My lady made a request this week that seemed strange to me, until I thought about it. She asked me to show her how to change a flat tire on her car.
Guys growing up knowing how to do this. We learn it from our fathers, and it is an essential part of the rite of passage. You know where to find the jack, the spare tire, and the jack sites on the car’s frame. We can jack up the car, break the lug nuts, change out the tire, put the flat one in the trunk and store the jack, being back on the road in about 15 minutes.
Women are not taught these things, except in extreme cases. But they should be, because not all women have a guy handy when the tire blows on a highway at night. So here are my basic instructions for a woman who is alone when the tire goes flat and needs to be changed.
Let me start by noting that if your political beliefs do not permit you to carry a handgun and a concealed carry license, you are at substantially higher risk. For those of you who do own a handgun, the first step is to take your gun out of the glove compartment and put it in your pocket where you can reach it. Then do the following:
- Begin today, before you have a problem, by having someone (male or female) “break” the lug nuts on all four tires and re-tighten them. The lug nuts are what hold the tire on, and over time they can get so tight that you will not stand a chance of getting them loose. Spray them with WD-40 and tighten them. Locate the jack, learn how to operate it, locate the spare tire (which is sometimes UNDER THE CAR), and break the lug nuts holding it on. You will thank me for this tip if you ever have to change the tire.
- If the tire goes flat or blows, pull off the road, onto the shoulder of the road. If there is no shoulder, or it is not a safe neighborhood, keep driving. Yes, you will ruin what is left of the tire and the rim. Big deal. It will cost you about $150, but you will be safe and alive. Pull into the nearest gas station or 7-11, and ask for help (the spare has a rim of its own).
- If you elect to pull over on a road or interstate, lock all of the car doors and call 9-1-1. Explain that you are a woman alone and ask to have an officer check on you at your location. When the officer arrives, ask to see his or her identification. If you have a gun in the car, make sure you tell the officer. They will see your concealed carry license when they call up your record, and being up front about it – and showing them your gun – will help them be at ease. Remember that some people (and rapists) pretend to be police officers. If you have any reason to be nervous, dial 9-1-1 again and have them confirm that an officer is at your location.
- If you know where the jack and spare are, you can change the tire. It is a simple process. Put the jack under the jack point on the frame of the car, on level ground. Turn the jack to raise the car. Loosen the five lug nuts that hold the tire on to the car. Get out the spare tire, lift it onto the lugs (lift, ladies, lift!). Remember that you may have to jack the car up a little more, since the spare tire may be higher than the flat one. Put the lug nuts on and tighten them by hand until they are secure, then use the lug wrench (It is a part of the jack!) to tighten the lug nuts.
- Don’t bother with the hub cap. Just throw it and the blown tire in the trunk and take it to your mechanic in the morning to take care of.
- Some “spare tires” are actually mini-tires, meant to get you home and not much else. That’s fine; take your car to your mechanic and let him/her deal with it.
- If you called 9-1-1 and no one has shown up by the time you have the tire changed – which actually may happen – call them back and cancel the request for an officer. They may be very busy, and will appreciate not having to put someone out on your call.
And when you are all done, ask someone to help you with step #1. After all, flat tires can happen more than once in a lifetime.
Those of you who have a lover in your life who can help you with this, given a silent prayer to the deity who brought them into your life. They are keepers.