You just got a flat tire and to make matters worse, you're not even close to a place where you can safely stop to change it. What now? Fortunately, it is usually possible to drive a few hundred meters on even the worst wheels. While driving with a flat tire is not recommended as it can cause permanent damage to your car's wheels, there may be situations where you have no other choice. In these cases, it is important to drive slowly, stay on smooth, level ground, and come to a stop as quickly as possible in a safe place.
Part 1 of 2: Driving with a flat tire
Step 1. Drive slowly
Try not to drive faster than about 25-30 km per hour on a flat tire. This could otherwise cause irreparable damage to the metal wheel under the tire and could even cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Lightly press the accelerator, or if possible, drive idling until you find a suitable place to pull over.
- Driving at high speeds will damage your wheel more quickly because the wheel is subjected to greater forces at higher speeds without the tire being able to protect it from bumps and debris.
- When going downhill, calmly leave the car to gravity with your foot on the brake.
Step 2. Keep the car on a smooth, flat surface
Avoid potholes, steep slopes and stretches of asphalt. Rough roads can damage your rims, bending them and causing your car to become misaligned. Also watch out for wet or sandy terrain, where you can slip, sink or get stuck.
Paved roads, parking lots or the shoulder of the highway or back roads are your best bet
Step 3. Drive as straight as possible
Do not take steep turns or try to follow winding paths while looking for a place to stop. Instead, drive slowly and straight ahead, turning the steering wheel gently when you see a chance to leave the flow of traffic. Take the most direct route to get where you want to be.
- Counteract the resistance caused by the puncture by holding the wheel still, but don't fight it so hard that it compromises your ability to steer.
- Sharp turning puts more pressure on the edges of the rim.
Step 4. Turn to a safe place
At the first opportunity you get, get off the main road and go to the first spot you see where the traffic isn't too busy. Make sure the vehicle has come to a complete stop, then apply your handbrake and turn on your turn signals to signal to other drivers that your car is in trouble.
- Turn somewhere where the road surface is level, in case you need to jack up your car.
- Do not get out until you are sure that the traffic on the driver's side is clear.
Step 5. Don't drive too far
You should never attempt to drive more than a few hundred meters on a flat tire, even if it is not completely empty. This may not be enough distance to get you to a car garage, but you can at least crawl further until you're away from the hazards of the highway. Remember to drive slowly and pull over as soon as you are able.
- You can change a tire almost anywhere, so don't bother trying to find a parking spot for your car.
- Get yourself to safety before worrying about how to fix your vehicle.
Part 2 of 2: Dealing with a flat tire
Step 1. Try to get to a gas station
If there's a gas station in sight, and you've been lucky enough to avoid a total blowout, you can carefully steer the vehicle inside and inflate the tire at an air pump. Gas stations also usually have supplies needed for basic repairs, such as tire repair kits, meaning there are few more suitable places to find if you get a flat tire.
- Don't try your hardest to get to a gas station. If your destination is more than a mile away, you'd better stop where you are.
- In some cases, gas station attendants are trained to help stranded motorists change a flat tire.
Step 2. Keep a spare tire in your vehicle
Most newer vehicles come equipped with a spare tire, either on the back or in a separate compartment in the trunk. If that also applies to your car or truck, then you're in luck. Just change the flat tire and you can go to the garage for a full repair.
- If you are not sure how to change a tire yourself, consult your car manual for a step-by-step explanation.
- Compact spare tires (also known as 'donuts') are designed to take you up to 70 km, and can only withstand speeds of up to about 80 km/h.
Step 3. Call a tow truck
If you are unable to get to a garage or change the tire yourself, you may have no choice but to have a tow truck come. As soon as you call, a tow service will come to take your vehicle to the nearest garage so that you can have the problem repaired without delay. In some cases, the person who shows up may be able to repair the damaged tire on the spot.
- Registering for a roadside assistance program such as the ANWB can be of great help if you run into problems.
- Usually you have to wait 45 minutes to an hour for the tow truck. That's probably not much longer than if you had to change the tire yourself.
- Leave your cell phone charged when you're on the road, in case you need to place a call in an emergency.
Step 4. Invest in a pair of run flat tires
'Run flat' tires are specially designed to be safe to drive, even after being fully deflated. The reinforced tire acts as a cushion against the wheel that relieves the stress of rolling out to a safe stopping location. Whether you have no experience changing a tire or just prefer not to, 'run flat' tires can save you a lot of inconvenience.
Some 'run flat' tires allow drivers to continue driving for up to 150 km at a lower speed before they wear out
- Constantly watch out for objects and obstacles that could potentially cause a blowout.
- If your car doesn't already have a spare tire, consider buying one and finding a place in your vehicle to store it.
- Emergency lights and reflector lights help other drivers see you if you have to pull over in the dark.
- Tires with minor punctures (caused by driving over objects such as nails and screws) can usually be repaired at auto repair centers. This can save you the trouble of buying a new tire.
- Follow the same guidelines if you have multiple punctures, but be extra careful when coasting, steering and stopping.
- If you accidentally damage your rims, you will probably have no choice but to have the entire wheel replaced.
- Excessive tire pressure can cause the tire to explode suddenly.