The Flat Tire

We have been lucky when it comes to flat tires. We’ve driven round-trip from Virginia to Florida four times without a flat. We’ve driven from Virginia to Maine without a flat. We’ve driven dozens of times between Virginia and New York and have never pulled over because of a flat tire. We’ve had tire problems. Nails and screws and things like that. I fill up the tire and then drive to the mechanic to have it patched.

Yesterday, we arrived home from Florida, after 1,100 miles of driving in just 2 days. When I got out of the car, I looked to where our second car had been sitting unused for two weeks and noticed a completely flat right rear tire.

Flat tire

Ah, well, I thought. It was bound to happen at some point. We’d just arrived home and hadn’t even unpacked the car. We were in no rush, so I figured I’d deal with the flat the next day. My initial thought was just to call AAA and have them come by and swap out the flat for the spare.

When I woke up this morning, I had a different thought. The one disadvantage to not having the occasional flat tire is not getting the experience of changing a flat. My grandfather—who had been an auto mechanic most of his life—had taught me how to change a flat. But since I never had a flat tire, I never had the need to use that experience. Laying in bed this morning I thought: forget the Automobile club, I’ll do it myself.

I did it myself, the way my grandfather taught me. I jacked up the car just enough so that the tire was about to leave the ground. I loosened the nuts. Then I jacked up the car enough to remove the old tire, and replace it with the new one. It was easy, save one little mistake.

I should have checked the air pressure in the spare before putting it on. It turned out that the spare tire, having never been used, and having been mounted on the car for years, needed air. After removing the spare, I tossed it into the back of the other car, drove to the local service station, and filled it with air, 44 PSI, as recommended on the tire. I got back, put the tire on car, tighten the bolts, lowered the car, and gave each bolt a final crank. And the spare has now successfully replaced the flat tire.

Fixed tire

The whole process, including driving to the local service station to put air in the spare tire, took under an hour. That might sound long, and perhaps it is, but I hadn’t changed a tire since my grandfather taught me how to do it as a teenager.

And you know what? I’m glad I didn’t call AAA. I’m glad I changed the tire myself. If nothing else, it gave me the confidence to know that, when the time comes and we do have a flat on one of our road trips, I don’t have to wait for AAA or a tow truck to help put on a spare. I know how to do it myself.

Oh, and the reason the tire had gone flat in the first place, even though the car had been sitting there for two weeks while we were on vacation? In inspecting it after I removed it, I found a tiny screw embedded in the tread.


  1. As my dad used to say, “It’s only flat on the bottom!” 🙂 It probably would have taken AAA almost an hour to get there anyway.

    1. I think we’ve lucked out with AAA. We’ve called them twice in the last two or three years, both times for dead batteries. Each time, they said they’d be by in 15 minutes, and each time, they were here in 10.

  2. Wow. By the time I was 18, I was my own expert on handling flats…and getting a dead car battery to work. It helped that in my 20s I owned a classic Beetle. They demand love, and remind you when you’ve neglected them by stranding you on the side of an interstate in Deming. Las Cruses, Memphis or in a swamp in North Carolina. I ended up changing my wife’s O2 sensors during Hurricane Sandy.

    For the modern cars, I’ll do the easy stuff like breaks. But, my “midlife crisis” project is to rebuild a ’72 Beetle from the ground up.


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