Flat tires are never a fun thing—but this one takes the cake. It’s late, of course, and in the middle of a frog-choking rain. You’re stuck in the ankle-deep mud on the shoulder of a deserted road. How deserted? Out-of-cellphone-coverage deserted, or you’d be sitting in the cab of a service truck while somebody else gets drenched. That’s how deserted.

Yes, you could drive along the shoulder on the rim for a few miles to civilization, but insurance won’t cover the damage to your expensive alloy rim. It’s time to knuckle down and put on the spare. A pressure can of flat-fix foam can get you home if the problem is a simple puncture, and that may be a viable option, especially for smaller individuals or the elderly who would have a tough time changing a tire. Just remember two things: This stuff is a temporary solution, and the flat will need to be attended to by a tire technician at the earliest opportu-nity. Be sure to warn the technician that you’ve used this stuff. The propellant is flammable, and unless he’s warned, he stands the chance of causing a nasty explosion.

This project was originally published in the November 2002 issue of Popular Mechanics. You can find more great projects at Popular Mechanics DIY Central.

Step 1: Be Prepared

First of all, remember to check the pressure in your neglected spare tire whenever you check the pressure in the other four, which you do faithfully every month or so, right? A flat spare is no help. And if you’re like most people who save a plugged or nearly worn tire for the spare, it’s likely that the spare has a slow leak, which would leave you stranded.

Furthermore, you’ll never be able to change a tire if you don’t have the basics—a jack and a lug wrench. Go back into their hidy-hole and confirm their existence. While you’re there and you have enough light to read the owner’s manual, figure out how to unship them and make sure the jack isn’t rusted into immobility. Check the manual and find the vehicle’s jacking points. You’ll probably need to lie on the ground to find them, but this will be a lot more palatable now in your driveway than later on the shoulder of some mud bog.

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Bio: The official instructable for Popular Mechanics magazine, reporting on the DIY world since 1902.
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