A flat tire can leave you feeling, well, flat. So, when you get a flat tire, for whatever reason, you might be wondering whether you should get the tire repaired or simply send the tire into retirement.Tire repair nail
Not every flat or damaged tire can be fixed. Sometimes, you just need to replace a flat or damaged tire. However, there are other instances when you can get the tire—and your entire car—back on the road with a quick tire repair.
WHEN TO REPAIR, WHEN TO REPLACE
Here, we’re going to steer you toward when you should get a tire repaired and when you should get it replaced.
- If you’ve got a tire that’s been punctured by a nail or another object, the tire can be fixed, but only as long as the puncture is in the tread area and doesn’t measure more than 1/4 of an inch in diameter.
- If the puncture is in the sidewall or shoulder of the tire, you’ve got to ditch the tire and get a new one. Safety first!
- If there’s more than one puncture, you likely can get the tire repaired if the punctures are at least 16 inches apart. Otherwise, it’s time to buy a new tire.
- If the tire has sustained serious damage in a crash, such as big cuts or tread separation, it should be replaced, not repaired. No ifs, ands, or buts.
TEMPTING TIRE NO-NOS
You might be tempted to do a quick fix when you do have a flat or damaged tire. Here are two that can be used in emergency or short-term situations, but shouldn’t be considered long-term tire repairs:
- Sealants or emergency inflators: These fast fixes are a mixed blessing. They’ll help you get your car to a local Firestone Complete Auto Care location, but don’t count on them to keep you on the road for very long. Tire sealants can freeze in cold weather, damage your tire pressure monitoring system, and prove ineffective at repairing any tire damage that's more serious than a slow leak or small hole. (DealNews and Consumer Reports)
- Plug or patch: Again, these are quick fixes that aren’t meant to enable long-term use of a punctured or damaged tire. A plug doesn’t offer a permanent seal, while a patch doesn’t fully cover the hole left by a nail or another object that caused a puncture. Patching alone is never an adequate fix.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR TIRES
Check it out. In an extreme case that illustrates just how important it is to keep your tires in top condition, authorities say a flat tire was responsible for igniting a deadly wildfire in Northern California. The blaze started in July 2018 when a tire on a trailer failed, with the rim then scraping the asphalt and setting off sparks that quickly touched off the fire, they say.
No matter what the issue is with a tire, you typically shouldn’t drive the car if the tire is low on air or is flat. Durable run-flat tires, such as DriveGuard tires, can buy you a little bit more time, but even they cannot be repaired if driven on with less than 15 psi (100 kPa.)