Tire punctures from road debris are a fact of life. In fact, most new cars come from the factory with a set of tire-changing tools already in the trunk. But these are the absolute minimum to get the car repair job done: changing a tire will be a lot easier and perhaps safer if you upgrade your tire-changing toolkit.
1. Bottle Jack
Off-roaders with lifted 4x4s swear by their hi-lift jacks. And mechanics with a shop love their roll-around floor jacks. But if you are looking to upgrade your factory “scissor” style jack with something that will easily fit in the trunk of your car, look no further than a durable little “bottle jack.”
These car jacks get their name from their bottle-shaped hydraulic cylinder. For under $30 you can easily pick up a brand-new bottle jack capable of lifting a corner of most cars and SUVs. It won’t take up much space or roll around in your trunk the same as a floor jack would.
If you get a flat tire, a bottle jack will quickly and safely lift your car off the ground. Make certain to familiarize yourself with the safe lift points of your vehicle by taking a look at your owner’s manual.
2. Lug Wrench
Most cars come from the factory with a basic lug wrench bundled with their factory jack. But these folding wrenches often have a very short handle. Without much leverage, breaking free a tight lug nut can be a real pain. In addition, these wrenches often only have one size and won’t be much help if you want to assist another motorist change a tire.
A common replacement lug wrench is a “4-way.” It gets its name because it looks like a cross, with a different socket on each end. This design makes one wrench compatible with multiple lug nut sizes. It also allows you to spin off a lug nut once you’ve broken it free.
A 4-way lug nut wrench is an effective tool, and you can get one for $15-20. But it will take up a fair amount of space in your trunk. For the same price, you can also invest in a lug wrench with a long handle and separate sockets for different size nuts. This will take up less space and be just as effective.
A can of pressurized fix-a-flat serves two purposes: it reinflates a flat tire and temporarily plugs any small leaks. It can be an invaluable way to get rolling in a dangerous situation, even after suffering a flat tire.
If you suffer a flat tire in extreme weather conditions, or if you’re out of the range of tow trucks and have trouble with your tools or spare tire, you may be thankful for fix-a-flat. Therefore, it has a place in most upgraded tire repair kits.
That said, fix-a-flat is a temporary solution. It will destroy any tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) sensors in your tire. It also won’t stop a leak indefinitely. Once you re-inflate your tire with fix-a-flat, you should drive to the nearest tire shop and have the tire properly repaired or replaced.
In addition to these tools, consider upgrading to a full-size spare tire if you don’t have one. Finally, review the safest way to jack up a vehicle and change a tire in the video below: