Skip to main content

Getting a flat tire is a quick way to ruin your day. Getting out to change it or waiting for roadside assistance can be a pain. It’s tempting to think, I bet I can limp the car to a repair shop. But the truth is, your safest option is to pull over immediately, put your car in help, and swap tires or call for help.

The rims/wheels of your car–which your rubber tires are wrapped around–are not engineered to support your car’s weight. Driving on a flat tire will almost certainly ruin your rim. Not only will this add hundreds of dollars to your repair bill, but it may take a while for your mechanic to order another matching rim that will fit your car.

What if your tire is just really really low, but not flat? Notice how deformed or bulged the bottom of this tire looks? Driving it will require the rubber to flex constantly. This will make it get hot and either blow up while you drive, or melt enough that you’ll have to replace it anyway. If your tire is very low, have it inflated again, and hopefully checked for leaks, before driving on it.

There is one important exception. “Run flat” tires are built with thicker, stronger rubber. They are engineered so you can drive 50 more miles at speeds up to 50 MPH, even after they are punctured and no longer holding air.

Flat tire on a Jeep Wrangler
Jeep Wrangler | Kenny Eliason via Unsplash

In some cases, driving to the nearest tire shop on a punctured run flat tire is a great option. But if you simply have a nail or other small object puncturing the tire’s tread, the shop might be able to repair it with a plug. Wearing out your run flat tires may get you there quicker, but then you must buy a new one.

What about an emergency situation? Obviously, your first priority should be getting out of traffic and onto the shoulder of the road, or parked in another safe place. If you’re worried about the weather while waiting for roadside assistance, know that it’s perfectly fine to keep your engine running while parked a flat tire so you still have heat or A/C. If you’re in an unsafe neighborhood and scared for yourself or your passengers, calling 911 to tell the operator about your situation and to get advice is a wise move.

If you absolutely must drive on a completely flat tire, know that braking and handling will be wildly unpredictable. Driving much faster than walking speeds could shred what’s left of your tire and throw it off of your wheel. Doing this for long can also damage your car’s differential which will be a very hefty repair bill. Can you tell I wouldn’t recommend it?

Next, see some major upgrades you should make to your tire changing tools, or see the mechanics at 1A Auto show why driving with a flat tire is so dangerous: