If you’re driving down the road and feel the vehicle pull and hear a flapping noise outside, you probably have a flat tire. You’ll want to pull over, but maybe in this case you need to drive a little bit to reach a safe location. Is it okay to be driving on a flat tire? This article and video reviews why you shouldn’t drive with a flat tire, what can happen if you do, and what you should do if you get a flat.
Can You Drive on a Flat Tire?
Do not drive the car with a flat tire. You might be able to travel to a safe location, and that’s understandable if the drive is short, but you do not want to drive with a flat tire if you can avoid it. Driving with a flat tire can lead to more damage and a costlier repair.
What Can Happen If I Drive With a Flat Tire?
If you drive on a flat tire, you can damage the tire, the wheel and rim, and possibly other parts. Pulling over to a safe location right away might give you an opportunity to salvage the tire. This will lead to a less expensive repair than driving with a flat tire, scuffing and damaging the tire, and damaging the rim to the point where all these parts need to be replaced.
Driving with a flat tire can crack and damage the wheel beyond repair, but if there’s minor damage, you might be able to sand the wheel/rim down to a smooth edge, sanding right up to where the rim touches the tire.
The tire might also just need a hole plugged and some more air. Driving with a flat can damage the sidewall of the tire, create bubbles, and make the tire dangerous to drive with until it’s replaced.
What Should I Do If I Get a Flat Tire?
Steps for if you get a flat tire while driving
- Pull Over to a Safe Location
If you get a flat tire, pull over to the closest and safest location.
- Inspect the Tire
Ideally you’ll be able to patch the tire or plug it. Fixing the tire with a tire patch will be hard because it will require you to remove the tire, find the leak, plug it, and fill it with air.
Inspect the tire for leaks. It might just be low on air and have a hole that can be closed. Check the tire for what might have caused the leak, like a screw. If you’re in an area like a garage and have access to tools, you can remove the tire and check it for leaks with soapy water.
Read more about how to check the tire for leaks
- Put the Spare Tire on
If you have the tools, which are usually provided with the spare tire, and a spare tire, consider installing it. Check the air pressure in the spare tire with a tire pressure gauge. It’s good practice to periodically check the air in the spare tire and refill it when needed.
If you don’t have the tools or don’t want to install the spare tire yourself, towing and roadside services can help.
Read more on how to install a spare tire
- Get the Tire Inspected and Fixed
Get the tire checked and fixed by a tire service or mechanic as soon as possible, and instead of driving with a flat, tow the vehicle if you have to.
Fun fact: The “spare tire” on most cars is actually just a “donut” meant to be used temporarily to get off the road and fix the broken tire. A real spare tire, which may be on some vehicles, is actually a 5th tire that can be used in place of the flat.
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