Spare yourself from a flat tire catastrophe

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 16, 2015

 In the event of a flat tire, be prepared by keeping an emergency kit with a car jack and a lug wrench.

In the event of a flat tire, be prepared by keeping an emergency kit with a car jack and a lug wrench.

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If your newer vehicle didn’t come with a spare tire, there is no reason to despair so long as you make plans well ahead of a flat tire event, according to AAA and tire experts.

According to AAA, a spare tire has become a less common feature in newer vehicles due to it being removed in order to reduce vehicle weight and increase fuel efficiency ratings. Instead, some newer vehicles come equipped with a tire inflation kit. 

Joe Podgorski, owner of Madison Heights Tire & Auto in Madison Heights, said his business doesn’t sell tire inflation kits.  But he explained that a tire inflation kit is a device that sprays a sealant inside a punctured tire. 

“You screw it onto the valve stem, and it puts a glue-like substance into the tire and air (into the tire) to inflate the tire up enough to get to a gas station,” Podgorski explained. 

Podgorski said the inflation kits can fix some tread punctures as a stopgap measure, but the solution isn’t a panacea and won’t work for tire sidewall slashes or blowouts. 

 “But that (sealant) stuff destroys the new tire sensors that are in there,” he said. “It’s just to get you to where you can have it fixed. It’s nothing you want to drive permanently on.”

Although AAA provides roadside assistance for its customers, AAA Michigan Public Affairs Specialist Gary Bubar said the association urges inflation kit owners to read the instructions in advance, well before a tire incident occurs. 

Kits also have an expiration date, and they must be replaced once used in order to get more sealant, Bubar said. 

“These are pretty high-quality kits, and they’re designed to last a number of years,” he said. “Unfortunately, that number of years is four to eight years.” 

For vehicles that are equipped with spare tires or have enough room to store one, there are other things to keep in mind. A spare isn’t a cure-all if it doesn’t work, so experts recommend monitoring the spare tire’s pressure every month and making sure it is stored securely.  

Podgorski said that even if a vehicle can fit a spare tire, there are other tools that are needed to replace a flat tire.

“You’re going to need a jack. You’re going to need a lug wrench as well,” he said.

Another option, Podgorski said, that some people use to keep their cars rolling is a “run-flat” tire.

“A run-flat tire is a tire that you can drive on with no air in it for X amount of miles until you get it repaired or replaced, and it won’t destroy the tire,” he explained.

Learn more about AAA Michigan by visiting www.michigan.aaa.com. Learn more about Madison Heights Tire & Auto, 580 W. 11 Mile Road in Madison Heights, at www.madtireautorepair.com or at (248) 543-4940.

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