|Tires today are highly reliable & durable — but they’re
not invulnerable. Like anything else in your car, they can be damaged by
lack of maintenance or accidents, such as running over nails or into holes.
And that means that tire failures—flat tires—sometime happen.
Like many other unexpected events drivers might encounter,
blowouts & tread separations should be handled with calm & common
sense—because when the driver knows what to do, they should be controllable.
Remember, as the driver, you must always act responsibly—not only for your
own safety, but for the safety of your passengers & others sharing the
road with you.
If you get a flat tire or tread separation when you’re
driving, the National Safety Council recommends that you:
|The point is to ensure the safety of you & your
passengers before worrying about the tire. If you are driving on a flat
tire, there’s a good chance that it’s already ruined—so take the time you
need, even if you have to drive slowly (with your hazard lights flashing)
for some distance to find a safe stopping place.
Once you are safely parked, follow the instructions in
your owners manual for jacking up the car & changing the tire. It’s a good
idea to read through those instructions & familiarize yourself with the
process when you get the vehicle. It’s a lot easier to do that in your own
driveway than at an unfamiliar highway rest stop or parking lot. Also,
remember to check the inflation of your spare tire whenever you check your
other tires—a flat spare won’t do you much good in an emergency.
Many cars have small “temporary use only” spare tires.
These are designed for limited use, & you shouldn’t exceed 45 to 50 mph
when you’re using one. You can drive on a temporary spare for some time, but
not indefinitely—restrictions for the spare will usually be printed on the
tire, or you can find them in the owner’s manual. Also, some cars now have
“run flat” tires that can be driven on for a short distance even if they are
flat. Once such tires have been run at low pressure, a professional should
inspect them to see if they can continue to be used on your car.
If you use an aerosol sealant on a flat tire, remember
that it is not meant to be a permanent fix—it’s just supposed to get you to
a nearby service station or tire dealer so you can get the tire changed.
Also, some of those sealants contain flammable gas, such as butane or
propane, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association. The association
warns drivers to never introduce a flammable substance into a tire. If you
do use such a substance, be sure to tell anyone who will work on the tire
that you have done so. If a flat is due to a small puncture in the tread
area (not more than 1.4” or 6mm in diameter), a tire can probably be
repaired. This should be done using a “combination plug & patch” method,
in which the hole is plugged & the interior of the tire is repaired &
Always have a trained tire professional perform repairs
and, especially, mount your tires. If mounting is done improperly, the tire
or rim can explode during the process, & cause serious injury or death.
Consumers should not attempt to mount tires themselves, because safe tire
mounting requires proper training & specialized equipment.
The National Safety Council also recommends that you have
a mechanic check your vehicle after you have a flat tire to be sure there is
no other damage to your vehicle from the event.
Of course, the best way to avoid the inconvenience of a
flat tire is to not have one in the first place. You can’t always avoid
potholes, nails & other road hazards. But you can do something about the
maintenance & inspection of your tires—& if you take good care of your
tires, they should serve you well for a long time.