Getting a flat tire on the highway can be incredibly dangerous.
The good news is that if you know how to cope with this situation it becomes a lot less dangerous.
In this article, we're going to talk you through everything you need to know about getting a flat tire whilst driving.
We're also going to talk about the causes of flat tires and ways to avoid getting them.
What does a flat tire sound like?
When driving, the main way to identify a blown tire is by the sounds it makes.
You may sometimes feel your vehicle dragging, but this is not always the case.
There are three main sounds a blown out, flat tire might make:
- BANG! There may be a loud bang that sends a ripple through your car. Your car may also slightly bounce.
- WOOSH! You may hear a loud rushing of air and feel the car sink in the direction of the burst tire.
- FLAP! You may hear the sound of the tire's rubber slapping against the surface of the road as it spins.
You may notice one or more of these noises or none of them. However, sound is the best indicator of a flat tire.
How far can you drive on a flat tire?
Feeling a tire blow is one of the most gut-wrenching moments in any drivers' life. We are filled with panic and then we have to make a choice. Do we stop where we are and risk a crash, or do we try and move onto a safe spot.
It is a common but incorrect belief that you cannot drive with a flat tire, and this view has lead to many people putting themselves in danger by stopping on the highway.
However, at the right speed, it is possible to drive a few hundred yards on a flat tire. That distance will most likely be more than enough to get you to a stopping point.
Continue reading to find out what you should do once you notice you have a flat tire.
What to do when you notice a flat tire
It's hard to underestimate the importance of reacting correctly to a blown tire, particularly on the highway traveling at speed.
That's why we've put together a simple 6 step guide to help you keep calm, and most importantly keep you and your passengers safe.
Step 1 - Keep the steering wheel straight
Hearing the loud noise of a tire blowing out, or feeling it go can trigger fight or flight reactions in us.
Our natural instinct is to swerve the vehicle. But this is the last thing you want to do, as it will put more strain on the damaged wheel. It will also put you and the cars around you in a lot of danger.
Step 2 - Avoid slamming your breaks
Slamming on your breaks will not only irreparably damage your flat tire (which can often be really expensive to replace) but it will also shock the driver behind you who may not have time to react.
Step 3 - Gently begin to slowdown
Gently press down on your breaks rather than slamming on them.
The slower your vehicle is moving, the longer it will last without permanent damage. 20 mph is a good speed to aim for.
Step 4 - Move to a stopping point
Once you have reached a slow speed like 20 mph drive to a stopping point, or pull off the road if possible.
Moving out of the traffic flow will put you in a much safer position.
Step 5 - Put your hazard lights on
These emergency flashers help to alert anyone driving near you that you will not be moving and to be prepared to move around you.
Step 6 - Call breakdown support
It is not best to change your tire on the site of a busy road. It is safer for you and your passengers to call for breakdown support to assess any damage done to the wheel. They can help you avoid further issues and take you to a safe location.
The most important thing you can do in this situation is to remain calm and stay aware of your surroundings. That is what will keep you and your passengers safe.
What causes a flat tire?
Here is the list of the main issues that can cause a flat tire:
Most flat tires happen in the hot months (May - October) due to the heat of the roads. The hotter roads weaken tires.
Cars are only designed to hold so much weight, extra weight puts stress on the tires and can lead to blowouts.
Worn down tires
When you take your car in for a service make sure they check the state of your tires. Worn down and old tires are more likely to burst.
If the air pressure inside your tires isn't high enough then they will be weakened and become more likely to burst.
Ways to prevent flat tires
Yes, flat tires can happen to anyone at any point. But, according to the experts, there are things we can do to reduce the likelihood of this happening.
The best thing we can do to prevent flat tires whilst driving is to have our tires check by professionals regularly. Having your tires checked in late April, just before the hot months, is the best time. Then again in October after the weather starts cooling down again.
Regularly checking the pressure of your tires is also essential. By checking the pressure you will be able to pick up on any slow leaks, or if the pressure drops fatally low. It is also important to check the pressure of your tires before embarking on any long trips.
You should also be conscious of not overloading your vehicle, as this puts excess pressure on your tires, which may cause them to burst.