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How to Change a flat tire:

 

Until the day comes when we are all piloting flying cars (and trust me, the day will come), our cars are stuck with these rubber things called tires. They roll nice and all, but they have a rather nasty problem of sometimes losing air. And without air, they become deflated and virtually useless.

Changing a flat tire is not a very pleasant experience. It seems like your car purposely tries to get a flat tire at the least opportune moments. Like when you are rushing home from work to catch your favorite episode of "Happy Days," for instance. You know, the one where Fonzie rides the killer bull while on vacation in Colorado.

Now, there are some of you who might be lucky and own a car with run-flat tires or a low tire-pressure warning system. If that is the case, you might be able to avoid the icky process. But even if you are a hapless soul, changing a tire doesn't have to be all bad. With knowledge comes power. If you are unsure how to change a tire properly, and you want to know, read on.

 


OK, so you are driving along and all of a sudden you hear a loud bang and the telltale thumping noise of a dead tire. You carefully pull off to the shoulder of the road. Checking to make sure no other motorists are going to run you over, you exit your vehicle and inspect the car. Sure enough, your car's left front tire is completely flat. You are not going to be able to keep driving, so you are going to have to remove it and install your car's spare tire in its place.

Jack up the Car
The first step is to find your car's spare tire, jack and tire iron. The spare tire is almost always located underneath the floor mat in the trunk. Unless, of course, your car doesn't have a trunk. If you own an SUV, minivan or pickup, the spare tire is often mounted on the back of the tailgate or underneath the vehicle itself.

Once you have found the spare tire, remove it from the car. If you have an air pressure gauge handy, you will want to check the spare tire's pressure. If this tire is flat, too, you're in a bit of trouble. But let's just assume you have been keeping tabs on the spare tire's health, and its air pressure is perfect.

The next step will involve removing the flat tire. Make sure that the car is in gear (or in "park" if the car is an automatic) and the emergency brake is set. The car should be parked on a flat piece of pavement. Do not attempt to change a flat if the car is on a slope or if it is sitting on dirt. It's also a good idea to block the tire opposite of the flat tire. Therefore, if the left front tire is flat, it would be a good idea to place a brick or other large, heavy object behind the right rear tire. (Your cousin Fred might also be large and heavy, but it's not a good idea to use him to block the tire). Blocking the tire makes the car less likely to move when you are raising it.

Use the tire iron (the L-shaped bar that fits over the wheel lugs) to loosen each wheel lug. The wheel lugs are almost certainly very tight. You'll have to use brute force. Just think about how Mr. T from the "A-Team" would do it and try to be like him. Say to yourself, "Hannibal, I piddy da fool who can't break loose wheel lugs." You'll have those babies loose in no time. You loosen them by turning them counterclockwise, by the way.

Now, at this point, you don't want to actually remove the lugs. You just want them loose. Once you have accomplished this, move the jack underneath the car. If you don't know where the proper jacking points are, look them up in the owner's manual (you keep your owner's manual in your car, right?).

Maneuver the jack underneath the jack point and start to raise the jack. Most car jacks these days are a screw-type scissor jack, which means you simply turn the knob at the end of the jack using the provided metal hand crank. Raise the jack until it contacts the car's frame and continue expanding the jack.

Remove the Flat and Install the Spare

Raise the car with the jack until the flat tire is completely raised off the ground. Once this is done, remove the wheel lugs completely. Depending on how tight the lugs are you might be able to remove them by hand. Set the lugs aside in a secure location where they can't roll away.

Position the spare tire over the wheel studs. This is the most physically challenging part of the whole process. You'll have to hold up the tire and try to line up the holes in the wheel with the protruding wheel studs located on the brake hub. One trick that might help is to balance the tire on your foot while you move it into position.

After you have the spare tire hanging on the wheel studs, screw each of the wheel lugs back on. You'll want to start them by hand. Make sure you do not cross-thread them. The lugs should screw on easily. Once each of them is snug and you can't tighten them any further by hand, use the tire iron to finish the job. At this point, you don't need to get the lugs super tight. You just want them snug for now. Make sure that the wheel is fitting flush against the brake hub.

Once the spare tire is on, carefully lower the jack. Pull the jack away from the vehicle. The final step is to tighten down the lugs completely. The reason you tighten the lugs now is that the tire is on the ground and it won't rotate around like it would if it was still hanging in the air.

Wheel lugs have a specific torque rating that they are supposed to be tightened down to, but there is pretty much no way you can figure that out using a simple tire iron. The general rule here is to tighten down the lugs as much as possible. Again, think Mr. T. "I ain't flying on no plane with loose wheel lugs, Hannibal!"

That's it. Put the flat tire in the space where the spare tire was and put the jack and tire iron back in the car. Most compact spare tires are smaller than regular tires (they look dinky and people commonly refer to them as "rubber doughnuts"), so it is possible that the flat tire won't fit in the spare tire well. Also, compact spares have a limited top speed. The tire's top speed will be written on its sidewall. If your vehicle has a full-size spare, you won't encounter these problems. With the spare installed, you should be able to reach your house or the nearest service station.

 

 

Top 10 Ways To Lower Your Car Insurance Bill
By Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

 

If you're shopping for car insurance, you know there are certain crucial factors influencing your rate that are out of your hands. Such factors include your age, gender and record of prior claims.

Despite this, there's a lot you can do to score a lower rate, and your choices bear more power than you might think. Here are 10 tips guaranteed to help you get the best rate possible on your auto insurance.

 

  1. Get more than one rate quote before you commit. "Company prices are very different, and it pays to shop around. You can easily wind up paying double from one company to the next," says J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance with the Consumer Federation of America, a national watchdog group.

    Want to get a sense of who the low-priced carriers are? The
    National Association of Insurance Carriers offers a map on its Web site that lists each state's regulators. Click on your state and you're taken to the state's Department of Insurance Web site. Its consumer buying guide compares insurance premiums across a range of companies. You'll also learn how many complaints each company has logged. Surprisingly, you don't have to sacrifice service quality to score a low premium. "A lot of the lower-priced companies have the best service rates," says Hunter.

    There are a host of independent Web sites, like
    CarInsurance.com, that allow you to comparison-shop by offering online price quotes. These sites can be incredibly useful. However, Hunter warns that these services — which earn their keep by charging carriers a commission on each sale — occasionally fail to include the insurance companies with the lowest rates, since these low-cost carriers are unwilling to pay commissions.
  2. Evaluate insurance costs before you buy your vehicle. The year, make and model of your vehicle can have a profound impact on your insurance rate. All else being equal, new, expensive or sporty cars will cost more to ensure than older, cheaper and more utilitarian vehicles. But you could find a substantial discrepancy even when comparing the cost to insure similar cars. So if you've got a few models on your shortlist, contact your carrier to see what rate each vehicle commands. Doing so could ultimately net you a windfall in savings when the time comes to pay your premium.
  3. Go high on deductibles. If you're willing to give a little with your deductible, you can wind up saving big on your rates. "If you go from a $250 to a $1,000 deductible, you can save between 25 and 40 percent on your policy," says Hunter. You can then set aside a portion of these funds to cover your costs in the event of a claim.
  4. Nix collision and/or comprehensive coverage on older cars. If your older car has comp and collision coverage, you might find yourself paying more in insurance than the car is worth. "Take your comp and collision premium and add it up, then multiply it by 10. If your car is worth less than that, don't buy the coverage," says Hunter. If you're worried about being left overexposed, consider this: The typical policyholder makes a claim only once every 11 years, and reports a total loss only once every 50 years.
  5. Mind your credit score. An increasing number of carriers are considering credit scores when making rate calculations. "Your credit score can be very important in determining your rate," says Hunter. "You can wind up paying up to 50 percent more if you have a bad credit score." Keep your credit score in tip-top shape by paying bills in a timely manner and by regularly checking that there are no items on your history that do not belong to you.
  6. Ask about low-mileage discounts. Many carriers offer discounts to policyholders whose annual mileage is lower than the norm. Maybe you have a short commute. Or maybe your participation in the office carpool results in fewer hours spent in your daily driver. Whatever the case, your low mileage can score you a reduced rate with some companies, so be sure to inquire about available discounts.
  7. Ask about group insurance discounts. Oftentimes, insurance companies offer discounts to policyholders who are members of certain organizations or professions, such as veterans, engineers or teachers. Request a list of these groups from your carrier to see if you qualify — you might be pleasantly surprised.
  8. Ask about all other discounts. Some carriers offer discounts to policyholders whose vehicles bear certain safety features, like anti-theft devices or motorized seatbelts. Others give reduced rates to senior citizens, and to students whose grades meet certain requirements. "Many carriers offer discounts. Ask for them when you're shopping," says Hunter.

    However, Hunter offers one caveat: "Some of the companies that offer the highest discounts have the highest rates, so don't get too focused on discounts. Some high-priced companies offer high discounts, but at the end of the day you're still paying more."
  9. Avoid lapses in coverage. Even a brief lapse in coverage can disqualify you from receiving discounts. "They use lapses in coverage to increase your premium," says Hunter. Pay your insurance bills on time. And if you're switching carriers, make sure not to quit your previous career until the new coverage takes effect.
  10. Think twice about paying in installments. Most carriers charge an administration fee to pay in installments. One carrier surveyed levied a $10 charge per installment to those who opted to break up their bill. The solution? Pay your premium up front, if at all possible.

    Of course, this charge is more significant for those with small premiums. If you've got a king-sized premium and feel you'd get a better rate of return by investing your funds elsewhere instead of paying up front, then the installment route will probably best suit your needs
    .

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