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Checking Your Tires Made Simple: Flat Tires

Updated on February 26, 2012

Flat Tires

Flat tires can happen anywhere, and at anytime. There are precautionary measures you can take to help avoid them, and then there is the unavoidable. Either way, it's important to know how to properly asses and care for the tires on your vehicle, as well as being able to deal with a flat tire should the situation arise. It is important to remember that driving on a flat or damaged tire not only presents a safety issue for the persons in the vehicle but can cause additional damage to tire and or rim deeming it unrepairable.



This tire is an example of uneven tread wear and exposed wires.
This tire is an example of uneven tread wear and exposed wires. | Source
This tire is an example of a over inflated tire that blown out.
This tire is an example of a over inflated tire that blown out. | Source

Precautionary Measures


A number of things can cause a tire to go flat. Here are some things you can look for to identify and prevent a potential flat tire.

1.Over inflation - Not only will this cause uneven tread wear in time, and decrease your response time when driving, but hitting a curb or median can cause the tire to separate from the rim or explode. Driving over inflated in severe hot weather can also cause the tire to explode when the air inside the tire expands and it reaches beyond its maximum psi.

2. Under Inflation - This too will cause uneven tread wear, and eventually causes damage to the inner and sometimes outer sidewall of the tire. This will weaken the entire structure of the tire causing it to become more vulnerable to damage. If the tires pressure is too low, driving on it can also separate it from the rim.


Prevention

A. Check the Tire information Placard in the driver front or rear door jam, or in the glove box of some vehicles. This placard will show the proper inflation pressures for your tires. Please Read: Checking Your Tires Made SImple: Air Pressure for more information.


3. Old tires - Tires have a shelf life. Typically around 6 years. Even if they appear to be in good shape with a lot of tread remaining, in time the rubber looses its pliability and flexibility. When it dries out, it will usually crack and sometimes develop discoloration which should be visible on the outside of the tire. A tire in this condition is vulnerable to damage and is not considered safe to be driving with as it is no longer functioning with the vehicle the way it was designed to.

4. Low Tread & Tread Damage - Both of these should be easy to spot upon visual inspection. Chunks of tread missing from the tire, wires exposing themselves, and tread less than 2/32" inch can all cause the tire to give out under the right circumstances. Please read Checking Your Tires Made SImple: Tread Safety for more information.

5. Broken Tire Bands - Tire bands are a main structural component to your tire. They not only hold the tire together, but act as support for the load of your vehicle. When a band is broken, the tires are more vulnerable to blowouts and damage, and are not considered safe to be driving with. They are also easy to spot. Usually they will appear as a bubble or bloat on the sidewall of the tire. Often where bands are connected together, you will see a dent, but it can also be a disconnected band. This is something that should be determined by a tire technician. The main cause for this type of damage is hitting a curb or median with the side of the tire.

6. Damaged Valve Stems & Loose Valve Cores - Valve stems should be replaced whenever you have new tires installed. They can age and loose durability. They may also have become unknowingly damaged or broken. To check this you can slowly wiggle them back and forth, if there is a tear or puncture in the stem, you will hear air escaping from it. You may also check that the valve core is tightened. This is the tiny needle like piece of metal in the center of the valve stem. If this piece is not screwed in properly or tight enough, air will release from the stem.


Solution

A. It is recommended that you install a spare tire and take your vehicle into a shop. These problems can only be fixed by replacing the tires or replacing damaged valve stems. Driving with tires that have this type of damage can result in further damage of the tire and increased safety issues for the persons in the vehicle.



Source

Unavoidable Situations

Flat Tires are often caused by circumstancial situations; i.e.; where you are driving or your reaction to another driver. Here are some things beyond prevention that may cause a tire to go flat, and the solution.

1. Nails, Screws, Chunks of Debris- This is the #1 reason for flat tires. Sometimes a nail or the like will lodge itself into your tire. Even if the tire does not go flat, it is still important to have it repaired, as it will eventually become a bigger problem. Leaving the metal in the tire can result in the rusting and deterioration of the bands in your tire. So a visual inspection of your tires routinely is a good part of your vehicle maintenance.

2. Large Chunks of Metal- Broken tire chains on the road or driving through a construction area is usually the cause of this. Generally this will cause a large puncture, at which point the tire will go flat.

3. Broken Glass- This is lesser of the flat tire culprits. Usually glass will snuggle into your tread and break away when your driving, but sometimes can cause a puncture that may be undetectable by eye. A slow leak may develop in the tire, at which point taking it into a shop to have them dunk it may be the only way to find the hole.


Solution

It is recommended that you install a spare tire and take your vehicle into a shop. These problems can only be fixed by replacing the tires or replacing damaged valve stems. Driving with tires that have this type of damage can result in further damage of the tire and increased safety issues for the persons in the vehicle.

*Note- FIX A FLAT :Although it appeals to most as a cure all, it is likely a temporary fix, and can cause larger problems in the long run. Leaving a nail, screw or chunk of metal in your tire, then sealing it with a product like Fix A Flat or Slime can result in the rusting and deterioration of the bands in your tire. It is important to have the flat tire assessed by a tire technician.

A lot of shops will not repair flat tires with these types of product in them. Not only are they considered to compromise the rubber compound in the tire, but also create a very slick chemical surface on the interior of the tire that makes is difficult for a shop to obtain the smooth dry surface needed to properly repair a puncture using a plug&patch combo.


This tire is an example of a puncture too close to the sidewall for repair in most shops.
This tire is an example of a puncture too close to the sidewall for repair in most shops. | Source

Assessing a Flat Tire

Whether or not a flat tire can be repaired is ultimately up to the shop you take it to. But there are general safety rules that apply everywhere. Here are some simple things you can look for to determine whether you'll be paying for a new tire, or just a flat repair.

Punctures

1. Can you see how large the hole is? Most tire plugs and patched are only designed to properly repair a hole no bigger than 3/4 of an inch.

2. How close is the hole to the edge of the tread? You can measure with your thumb. If the hole is closer than a thumbs width away from the edge of the tread it is not safe to have it repaired. The reason for this is that a proper plug&patch combo repair required that some of the interior rubber in the tire be ground down and scraped off to assure a smooth surface for the patch to adhere to. The closer you are to the edge of the tread, the more shallow the rubber surface is as it meets the sidewall of the tire.

3. Is it in the sidewall? If the nail or hole is in the sidewall, it's irrepairable. Any shop with a bit of intgrity will not repair it, it is not safe, and is not recommended that you repair it yourself with an over the counter flat repair kit.

4. Is the tread in your tire more than 2/32" in depth? If the tire has less than 2/32" of tread it is considered to be illegal in most states. Therefore, it is considered irrepairable. It also poses a safety threat at 2/32" inch if it were to be repaired as before mentioned when the interior rubber of the tire must be ground down and scraped away to create a smooth surface for the patch to adhere. Please read: Checking Your Tires Made SImple: Safe Tread for more information.

5. Check the inner and outer sidewall of the tire for bubbles, dents, and wear. This could mean that you have broken a tire band while obtaining the flat, or simply damaged the sidewall. This will be considered irrepairable as it poses a safety threat.

Solution

A. It is recommended that you install a spare tire and take your vehicle into a shop. These problems can only be fixed by replacing the tires or replacing damaged valve stems. Driving with tires that have this type of damage can result in further damage of the tire and increased safety issues for the persons in the vehicle.

Please read: Checking Your Tires Made Simple: How to Install Spare Tires

This is an example of the loose rubber inside a tire resulting from sidewall damage. Likely from driving with the tire flat or under inflated. The tire is not repairable at this point.
This is an example of the loose rubber inside a tire resulting from sidewall damage. Likely from driving with the tire flat or under inflated. The tire is not repairable at this point. | Source

A Myth About Flat Tires

I can drive my car with a flat tire to the auto shop...

This is not a good idea. Park it and have it towed to a shop or put the spare tire on it before you drive it. Driving your car even a hundred feet on a flat tire can completely shred and collapse the inner sidewall of the tire. It does not matter how new the tire is or how much it looks ok on the outside. When this kind of damage happens, almost nowhere will repair the puncture that caused the flat for you because it is a liability for the auto shop, and a major safety issue for you. As mentioned before, the sidewall which contains the tire bands is a main structural component to the tire. Not to mention the rim the tire sits on will likely be bent.

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    • profile image

      William 2 years ago

      It's amazing how many people fail to check their tyres regularly. A simple check can save lives. Good informative post. Sharing now.

      http://www.gilnahirktyres.co.uk/cheap-tyres-belfas...

    • InMyEyes profile image
      Author

      InMyEyes 5 years ago from anonymous

      To Grant NZ, thank You for reading, I always appreciate feedback and insight =)

      And to LisaMarie724....I am a woman too =)

    • profile image

      Grant NZ 5 years ago

      Its good to read that some people do try to understand and look after there tyres. The problem with tyres are that they appear so simple. You will never be able to see the complexity as it is all hidden by the rubber. By the way the rubber is almost the least important part of a tyre. The bands are called the cords, and when you build a tyre, whitch is by the way assembled by human hand. , you assemble the cords in there correct order. Side wall plys or cords go first and wrap around the bead wires.Then the layers of cord wrap around the crown or tread aera.Sidewall cords go from side to side and the crown plys go around the top in the direction of rotation. The rubber simply helps the plys to maintain there correct spacing , but mainly is there to protect the plys from the outside world. {weather conditions]. As plys will rust very quickly if allowed to contact any moisture. And if they are not steel plys they wont rust , but they will rot. When all the plys are assembled the finished part is called the cord body. As an example of the rubbers role , you can buff off a tread down to the under tread, witch is the rubber between the top off the finished body ply and the bottom off the tread rubber. The under tread is a completely different compond of rubber than the tread rubber. When the tyre is assembled, different parts have completely different types of rubber.There are 5 major parts off a tyre with different rubbers. 1-[ Inner-liner] 2-[Bead covers] 3-[body ply gum] 4-[under tread] and then the tread rubber. The tread rubber has some importance due to its particular compond. However you can remove all the tread rubber by buffing and replace the tread with a completely different tread compond , the casing is still the same and the tyre casing will react in the same way as before. However the type of grip will change depending on the compond. At this point it can get a bit more complex as performance and grip come from a mixture off the casing constrution and tread compond, and in rain , the tread design will also play a part. By the way tread design only aids to pump water from between the road and tread. Nothing else. If it never rained we would not bother to have cannels we would just run slicks, just as race cars do when its not wet. Tread groves do nothing but lessen the ammount off rubber in contact with the road. And allow water to pump through them. The only other thing is that i have been repairing tyres for 30years and a correctly trained tyre engineer can repair a damaged sidewall. It is called a section repair, Never alloiw a tyre shop to try to carry out a section repair. The problem with repairs is that tyre shops are a dime a doz and so are untrained tyre fitters that call themselves a tyre technician . I live in NZ. There are 4 million people and hundredsa of thousands of tyre shops. However there are only about six people in the whole country that can repair [Vulcanize] a tyre correctly.I know them all and know evey bit off vulcanizing euipment and where it is in NZ. The percentage is the same all over the globe. So there are hundreds of tyre shops that will try repairs have terrible results, and the public think that is the benchmark. It is very sad. I repair huge tyres that carry thousands of tons. Believe me these giant tyres are under far more stres than a passenger tyre. People must be aware its not speed that causes tyres to fail, or incorrect repairs to fail, its load and heat. An under inflated tyre moving at a fairly slow speed for a long distance is more likely to fail or blow out than a correctly inflated tyre traveling at very high speed. Hope you enjoy my comments as you do seem interested in looking after your tyres and i bet you are an intelligent sort that will not mind learning more. I enjoyed reading your hub and it great advice. Cheers from down under . Grant

    • Hardwire profile image

      Hardwire 5 years ago from United States

      lol. Lisa the fact that your a women doesn't have to mean you lack the ability to understand instructions. :)

      Good HUB btw.

    • LisaMarie724 profile image

      Lisa Stover 5 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      This article was very well written and easy for even me, a women, to follow lol.