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Survival Skills

Five simple tips and tools for changing a tire

Five simple tips and tools for changing a tire

Survival situations can start with a routine, mundane problem that escalates into an emergency. Most of you can’t change a flat tire, and that could create a real problem.

by Leon Pantenburg

I’m really good at changing flat tires. In college, I drove around on whatever second-hand, hand-me-down  tires I could afford. Subsequently, there were frequent opportunities for practice. I’ve changed tires in the dark in rain, snow, mud and every sort of nasty weather you can imagine.

These basic, common items can make changing a tire much easier.

These basic, common items can make changing a tire much easier.

But today, this basic, level 101 survival skill seems to be disappearing.

According to a Nov. 20, 2012 Forbes magazine article ” Millennials, having grown up with sophisticated technology, just expect stuff to work and are less interested in figuring out “how” it works than previous generations. It’s increasingly unlikely they even know how to unlock the hood of their vehicle.”

This indifference leads to an overall ignorance  Two in three teens don’t know how to change a flat tire, check or change the oil, or jumpstart a battery, according to a Sept. 19, 2011 U.S. News and World Report survey. They are also unable to identify basic car parts or perform emergency roadside repairs the survey concluded.

This could lead to is a minor task escalating into a full-blown emergency. What happens if you have to change a tire on an isolated stretch of highway, with no cell phone coverage to call for help? Your breakdown to could lead to an overnight stay in your vehicle or worse.

Here are five tips for making changing a tire easier.

Carry a tarp: I always carry a tarp, and a couple of rugs in the trunk. These have a multitude of uses. I’ve used mine while changing a tire as a shelter from the rain, a carpet when I had to lay down in mud beside the car to place the jack or a pad to kneel on while I pushed the wheel on. This is just another reason to always carry a tarp and rug in your vehicle.

Include a headlamp in your car kit: Changing a tire by the braille system in the dark is really, really hard.  A headlamp can illuminate the  work area while leaving your hands free. Check the batteries often.

Get good tire tools: Most of the factory-supplied tire tools are adequate at best. In particular, the lug wrenches are

A cross-handle tire tool, right, provides much more leverage for loosening tire lugs. for

A cross-handle tire iron, right, provides much more leverage for loosening tire lugs than the standard factory issue.

pathetic. They usually consist of a socket at the end of a rod bent at a 45-degree angle. The average person may have a difficult – if not impossible – time removing the nuts. Invest in a sturdy, X-handle lug nut wrench with different-sized sockets.

The impact wrenches used by most tire stores tighten nuts too tight for most people to get them off. Request the technician tighten them by hand, or make sure you have a x-handle wrench. Include flares and reflectors to put in the roadway to warn off other motorists.

Check the jack: Most of the scissor-style jacks that come with a car are just OK. In mud or snow on the shoulder of the road, the small base might sink down to the point where it won’t provide enough clearance to remove the tire. Think about carrying a board along if this could be a problem.

Practice in the driveway: Test drive your tire changing skills in a controlled environment. If something isn’t going to work for you, find that out in a safe area.

Don’t put the lug nuts on too tight: Request the technician tighten them by hand, or make sure you have a x-handle wrench. Make sure you can get the lug nuts off (see Practice in the driveway.)

For basic instructions on changing a tire, check out the video.

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1 Comment

  1. Leon

    06/13/2016 at 14:24

    Have a professional check them out. I don’t know what they’d have to be torqued down for your vehicle.

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Survival Skills

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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