You have a flat tire; it’s the middle of the night, and nobodies are around; at least, that’s the usual scenario.
It’s not always possible to change a flat tire for the spare wheel as many cars don’t come with them anymore, so how far you can drive on a flat tire will cross your mind.
Before we get into this article, we must point out that driving on a flat tire is a risk you take on yourself, and you should avoid driving.
How far can you drive on a flat tire?
If we start by saying you can’t drive, this might disappoint you, but realistically, that is the case. It may be possible in one car to go 100 yards down the road because the tire is still intact with a couple of PSI left in it. But in another, the tire has a big hole in the side and has already started to shred. You can’t drive more than a few yards because the tire will rip and get caught in the suspension.
However, there are scenarios where you could drive on a flat tire and potentially do 50+ miles. If your car has the following type of tire or you can use one of the repair solutions, you may be able to drive for some distance on that tire:
- Run-flat tires – Run-flat tires have heavily reinforced sidewalls that can support the weight of a car with no air. Unfortunately, the run-flat tire will not last forever with no atmosphere, but you can easily do about 50 miles before the temperature in the tire rises too much, and the tire starts to disintegrate. Drivers have been known to do more than 50 miles because they hadn’t realized the tire was flat and the TPMS light didn’t illuminate.
- Using temporary repair sealant – Some vehicles no longer have a spare tire in the trunk but a can of tire sealant and an electric pump. These solvents will seal around small nails and tiny holes but do not work with large chunks of tire missing. When the solvents seal around a puncture, they can last up to about 50 miles; again, people have risked it and done a lot more miles.
- Tire bands fitted (caravan bands) – These were used regularly around Europe on vehicles towing heavy loads, such as caravans. The tires on the train and sometimes drivers fitted to the car also had a metal reinforcing bad inserted, keeping the tire partially intact when punctured. It stops the tire shredding if you have a puncture, working the same way as a run-flat tire to give you complete control of the caravan with no air in the tire. They aren’t so commonly seen anymore but work in allowing you to have the ability to keep driving for a short period with a flat tire.
- BSR tires – Bridgestone support rings are specific to a few car models; they have a unique wheel, tire, and support ring system fitted as standard. This makes the tire act similar to a run-flat tire and will support the weight of a vehicle. This allows you to drive long distances with a flat tire, even as much as 50+ miles. BSR tire systems are not very common at all and aren’t something that can be retrofitted easily. Changing the tires requires a specific tire machine; not many garages have them. Usually, the leading dealership is the only place that can change them.
- Temporary puncture repair kit – Roadside tire repair kits are quite handy and can repair nail or screw-sized holes in tires. Most breakdown recovery companies use repair kits to quickly get drivers back on the road. Because they aren’t a permanent repair with a tire plug applied from the inside, it is only recommended that the repair will 50 miles. But if done correctly, they tend to last hundreds of miles. Although, this is no guarantee because factors such as the size of the hole being repaired make a difference with temporary repair kits. You can purchase these things from most auto parts stores, and they come with everything to apply a quick repair at the side of the road. It’s a good addition, even with a spare tire to keep in the trunk for emergencies.
What are the dangers of driving on a flat tire?
The dangers of driving on a flat tire are, first, if the tire is completely flat, it will start to shred, and you could damage the rim.
Number two, it can be a safety hazard for you and your passengers; driving a car with a flat tire will not go and steer precisely as it did.
How far can you drive on a flat tire before damaging the rim?
If there is no air left in the tire, you can expect to get 50 yards out of it before it starts to shred; unfortunately, how long until the rim is damaged is a how-long piece of string question. Each tire will hold up a bit differently; depending on the type of tire and the reinforcement belts, the tire may last another 100 yards before it breaks down.
Once the tire has completely shredded away, you will be left with a couple of strips of tire rubber at each edge of the wheel. Driving then will mean you are driving on the rim’s lip, damaging it beyond use again. This can happen as early as 50 yards, as mentioned, or even last as long as a mile; every scenario is different. It would be unwise and not recommended to drive on a completely flat tire regardless; changing to the spare or trying to inflate the tire with sealants would be best.
What causes a flat tire?
- Punctured tire – nail, foreign object and holes
- Cracked Rim
- Bead leak between rim and tire
- Leaking valve – valve core lose or TPMS valve not seated correctly and leaking around the base of the valve.
- Sidewall damage – bulges, splits and curb damage
How can you prevent a flat tire?
It isn’t much you can do to avoid a nail in the road or even debris which can cause a flat tire. However, ensuring your tires are in good condition and not overworked will help to prevent a flat tire caused by avoidable things. A monthly check of the tire tread depths, checking for uneven wear, and keeping the tire pressures correct help a lot. There are a few things you can do to help avoid a flat tire:
- Don’t exceed the cars weight limit
- Avoid driving over debris in the road
- Check and adjust the wheel alignment every couple of months (stops uneven wear)
- Don’t exceed the speed limits
How far you can drive on a flat tire depends on if your car has tires or supporting accessories that can either keep the weight of a vehicle with the tire deflated or repair the puncture temporarily. Realistically, without any of these, you will probably get a few yards down the road with a flat tire. Unfortunately, nobody can tell you exactly how far you will be able to drive because the condition of the tire and the type of puncture will be an essential factors.