We have discovered many teens do not understand how dangerous it is to drive on a flat tire or how quickly they can ruin the whole wheel. (In fact most teens do not know the difference between a tire and a wheel.)
Even driving to the gas station to add air to a low tire can damage the internal integrity of the tire. If a tire looks low, it should not be driven on.
The scariest form of flat tire is a rapid loss of pressure or a blow-out. Talk to your teen about what to do. (In case you do not know, here is a link describing what to do in the event of a blowout.
Your daughter is off at college and gets a flat tire driving home from the mall.
What are her options?
- We feel that the best option is to call a roadside assistance company like AAA to come and change the tire. There are many reasons for this. Changing a tire by the side of the road can be dangerous, changing a tire with the tools provided with the car can be difficult and it might be after dark or in an unsafe area.
- Change out the tire with a spare. Depending on the car the spare may be a regular tire or a small compact one. Here is where she gets to crack her knuckles, pull out the car guide and owner manual, assemble her tools and go to work. It is a bit of a messy job and will probably take 20-30 minutes to complete.This is something she should practice at least once in a non-emergency situation. Most car shops use air tools these days making it difficult to loosen lug bolts with the tools provided with the car. We suggest you buy a four-way lug wrench. (Note: These do not work on all rims. Test it.)
Once the tire is on she should get to a gas station and check the pressure, and get the original tire fixed or replaced as soon as possible.
- In an extreme emergency, use a tire sealant. This is a temporary fix that is useful in a tough situation, when there is no cell service, the spare is flat, the lug bolts will not come off, or if the location is dangerous. In general, we do not recommend tire sealants. In newer cars with tire pressure monitoring sensors, tire sealant can ruin the sensor. Also sealants only work on small leaks. Make sure you tell the shop that you used a tire sealant as some sealants are flammable. The repair will require more labor so most shops will charge extra for the repair.
Explain to your teen that no matter what type of flat they have, it will probably require getting the car into a tire store or auto repair shop to get everything checked out. This is especially true with compact spare tires which are not designed to be driven on for any length of time.
Emphasize to your teen, tires are not something to mess around with or ignore!