Getting a flat tire is a huge inconvenience, and not being prepared for it may cause you to be stranded for some time. There are generally two ways that most people get flats, either on the road as a blowout or through a leak which causes the tires to become flat over time. In most cases, you may need to change the tire and put on the spare to keep you going until you get a new tire. If you haven't dealt with a flat tire before, here is some information on what to do when it happens to you.
What to do when you first notice a flat:
When you get a flat tire, stop driving immediately or as soon as possible. Only drive far enough to get out of the traffic lanes or to a safe location. If you continue driving, you risk damaging your wheel as well. If you have a portable air compressor or car tire pump, try filling the tire with air and see how long it will hold. If you have a large blowout or puncture, chances are that you will not be able to keep the tire filled with air and will need to put on the spare.
Putting on the spare tire:
Most modern cars come already equipped with a small spare tire, jack, and lug wrench. In some cases, you may also have a screw driver to pry off hubcaps if needed. If any of these pieces are missing, then you will have to find a nearby auto parts store or you will need to call a service truck to remove the tire or tow your car. In some cases, the lugs on your tires may be on so tight that they can't be turned. If this happens, then try finding a strong hollow tube, such as a pipe, and slip it over the lug wrench for extra leverage. After you loosen the nuts, jack up the car before removing them completely and taking off the wheel. Mount the spare and lug nuts in reverse order, making sure that the nuts are as hand-tight as possible.
Driving with the spare:
Once you've got the spare tightly bolted onto the axle, then drive carefully to a tire repair shop. Your best bet is to avoid the freeway, if possible, because most spares aren't designed for high speed. These tires are also not designed for long-distance driving, so they must be changed as soon as possible. As soon as you can, get to a tire shop and have your tire and wheel inspected. Not all flats can be repaired, so you may need to choose some new tires. Generally, it is recommended that all four tires be replaced at once, but if your other tires are still fairly new, you may only have to change two. A tire shop, like Bob's Tire Service, will tell you what options are the safest.