Flat tires are arguably the most common plight that motorists encounter. If you have not had a flat tire, consider yourself one of the lucky few. The fact of the matter is that, at some point, getting a flat tire is inevitable; it is not a matter of "if" but "when."
When a tire becomes flat, you can generally drive slowly for a few hundred yards before the rim gets damaged. At highway speeds, the distance you can drive is significantly limited. If the tire blows out completely, it is unsafe to continue driving at all.
Tires can sustain damage in other ways, so it is also important to understand what can cause this damage along with what to do about it. Continue reading for a more in-depth discussion about flat tires. We will answer some commonly asked questions to help you be better prepared for the inevitable.
As such, it is important to be well informed about how to handle a flat tire. When you get a flat tire, you can cause damage to your vehicle in no time if you do not handle the situation properly.
How Long Can a Car Sit On a Flat?
Generally speaking, the amount of time that a car sits on a flat tire is of little consequence as long as the tire keeps the rim from contacting the ground; the flat tire serves as a cushion for the rim. If you discover that your car has a flat tire and it is parked, the rim is in no immediate danger as long as part of the tire is acting as a buffer between the rim and the ground.
If you notice that your tire is flat and that the rim is making contact with the ground, change your tire immediately. When a tire is inflated, it supports part of the vehicle's weight and it acts as a buffer between the rim and the ground. When a tire is flat and the rim is touching the ground, all of that weight is now on the rim itself, which will cause it to warp and become damaged.
How Far Can You Drive On a Rim?
In some cases, when a tire goes flat, the tire comes off the metal rim completely. If this happens, you will likely wonder how far you can drive on the rim, and this is a fair question. If this happens, you might be just down the street from a tire shop. So just how far can you drive on the rim?
In short, not very far at all. The loss of the tire means that the vehicle will lose much-needed traction and balance. Additionally, pressing the brake when driving on the rim alone can be dangerous due to the now imbalanced vehicle.
If you drive on the rim, it can become damaged immediately; the weight that the respective tire usually supports is abruptly placed on the rim alone. To make matters worse, this might happen when the vehicle is moving at a potentially high rate of speed, making the damage worse.
If you find yourself with a blown tire that has completely separate from the rim, the best course of action is to pull over to the side of the road as quickly as possible. Be careful to not slam on the brake to do so. This is the safest way to handle this potentially dangerous situation.
What is sidewall damage?
Sidewall damage is any kind of damage to the side of the tire. The sidewall of a tire is its thinnest and weakest part. As such, it is particularly vulnerable to all kinds of damage. Tires generally sustain sidewall damage by rubbing up against curbs.
The most common examples of sidewall damage are cuts, scrapes, gouges, and protrusions.
The good news, however, is that in most cases, these kinds of sidewall damage are merely cosmetic. After all, tires take all kinds of abuse from everyday driving conditions.
However, if your tire sidewall has cuts, scrapes, or gouges that look problematic, it is a good idea to have the tires inspected by a professional. If the damage is deemed likely to cause failure, you should have the tire replaced.
Why Is There a Bubble On My Tire?
Have you ever noticed what looks like a bubble protruding from your tire? This is not a particularly common occurrence, but it can happen.
The bubble on your tire is simply a pocket of air that has leaked out of the tube and into the body of the tire. Another way to think about it is that the bubble is a pocket of air attempting to burst through the sidewall or surface of the tire.
A bubble is generally caused by driving over protruding obstacles such as curbs, railroad tracks, debris, potholes, or otherwise damaged parts of the road, particularly at high rates of speed.
Bubbles are more common in low profile tires that have a smaller sidewall. When a vehicle hits an obstacle, the sidewall of larger tires is able to flex more to better absorb the impact. Thinner tires have a smaller, less flexible sidewall, so hitting these obstacles is less forgiving.
Can I Fix a Bubble In My Tire?
Now that we have diagnosed the protruding bubble on the side of your tire, you are likely wondering if the tire is salvageable. Simply put, it is not. Once this bubble has formed, the damage done to the body of the tire is irreversible. If your tire has a bubble, consider it at the end of its life and have it replaced.
As an added note, it is recommended to not drive on a tire with a bubble. With that pocket of air trying to escape, another impact with the kind of road obstacle that caused it will likely cause it to blow out completely. To avoid that situation, have the tire replaced immediately.
Flat tires are by far the most common automotive issue, and it is something that virtually everyone will face at some point. Often overlooked, the tires are an essential component of your vehicle.
When it comes to tire issues, have the tire inspected by a professional. Damaged tires can potentially be dangerous, so if you are unsure about whether or not the tire is safe to drive on, it is wise to air on the side of caution. We have covered a lot in this article; our hope is that this article has provided you with the information necessary to take the safest course of action in any of the scenarios we discussed. Drive safe!