A flat tyre can throw your schedule off course, making you late for work and other commitments. But, with a little preparation, you can be ready with the tools to get you back on the road fairly quickly.
Here we look at the easiest and fastest ways to fix a flat tyre - at least well enough to drive to the nearest garage for a longer-term patch-up.
If you have an air compressor in your boot, you can use this to pump up your tyre temporarily so you can drive safely to a garage.
These are plugged into your car's cigarette lighter, with the hose screwed into the wheel's valve stem. Turn it on and watch the pressure gauge rise to the manufacturer's recommended PSI. This should only take a few minutes. You may wish to pump the tyre a little over the recommended pressure level, giving you extra air for the ride. A key benefit of using an air compressor is you don't need to jack the car off the ground.
Before setting off, wait a few minutes to make sure the tyre doesn’t deflate quickly, since that would pose a safety risk on the road.
Swapping out the deflated tyre for your spare one is your next option. You will need a scissor jack, a tyre iron, and a key for any locking lug nuts.
Loosen the lug nuts (so the wheel doesn’t spin) and block off the rear wheels. Jack up the car and use a jack stand if you have one - for added safety. Remove the lug nuts and take off the wheel. Next, fit the new wheel, making sure the lug nuts are tight.
When searching for the puncture, it's important to wear eye protection in case something flies out of the tyre (eg a nail).
With the damaged wheel off the car, look for the leak by spinning the tyre. Most punctures are in the tread area. Any damage to the tyre wall or shoulder means the whole tyre needs to be replaced. If you can’t find the puncture, spray soapy water on the rubber. Bubbles will come out here the hole is. Also spray the valve stem, where punctures are common.
You can plug the puncture with a rubber plug. These are bought in a set containing rubber plugs, a plug pusher and a reamer (and sometimes rubber cement). Take a rubber plug and thread it into the plug pusher, with an equal length of rubber on each side of the pushing tool. Next, use the reamer to widen the puncture, then use the pusher tool to insert the rubber plug into the tyre.
Many punctures are caused by nails and screws; remove this object from the tyre, then use the reamer to smooth the hole. If you have it, add rubber cement to the plug. This is not essential, but it will lubricate the plug as it's inserted, and will harden later to make the repair more sound.
Force the plug into the hole with the pusher tool; this may take some effort. Don’t force the plug all the way in; leave a quarter poking out of the hole. Pull the plug out quickly, and the rubber will stay in the hole (the end of the plug tool breaks to allow this).
Wait 10 minutes and then cut off the excess rubber on the plug.
Pump up the tyres to the right pressure, then re-fit the tyre, making sure to fully tighten the lug nuts.
Note: Plugged tyres are not a permanent solution. Your tyre shop/garage will be able to make a permanent repair.
You can buy a can of compressed air with sealer. This can be pumped into your punctured tyre to inflate it. The sealer liquid in the can should plug any small leaks and help you get back on the road. However, the sealer damages the tyre material, so it’s only a temporary measure. It also means the tyre will need to be replaced, and therefore should only be used in emergencies.