Flat tires are not for the faint of heart.  Fixing a flat is an art that takes a very mechanically inclined person and preferably trained mechanic to repair.  There are more issues that can come your way with a tire than a flat, and flats can come from a variety of problems.  If you find yourself facing one of the issues a tire can throw at you it is critical to your health and safety as well as the condition of your car that your decision is the correct one.

Can You Fix That Tire Or Is It Time To Take It To The Shop

Rattle Rattle Bang Bang

If you are driving down the road and you feel a sudden vibration in your wheel and hear loud noises, pull over and give your car a quick inspection.  Most problems with a wheel can be felt in your steering wheel or the seat of your car.  For the uninitiated, the tire is the rubber part, and the rim is the metal part that the tire is mounted on.  When they are put together and aired up, they are called a wheel.

While this differentiation may seem silly to most people, believe me, there are many individuals who have not had the life experience or the time to understand the differences.

When you have pulled off from the road far enough to be safe from oncoming traffic and the car is resting on solid ground, walk around the car.  At this point, all you are doing is looking at the tires for anything out of the ordinary.  Out of the ordinary can be a flat tire, loose lug nuts (the nuts that hold the tire on the car), or damage to the rim.  Believe it or not, curbs have gotten the best of many drivers.

When the wheel comes up against a curb or other hard surface, it can knock a tire out of balance that in turn causes a vibration as the wheel is now out of round in some form.  Loose lug nuts are extremely dangerous, and you must make sure there does not appear to be any missing or loose.

If your initial walk does not reveal any obvious damage, it is time to get a little more aggressive on your inspection.  If your noise was loud and vibration severe, the part of the car that the wheel mounts to may be the problem.  The easiest way to spot a wheel bearing problem when it is severely worn is to grab a firm hold of the top of your tire and shake it forcefully.

If you can get a noise out of one of your wheels upon shaking it, you need to call a mechanic immediately with possibly a tow truck.  You are in danger of the entire wheel assembly falling off while driving down the highway.  There is nothing more frightening than being passed by your tires!  Trust me, the story does not end well!

Pssssssss Whoosh!

That is the sound of your tire losing air and breaking the seal with the rim.  Any puncture in the tire can cause a leak.  Depending on the puncture location, you may be able to repair your tire.  If you are mechanically inclined and great with instructions, you may be able to use a special tool kit to plug your tire.  Plugs are not a preferred fix, and tires should be patched from the inside by a tire repair professional.  Sometimes you just need to get down the road, and a plug is an option.

The problem is that if you have a plug and can fix the tire on the side of the road, you still cannot air it up.  The only way to avoid the shop in this situation is to replace the flat with a spare until you get to an air pump and can plug or patch and then air up the tire.

If the hole is in the side of the tire or the outer corner, a plug or patch will not work.  The tire will have to be replaced.  There are few mechanics that can change a tire on the rim without a machine these days, but it can be done.  This may; however, be time for a trained professional.

Don’t let poverty get in the way of safety, it never works out well.  There are excellent deals on tires, and the competition is fierce in the industry.  If you go to a dealership, expect to pay dealer prices.  Be ready for it.  If you are trying to make ends meet, lots of companies have used tires they can sell on a budget and the labor is not that expensive.  If you cannot find a nail, you may have caught a break with a flat tire.

Some tires have problems with the valve core which most mechanics will replace with no charge.  Don’t worry if you do not know what it is, you need a special tool and a replacement part anyway.  If you are charged more than ten bucks for a valve core replacement, find a new mechanic.

Above all, be safe.  If you notice a bubble in the rubber of your tire, steer clear of any personal maintenance.  The bubbles can pop and cause serious bodily harm.  If your tire tread is so thin that you cannot place a penny in it and have the penny stand up, then it is time to get a replacement tire (approximately 3/16” depth tread).

Safety is easy to overlook when you are saving money, but it is when you are lying in the hospital that you realize too late that maybe you should not have cut that corner.  If you have any doubt, call for help!

The writer, Ray Donato, loves his car, and does everything he can to keep it up and running. However, he recognizes that he can’t do everything, and for those problems he can’t solve he recommends visiting carolinamobileautoservice.com. You can learn more abou Ray on Google+.