Tire tricks for solo travelers
Summer is here, and for those of us traveling the highways as women alone, or alone with kids, its good to be prepared for the unexpected. Since my husband moved out, I’ve had three flat tires, er, make that three opportunities to learn how to change a tire. Sure, you can call AAA and have someone come and do it, but that means being one of those sad sacks stuck waiting on the side of the road in the blazing heat. Better to just do it yourself. But be warned that in most cases, when you go to change a tire, even after you’ve watched the videos, AND read the manual, there will be evil unseen forces working against you.
With each flat I had this past year, it would have been perfectly possible for me to pull the entire operation off –except for the part where the lug nuts get loosened. Lug nuts (are you with me girls? This is important!) are the bolts that hold the tire onto the axle.
Your car will have a tire changing tool kit and a lug wrench specifically for loosening the lug nuts before you jack up the car and remove them before pulling off the tire. The rub is that 9 times out of 10, you can’t loosen these bleeping things, because they are almost certain to have been tightened in the shop by a big guy with an air gun.
But don’t call AAA just yet. Last summer, my neighbor, a strapping 6′ 4″ farmer and science teacher introduced me to a brilliant solution after ‘fessing up that he couldn’t loosen the lug nuts either. It was a 4ft length of PVC pipe reinforced with steel and which fit over the wrench to increase the torque. Like magic, with a quarter of the effort, those nuts came right off. We should all keep one of these pipe lengths in the car next to the spare (also useful against malevolent strangers who might approach all- alone- you in a dark, empty parking lot). Remember, when you turn, “Lefty Loosey” and you should be good.
Sometimes, I’m sorry to say, even after the lug nuts come off, the tire is still stuck on the axel. Kevin, the helpful guy at my auto shop, says this is “an atmospheric thing.” He means that sometimes where steel meets aluminum the inevitable oxidization makes them almost weld together. And this does indeed make it near impossible to remove, but there is a solution. Take a tool and tap around the edge of the center to sort of shake it loose. Then, pick up the spare tire and with all the strength saved from the lug nut operation, throw it or bump it up against the tire that’s stuck. In most cases the force will loosen it up and the tire will bounce right off.
Go ahead and change a tire. I guarantee that successfully changing a tire is going to make you feel good. If not good, then at least better. As in, “I am better than you, Lou!”