Driving on a Flat Tire: Is It Safe?

Flat tire.

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Getting a flat tire while on the road or even when you’re parked somewhere far from home can be a scary experience. If you don’t know how to change a tire or don’t have a spare tire, you might consider driving on a flat tire. 

No matter the make, model or year, every vehicle requires four fully inflated tires to operate correctly. It’s the safest way to get where you’re going. Flat tires occur for various reasons, some of which you can avoid. 

It’s usually not a good idea to drive on a flat tire, but sometimes, it might be the only option you have.

How to Know You Got a Flat Tire

You’ll probably notice right away that you got a flat tire, whether you saw it while your vehicle was parked or if you were driving. Sometimes, a flat tire can be misinterpreted as an underinflated tire, so it’s good to know the difference so you can take the proper measures to fix it. 

Some air can fix underinflated tires, but a flat tire will need a replacement or repaired professionally. Rough road conditions, failure to replace old tires and even foreign objects that may puncture the tire may cause flat tires. 

When your vehicle is parked, you’ll notice that a tire is flatter than the others, or it looks less inflated. If a foreign object punctured the tire, you’d probably notice the object upon closer inspection of your vehicle’s tire. 

If you’re driving and you get a flat tire, there are a few indicators. Some flats aren’t super noticeable — like ones caused by a tiny hole that lets out the air at a languid pace. In this case, some cars provide an indicator on the dashboard that tells you if the tire is flat or needs to inflate. 

Other indicators of getting a flat tire while driving can be a bit more extreme, and you need to take caution if they occur to you. You’ll hear thumping sounds and feel vibrations, or you’ll feel as though one side of your vehicle is lower than the other. Plus, it will feel like you can’t accelerate or that the car is pulling towards the side of the flat. If you’re traveling at a higher speed and run over a sharp object, the tire could blow up or off the rim. 

What to Do If You Get a Flat Tire?

If you notice your tire is flat while parked, avoid driving it before you get it fixed. Inspect the car for any objects that could have punctured the tire. Physically look at the tire and run your hand around it to feel for the object. If you can’t see anything or feel any air leaking, you might just have low tire pressure.

If you get a flat tire while you’re driving, find a location to pull over as soon as possible safely. Avoid pressing the brakes or slamming on them. Remain calm and increase your speed so you can maintain control of the vehicle. Find a shoulder or a parking lot where you can pull off to check the tire and change it. If you have to pull off on the side of the road, use safety cones or triangles if you have them, and put on your four-way lights. 

In either of these situations, if you have a spare tire, change the flat tire. Then, safely drive to your mechanic or auto store so a professional can assess the situation and get you a new tire.  

Why Driving on a Flat Tire Isn’t Safe

The farthest you should drive on a flat tire is a few hundred yards. If you have to drive with a flat, stay under 20 miles per hour and avoid rougher terrain and hills that would cause your vehicle to accelerate. Use your four-way lights while driving on a flat. 

Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t drive with a flat tire: 

  • You can damage your tire beyond repair. 
  • You will damage your rims, especially if the tire blew out. 
  • You can damage other parts of your vehicle, like the axle, brake lines and fenders.
  • You may lose control of your car, which could hurt you and others around you. 
  • You’ll end up paying a lot more for excess damages. 

For your safety, others’ safety and your car’s safety, stay off of the roads when you get a flat tire. 

Prevention and Precaution Are Key

Fortunately, there are ways you can prevent your car from getting a flat tire. Here are some tips: 

  • Occasionally check your tire pressure: Checking your tire pressure ensures that your vehicle’s tires are properly inflated. Use a tire pressure gauge to check your tires and your spare tire monthly. You can use your owner’s manual or the information on the edge of the driver’s side door to inflate it to the correct pressure. 
  • Rotate your tires: Additionally, rotate your tires regularly as directed by your mechanic. This ensures that they get equal wear. 
  • Avoid overloading your car: All cars usually have a maximum weight capacity. Overloading it can deflate your tires. 
  • Watch for hazards: While driving, be on the lookout for potential risks in the road that could cause a flat tire. 

With these prevention and precaution tips, you are more likely to steer clear of a flat tire. 

Stay Safe on the Roads

Driving on a flat tire should be avoided at all costs. It can end up hurting you, your car, others, and your bank account. 

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