You probably read about how I started off 2018 with a tire disaster. (Even one flat can be a huge inconvenience, but I’m going to call three flats on two vans and no usable spare a disaster.)
Today I’m going to share what I learned from my tire woes in hopes of helping my readers possibly avoid and at least prepare for their next flat. I wish a true tire disaster on no one, but if it happens, you can be ready.
#1 Run on tires that are in good condition. It’s easy to ignore tires when they’re doing a good job rolling you down the road. It’s impossible to ignore a tire that’s gone flat and left you stranded. While purchasing good tires may seem like an extravagance (it often has to me), you’re less likely to have a flat if your tires are strong and in good condition. Make sure your tread depth is within acceptable limits. Check for cracks in the tread or sidewall. If you can see the metal wires in the tire, you are in imminent danger of a blowout. If you’re buying a used vehicle, determine the age of the tires even if they look new. According to Car and Driver,
most tires should be inspected, if not replaced, at about six years and should be absolutely be swapped out after 10 years, regardless of how much tread they have left.
#2 Don’t count on roadside assistance. It’s great to have roadside assistance, either through your insurance or AAA or the Good Sam Club. (Roadside assistance from my Progressive insurance has saved my butt on several occasions, as has AAA.) However, what roadside assistance offers may be limited. AAA can’t help you if you’re off the pavement. Roadside assistance is great if you’re on the road, but if you’re a few miles out boondocking on public land, you’re going to have to depend on yourself (or possibly the kindness of strangers).
#3 Know how to take off a flat tire and put on the spare and PRACTICE the procedure. This is a tip I need to take to heart. I know in theory how to change a tire, but theory will be mostly useless if I’m stuck somewhere without help. If you don’t have someone to teach you how to get the flat tire off and the spare tire on, watch a tutorial online, then get out there and put your knowledge to the test.
#4 Check your spare. Is it in good condition? Is it properly inflated? Can you remove it from its holder? A spare that’s flat or inaccessible is worthless.
#5 Have a jack that’s strong enough to lift your rig. The scissor jack that works to lift The Man’s minivan might not be able to handle the weight of my conversion van. Make sure your jack is what you need before you need it. Don’t have a jack? Get one.
[amazon template=image&asin=B00G025KRU]#6 Invest in a portable air compressor that runs off your vehicle’s battery. I have a Slime brand portable air compressor and I’m quite happy with it. A hitchhiker The Man and I picked up warned me that the air compressor would drain a vehicle’s battery, but neither The Man nor I have had that experience. (That hitchhiker was a real naysayer on just about every topic.) If your tire has a slow leak, you can use the air compressor to pump it up enough to drive to a tire repair shop.
#7 Carry a can of tire sealant/aerosol tire inflator in your rig. This product (made by Fix-a-Flat and Slime, among others) costs under $10 (if you buy it in civilization and not at some rip-off gas station in the middle of nowhere), and will help get your rig to a shop where the tire can be repaired or replaced. I have a big van with big tires, so I carry a big can of Fix-a-Flat with me.
The DealNews website has a good article on the pros and cons of using tire sealant/aerosol tire inflator. I would not use my can of Fix-a-Flat before first trying to inflate the tire using my air compressor. If the tire wouldn’t hold air from the compressor, I would then take off the flat tire and put on my spare. I would only use the Fix-a-Flat if I had no other option. Also, tire sealant is not going to work on a gash, slash, or blowout, so its usefulness will depend on the type of damage the tire has suffered.
#8 Once you use sealant/aerosol inflator in the tire, get the tire to a repair shop as soon as possible. My understanding is that sealant/aerosol tire inflators (like Slime or Fix-a-Flat) are for temporary, emergency use only. You have to get to a tire shop as soon as you can to get a proper repair.
#9 Get the warranty when you buy new tires. I think I paid $20 per tire for my warranties, which felt like an extravagance at the time. However, the $20 I paid got a tire that cost over $100 replaced for free. The money I spent on the warranty seems like a bargain now.
#10 Choose your boondocking site carefully. If you’re boondocking on public land, think carefully about the spot you choose. Lots of folks like to be as far away from the main road and other campers as possible, but think about how far you’ll have to walk to get help if you have a flat or mechanical problem. If you can’t solve your own problems, you may want to park closer to the main road.
Also consider the road to the boondocking area. Can your tires handle ruts and pointy rocks that may be present? You don’t want to damage your tires while trying to get closer to nature. Get out and access the situation before you blissfully head out into the wild blue yonder.
Don’t let my story of tire disaster scare you. Use what I’ve learned so you can prepare for and hopefully avoid what I went through. However, please know that these tips are just suggestions. I am not responsible for your safety and wellbeing. Only YOU are responsible for your safety and wellbeing.
Also, feel free to share you stories of tire disasters in the comments section below.