of bubbles means a leak—and that you should take the tire in for repair.

Be careful in road construction zones.

Orange barrels are a mainstay on summer roads. Other than a major traffic delay, road construction zones can also be a source of a flat tire because small sharp remnants from road work can remain on the road. Drive slowly through road construction zones to protect the road workers, and drive carefully to avoid a flat tire. Try not to pull over in these areas, before or during the road work, to prevent picking up a screw or metal object that can puncture your tire.

Do a full inspection of your tire.

Improper tire tread, a bad valve stem, or a leaking rim can lead to repeated flat tires—and every one of these problems can be caught with a visual inspection and a spray bottle with soapy water. When you have to repeatedly stop to fill up your tires (even with just a pound or two of air), check the tire tread for damage or uneven wear. If the problem is not visible, spray the tread and rim to see if there is a slow air leak. Take the tire to a mechanic, who can give you options for repair or replacement of your tire problem.

Keep your tires at the right PSI.

A properly inflated tire can prevent future issues, including uneven tire tread. It can also decrease gas mileage and increase the life of the tire. Check the decal inside the driver’s side door or the owner’s manual for the right pounds per square inch (PSI) for the tires (not the tire itself). Use a tire pressure gauge to check the tire pressure on a regular basis (especially when the temperature drops). Do not rely on your eyes alone to check the tire pressure; a tire can be low on pressure without looking flat. Similarly, do not wait until the tire pressure monitoring sensor (TPMS) light shows up on the dashboard; the TPMS sensor may not light up until the pressure is 20% low, far below what is recommended.

Get a regular tire rotation.

A regular tire rotation is more than just car maintenance; it’s a preventative task that keeps your tires in good shape. As a general guideline, tires should be rotated 6-8,000 miles or every six months. Regularly rotated tires wear evenly, ensure a smooth ride, and prevent flat tires. Keep your tires in good shape. Schedule a regular tire rotation, or request a tire rotation when you schedule an occasional oil change.