Can You Drive on a Flat Tire? Risks and Best Practices

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Can you drive on a flat tire? This is a question many motorists find themselves asking at least once in their driving careers. A flat tire isn’t just an inconvenience; it’s a safety concern. You might be surprised to learn that over 33,000 road accidents in the United States each year are tire-related.

So, what should you do when you find yourself with a flat? Can you make it to the nearest garage, or should you pull over immediately? By understanding the risks and mastering the best practices, you can navigate this common roadside predicament safely and effectively.

The Immediate Risks of Driving on a Flat Tire

Driving on a flat tire can pose significant risks, not just to the driver, but to everyone on the road. While it might seem like a minor inconvenience, it can quickly escalate into a serious problem.

For starters, your car’s handling and braking ability are compromised when driving on a flat tire. The vehicle is harder to control, and stopping distances increase, putting you and other road users at risk.

In addition, the deflated tire can damage the wheel or other parts of your vehicle, leading to more expensive repairs. It can also cause the tire to overheat and potentially blow out, causing you to lose control of your vehicle. Therefore, the immediate answer to “Can you drive on a flat tire?” should be a resounding no, unless it’s absolutely necessary.

How Far Can You Drive on a Flat Tire?

When faced with a flat tire, you might find yourself asking, “How far can you drive on a flat tire?“. While it’s highly recommended to pull over and replace a flat, circumstances may not always allow for this immediate action. Manufacturers generally suggest that if an emergency forces you to drive on a flat tire, it should ideally not exceed 1.5 miles and not exceed a speed of 20 mph. This is intended to allow the driver to reach a safer location, away from busy roads or potentially hazardous environments.

However, the real-world scenario can be a bit more complex. The distance you can cover on a flat tire largely depends on the type of tire and the severity of the damage. Run-flat tires, for example, are designed to maintain their shape and support the vehicle’s weight for a certain distance after a puncture, typically between 50 to 100 miles, at a limited speed.

Standard tires, on the other hand, can rapidly disintegrate when deflated, possibly damaging the wheel and other car components. In such cases, driving any distance could potentially cause more harm than good.

Remember, these guidelines are for emergency situations only. The safest course of action when dealing with a flat tire is to replace it immediately or call for professional roadside assistance.

How Far Can You Drive on a Spare Tire?

It’s crucial to remember that a spare tire – particularly a compact or ‘donut’ spare – is not designed for long-distance or high-speed driving. It’s a temporary solution, meant to get you to the nearest garage or tire shop, and not intended for regular road use.

Manufacturers typically recommend driving no more than 50-70 miles on a compact spare, and not exceeding speeds of 50 mph. Moreover, the vehicle’s handling can change dramatically when a spare is installed, as these tires are smaller and not as robust as regular tires. Therefore, caution must be exercised while driving, especially when turning or navigating bends.

It’s also important to note that using a spare tire for extended periods or at high speeds can cause damage to your vehicle’s differential, due to the differing wheel sizes. Lastly, always remember to check the pressure in your spare tire regularly, as an underinflated spare is of no use in an emergency.

In summary, while a spare tire can be a lifesaver in a pinch, it’s not a permanent solution. Replace it with a new, full-size tire at your earliest convenience to ensure your safety on the road.

What do to When you Get a Flat Tire

When you find yourself with a flat tire, remain calm and navigate your vehicle to a safe location, away from the flow of traffic if possible. First and foremost, prioritize your safety, the safety of your passengers, and other road users. Once safely parked, turn on your hazard lights to alert other motorists of your situation.

If you’re equipped and comfortable doing so, you can attempt to change the flat tire to your spare following your vehicle’s guidebook. If not, calling for professional roadside assistance is always a viable and safe option. Remember, it’s always better to prevent further damage to your vehicle and ensure your safety than try to reach your destination with a flat tire.

Preventive Measures and Regular Tire Maintenance

Just like any other part of your vehicle, your tires require regular maintenance to ensure their optimal performance and longevity. Regular tire checks can prevent flats and keep you safe on the road. Here are some key tips for tire upkeep:

1. Regular Pressure Check: Tire pressure should be checked at least once a month using a reliable tire pressure gauge. Always adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure levels, as both under-inflation and over-inflation can lead to tire damage and flats.

2. Tire Rotation: Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles to ensure even tire wear. This helps extend the overall life of your tires and enhances vehicle safety.

3. Regular Tire Inspection: Regularly inspect your tires for any visible signs of damage such as cuts, punctures, or bulges. Also, look for signs of uneven wear, which might indicate an alignment or tire balance issue.

4. Tread Depth Check: Tread depth is crucial for maintaining traction on the road, especially in wet conditions. Look for tread wear bars, which are small bridges that form between your treads. If these start to appear, it means your tread is getting low and it’s time to replace your tires.

5. Alignment Check: Misaligned wheels can cause your tires to wear unevenly and prematurely. Have your vehicle’s alignment checked at least once a year or if your vehicle is pulling to one side.

By following these preventive measures and regular maintenance practices, you can prevent flats, ensure your safety on the road, and extend the lifespan of your tires. Always remember, taking care of your tires is an important part of overall vehicle maintenance.

Can You Drive on a Flat Tire in an Emergency?

In an emergency, you might find yourself in a position where you have to drive on a flat tire, especially if stopping isn’t immediately possible. The key in this situation is to minimize potential harm. This means driving slowly (under 20 mph) and covering the shortest distance possible (ideally no more than 1.5 miles) until you can safely address the flat tire.

However, remember that this can cause further damage to your vehicle and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Always prioritize your safety and the safety of others on the road.


Maintaining your vehicle’s tires is a critical aspect of overall vehicle maintenance. While having a spare tire can be a great help during emergencies, remember that it’s not a permanent solution and should be replaced with a full-size tire at the earliest convenience.

If you ever find yourself having to drive on a flat tire, do so with utmost caution, keep your speed low, and aim to cover the shortest distance possible. For comprehensive tire services visit us at Harris Tire Company. We’re here to ensure your safe and smooth journeys.

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