Do You Think You Have a Nail in Your Tire? Here’s How to Check

From what we see in movies, we expect it to be pretty obvious when we have a nail in our tire. Unlucky for us, that isn’t always the case, and discovering that you have a nail in your tire can be trickier than you might think. While it seems like an easy task, it isn’t always obvious that there is a nail in your tire, but there are a few things that you can do if you suspect you may be having a problem with your tire.

Constantly low tire pressure

If you get into your car every single day and see that little low tire pressure light decking the halls for the holiday season, there could be a few causes. Dropping temperatures in the winter months can cause the air inside the tire to compress, decreasing the pressure inside of the tire. Having a damaged tire pressure sensor can also cause a false alarm, but you can usually do a quick visual inspection and see that the tire is looking a little flaccid.

This could be a simple problem that is easily resolved by adding air to your tire, but if you keep having tire pressure issues regardless of stopping at the gas station daily to fill it up with air, there could be bigger problems.

Flat Car Tire
Damaged, flat car tire | Niall Carson – PA Images/PA Images, Getty Images

Find the nail

Sometimes taking a quick peek at your flat or deflating tire will reveal a pesky little piece of metal sticking out of the sidewall or the tread. In this case, it just takes a few seconds of visual inspection to see that there is, in fact, a nail in your tire. But, unless your car is up on a jack stand or lift, there is always a section of the tire that is not visible, obviously where it is touching the pavement.

Checking the surfaces of the tire that you can see from different angles and then moving the car to expose the area where the tire is covered by pavement is another obvious way to check for a tire, but depending on how much wheel well gap you have, how low your car is, and how deep the tread is, this might not always work.

A single Goodyear Wrangler tire with outlined white letters
A Goodyear Wrangler with outlined white letters | Goodyear

When all else fails

The easiest way to do a thorough inspection of the tire is to take the entire wheel off of the vehicle. This might be a bit of a pain in the butt, especially if you have a newer vehicle that doesn’t come with a spare tire kit for lifting the car and removing the tire. With the wheel off, you can inspect the tire for any potential problems and get a clear view as to the potential hiding spots where a nail is hiding.

With the wheel off, you can also test to see if there is a specific area where it is losing air, like an area where the wheel has become bent, or you can see if the tire has dry-rotted to the point where it can no longer effectively hold air pressure.

Upgraded Toyota TRD wheels entice those car shopping
2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro wheels and tires | Matthew Skwarczek

Your Tires Are Killing Salmon

It seems like no matter what we do, we are all bound to end up with a nail in our tire at some point in time. While you can technically continue to drive on the tire as long as you maintain appropriate air pressure, it isn’t the end of the world. In fact, having a nail in your tire doesn’t mean the tire has to be replaced because most of the time, you can get a quick patch at most mechanics for just a fraction of what a whole tire replacement would cost.