Driving on a Flat Tire

Drivign on a flat tireDriving on a flat tire is something you really should avoid and in this article, we’re going to talk about tires, how they’re built, and why driving with them flat is a bad idea.

Tires are designed to be operated at a certain pressure.  If you look on your driver’s side doorjamb there should be a sticker indicating the correct size tire for your vehicle as well as the recommended pressure.  If you run the recommended tire at the recommended pressure you will get the maximum life out of your tires and the best handling from your vehicle.

The tire pressure recommendation comes from a calculation based on the weight of the vehicle and the width and diameter of the tire. The goal is to have the correct size patch of the tire contacting the ground.  The more pressure you put in the tire, the smaller the contact patch will be.  If you over-inflate your tire the treaded section will bulge out to compensate which will wear out the center of your tire quickly.

If you under in flare the tire the contact patch will get larger causing a flat spot at the ground.  This will cause the center of the tread to bow in and the sidewall to start to collapse.  

Driving on a flat tire, even if it isn’t all the way flat will stretch the treaded section and stress the sidewall.  Looking at your tire it may look like a simple rubber circle but below the rubber treads usually, steel belts live or nylon cords to enforce the structure of your tire and help it ride straight down the road.  Driving on a flat tire will stress these belts or cords and can cause them to break.  This will leave a bulge in your tire and render it useless.

Besides the belts or chords, the sidewall of your tire will be stressed.  The sidewall of your tire isn’t made from the same material and isn’t designed to resist road wear like the tread on your tire.  If the side wall rides on the ground long it will wear through quickly.  Also, driving on a flat tire will cause the edge of your rim to dig into the sidewall and can quickly slice through it.

If you continue driving on a flat tire you can quickly destroy it.  Oftentimes if you stop quickly enough you may be able to inflate the flat tire and continue to use it without damaging it.  Besides saving your tire this can also save your rim and keep you out of a sticky situation.  If you end up with a flat tire while driving it can drag your car quickly to the left or right making it unpredictable and dangerous.

For all these reasons, keep your tires inflated, and if you have a flat, DON’T DRIVE!

Photo by Kenan Reed on Unsplash