You’ll almost certainly get caught with a flat tire at some point in your driving career. Whether it’s a blowout on the road or a flat in your driveway, you won’t be going anywhere until you fix it.
It’s far better to avoid flat tires for as long as possible. Here are a few tips to stop flats from happening.
Pay Attention to Your Tire Pressure
If you drive a newer vehicle, it might come equipped with an automatic tire pressure sensor. That’s great… unless you live in an area with cold winters. Your sensor may give you a low-pressure warning when you first crank the car because the cold air tricks it into thinking your tires are about to go flat.
You can also buy a manual gauge for a few dollars. Simply check the pressure on each tire and compare it to the “ideal” pressure given by the manufacturer. If you’re a bit low, top up the air at a gas station. Many tire service providers will also check your pressure for free.
While you can’t be blamed for accidentally driving over a roofing nail (which has happened to me more than once), you can drive more carefully to preserve your tires.
Try to avoid rubbing the wheels against curbs, as that can weaken the sidewall and eventually cause a blowout. Never drive over a hazard in the road–even if you think it’s just a harmless piece of cardboard. There could be an industrial-sized staple just waiting to puncture your tire.
It’s also a good idea to avoid going off-road or driving onto the shoulder unless absolutely necessary. Avoiding construction zones, where it’s more likely you’ll encounter dangerous debris, is a wise move.
Get Your Tires Rotated
Regular tire maintenance is key to avoiding costly and dangerous flats while driving. Your local tire shop can monitor the tread depth of your tires, which is the best indicator of how long they’ll last. You can also have your tires rotated to ensure even wear on all four.
Most experts recommend getting your tires changed at the same time you get an oil change. Some places will even rotate the tires as part of a package deal along with the oil change, although you should read the fine print about charges before agreeing to any services.
Don’t Drive on a Donut
If you do get caught with a flat, you’ll need to change it yourself or call for help. Many vehicles have what’s called a “donut” instead of a full-size spare tire. This will technically get you to a nearby service center. They’re recommended to go no more than 50 miles, and you should not drive more than 50 mph on one. That’s because the smaller size can cause long-term damage to the transmission.
Why a donut? Because spare tires are used so infrequently, automakers decided to save space (and money) by building newer vehicles with only a temporary spare instead of a full-sized tire.