If there’s one way to feel like a superhero, it’s being able to take care of a roadside fix on your own. Of course, not all issues should be handled without a pro. But here are 3 common ones that just about anyone can master. So read up and know what to be ready for this winter (and all year round!).

And remember, if you feel unsure or uncomfortable doing any of these steps, call an expert.

Easy roadside fix #1: Change a flat tire
(Check out this video for even better directions).

Winter driving can be tough, so don’t be caught unprepared. Before you get on the road, make sure you have all the tools you’ll need. Some of these items might come with your car and are typically stored in the trunk.

  • A spare tire
  • A jack to lift the car
  • A lug nut wrench or tire iron to remove and tighten the lug nut
  • A tire block (This doesn’t come with the car, but you might want to add one to your emergency kit.)

When you hear the tell-tale thunk-a-thunk:

1. Pull over to a safe place.
Find a safe place off the road (exit the freeway, if possible, without damaging your tire rim) on a flat surface. Turn off the car, apply the parking brake, and turn on your hazards.

2. Put the tire block in place.
The tire block goes under the tire on the opposite corner of the one you’re changing. So, if you’re changing the rear left tire, the block would go behind the front right one.

3. Take off the hubcap (or wheel cover) and loosen the lug nuts.
Using that lug nut wrench, twist them to the left without completely removing them.

4. Lift the car with the jack.
Consult your manual to see where to position your car jack. Using even strokes, lift the car so the wheel is completely off the ground. DO NOT put your body underneath a car lifted by a car jack (even if you’ve seen it in the movies) in case the vehicle slips off.

5. Remove the flat tire.
Remove the loosened lug nuts and set them aside (somewhere that you can find them again!). Using both hands, remove the tire and lay it flat.

6. Put on the spare tire.
Set the spare tire onto the tire bolts, pushing it back as far as it can go.

7. Replace the lug nuts.
Put the lug nuts back on the tire bolts in an alternating star pattern. Tighten them by hand first.

8. One final step.
Finally, lower the vehicle and use the wrench to give the lug nuts a final turn. Replace the hubcap or wheel cover and give yourself knuckles. You did it!

Easy roadside fix #2: Jump start your car
(Check out this video for even better directions).

No matter where it happens, a dead battery is a huge bummer. (Especially if it leaves you out in the cold.) Here’s how to deal.

1. Read your owner’s manual.
Yep, you should always do this — it’ll help you find the battery and make sure that your car can be jump-started.

2. Find a willing helper. 
Park a functioning car about 2 feet away from yours. Turn both cars off.

3. Pop both hoods.
Then locate the batteries and the + and – signs.

4. Attach the cables.
Jumper cables are great because they come marked with black and red ends. You’re going to put the red ones on the + part of the batteries, first the good battery, then yours. One black one goes to the – sign of the good battery and the other black one clamps to an unpainted metal surface on your car.

5. Start the good car.
Rev the engine a touch, then let it idle. Wait a few minutes for your battery to charge.

6. Start your car (also, hopefully now a “good car.”)
Keep the cars idling while you thank your new friend.

7. Disconnect the cables in the reverse order they were connected:

  • Black clamp from your car
  • Black clamp from helper’s car
  • Red clamp from your car
  • Red clamp from helper’s car

8. Drive around for 15 to 30 minutes to allow the battery to fully charge.
You’re done! Nice work!

Easy roadside fix 3: Get unstuck
(Check out how to avoid getting in the predicament in the first place!)

Winter storms can happen quickly, burying your car . But don’t worry, we can help you get unstuck in a flash.

1. First try the easy save.
Check to make sure you have an essential item in your winter emergency kit: cat litter. Sprinkle it around your tires to see if it sparks enough traction to get you out.

2. If your tires are just spinning, stop. 
It’s going to make it worse. Instead, shift to low and turn off the traction control (which is useful in most circumstances but will cut the power when you need it.)

3. Do the “rock and roll.” 
Well, hopefully emphasis on the roll part. Drive forward a bit, then put the car in reverse and roll it backward. Do it a few times to see if you can get out of the rut. If not, dig around the tires to remove some excess snow.

4. Have a backup plan. 
If these maneuvers don’t work, it might be time to call for some help. Check out our emergency road service coverage (ERS). It can give you peace of mind and make an unpleasant situation more bearable. If you’d like to add ERS to your policy, simply log into your policy or call us at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262).

DIY hacks | For your car


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.