Two Letters Re: Basic Mechanics Skill and Knowing Vehicular Limitations

RE: basic mechanics & vehicles, specifically more on tires/wheels, etc. Make a jacking platform to support the jack in soft soil. I used 2 thicknesses of 3/4″ plywood Gorilla Glued together. I’d suggest at least 12″ square, but there is an advantage to making it larger. I made mine as large as would fit underneath the passenger seat in my truck, which was 14.5″ X 16″.

Inflate the spare to 15-20% over the regular running pressure in the other four. That won’t hurt it, and it’s easier to let air out than to force it in .[JWR’s Comment: If you do this, for safety be sure to prominently tag it “Overinflated!” add also pack a tire pressure gauge.] Since people rarely check the spare for air, the 15-20% adds a margin. Use your spare as part of a regular 5-tire rotation maintenance plan (every 5,000-to-6,000 miles is about right); that keeps its wear about the same as the other four, and adds at least 20% to the overall life of the set of tires over a 4-tire rotation schedule.

Get a spare wheel, or two if it’s in the budget (used wheels for almost all vehicles are available on the Internet, inspected and guaranteed to be true). Before your running tires are worn out, buy same-size replacements – including the spare – and put the best old two on the spare wheels. Now you have three spares instead of just one (same-size matching is important, especially if your vehicle is a 4WD). Tread punctures can usually be fixed, but not sidewall punctures, and rock cuts will instantly ruin a tire.

Get extra lug nuts at a junkyard, and test them for proper fit. Find places to secure them two at a time. I used .041″ stainless safety wire to secure pairs in various places around the truck where they won’t get rusty but are still accessible. If your wheel mounting lugs are long enough, put 1 or 2 on each wheel, backwards, with the 2nd nut flat face to and already-installed nut’s flat face, torqued tight enough to keep them from coming loose (if the lug nuts don’t have flat faces, this won’t work. Non-flat faces on the lug nuts will damage each other and possibly the mounting lug threads.)  I also wired a pair to each “extra spare” wheel and tossed several in one of the pouches of my “in truck” tool bag, along with a few spare wheel mounting lugs, purchased new from the auto parts store (verify the fit – your front and rear studs may be different). If you have a cross-type lug wrench, wire a couple nuts snugly at the center cross. – Nosmo King


Hi James,
All of the insights on tire changes have been welcome, and I wanted to add my 2 cents. On top of the 4-way lug wrench, tire plug kit, jack, properly- inflated spare. and DC-powered compressor, and the knowledge from practice on how to use them, you should also carry spare lug nuts and lug studs, a Ball peen hammer and a decent sized punch.

Having had a stud shear off while 4-wheeling is disconcerting and each time a lug shears off it puts more load on the remaining studs. I would encourage all readers to become familiar with all aspects of this most important piece of round rubber we all take for granted sometimes.  I have been stuck in the middle of nowhere with no spare and no way to fix a tire, and no cell service. I was very fortunate to have another  “wheeler” come along and offer assistance, otherwise the buzzards may have started circling overhead.   when the grid goes down that help may be a long time coming. – T.C. in the Pacific Northwest

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