A flat tire is every driver’s worst nightmare, especially if it happens in the middle of nowhere or in inclement weather. Getting out of your vehicle to replace a flat tire is an unpleasant experience, made worse when you are in a desolate place or when it’s pouring rain, icy cold, or scorching hot. When your tire loses its air, it will not be able to support weight anymore, unless it is a run-flat tire.
All tires, whether old or new, can go flat if they are punctured or develop a leak. Newer tires are more resistant to punctures because of their thicker tread. All tires are vulnerable, however, when you drive over sharp objects such as nails.
You will notice when your tire goes flat as you are driving because you will hear, as well as feel, the thump, thump vibration from the car’s suspension. A flat tire in the front will result in a hard pull toward the side of the car with the flat tire.
When your tire goes flat, stop driving. You will want to pull over to the side of the road or risk completely damaging your tire. If you continue driving, the sidewalls of your tires will be compromised. At times, the tire may come off the rim, and you will damage the rim when you continue to drive.
Here are some common causes of flat tires:
- Leaky valve system – Air leaks could come from cracks in the rubber stem, a damaged seal between the valve stem and the wheel, or an air leak in the valve system due to a loose or faulty valve. Replacing the valve stem or valve assembly could fix the source of the problem.
- Punctures in the tire – The most common cause of flat tires are punctures caused by sharp objects such as nails or screws. Patching or plugging the puncture can often repair the tire.
- Leaks between the tire and wheel – This problem is often caused by corrosion on the wheel or by a bent rim.
- Wheel air leaks – If your wheels are made of aluminum alloy, you can expect air leaks over time because aluminum is porous, and it will slowly allow air to seep out.
When you experience a flat tire, slow down and immediately pull over to the right shoulder as long as it is safe to do so. Never stop in the middle of the road, especially if you are driving on the freeway or highway. Get your vehicle as far from the flow of traffic as possible. Otherwise, someone could ram into your parked vehicle.
Turn on your hazard lights or raise your hood, the universal signal for help. Use a reflective triangle or safety flares if it is dark. Once you are safely settled on the roadside, you can decide if you want to change your tire or call for emergency assistance.