How Far Can You Drive On a Flat Tire?


A punctured tire is not necessarily a problem if you have a spare, a jack, and a lug wrench. Changing it is a matter of 20-30 minutes. But what if you don’t have a spare tire or tools? Or perhaps you’re not quite sure how to do such a repair? Is it possible to drive to the nearest mechanic shop or house on a flat tire?

So how far can you drive on a flat tire? We’re here to answer that question and more.

How To Repair A Flat Tire

First, let’s talk about temporarily repairing the tire, which is the most preferable option, if possible. Tire damage is not always so critical that it requires urgent repair. If you just noticed a nail or any sharp object stuck in your tire, but the wheel holds air pressure, you’re in luck.

Do not try to pull it out. The object is keeping the tire inflated — for now.

flat tire closeup

Depending on the object, and how it is stuck in the tire, you likely can drive while it’s flat and make it to the nearest mechanic shop. In fact, you can often drive for weeks (although certainly not recommended) without any noticeable issue. But that is definitely tempting fate, so to speak, since the object could dislodge at any time and leave you stranded.

If it’s a small puncture and cut in the tire, through which the air is barely escaping, you can temporarily seal it without removing the tire.

To accomplish this, you’ll need to have tire sealant on hand. It is pumped through the valve into the tire. Then the clever mechanism of chemistry inflates the tire and coats the inside of the tire, plugging small leaks or punctures.

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Some sealant brands claim to last up to 100 miles, but you don’t want to risk it failing at an inopportune time. Get the tire repaired as soon as is practical.

Related: Sidewall Tire Damage. Can You Drive? Is It Repairable?

What To Do If You Don’t Have Tools Handy

If you don’t have tools, you can try to get to a mechanic’s shop on a flat tire. In some cases, this risk is justified. If it doesn’t lose air too fast, you will have time to get there. As an extra precaution, pump up the damaged wheel every mile or two, keeping a close eye on the rate of air loss.

Before you move, pump the wheel to its maximum. This way, you can drive on the tire longer before it goes flat again. If you feel the characteristic behavior of a flat tire, repeat the manipulations.

But remember, if in doubt, call a tow truck. You don’t want to damage your rim.

What Pressure Should Your Tires Be

Normal tire pressure in a modern passenger car is in the range from 32 to 35~ psi. This depends on the vehicle type and the wheel radius. Each car model has its own nominal tire pressure in winter and summer. It is written on a sticker, which is attached to the inner side of the door on the driver’s side, if there’s no sticker there, check the owner’s manual.

Each tire will also have a maximum pressure designated on the sidewall. Do not exceed this value.

How far can you drive on a flat tire?

How far you can drive on a flat tire depends on the degree of damage and how inflated it remains. If the tire still holds the air, it is quite possible to get to the nearest mechanic shop. When you don’t have the necessary materials to repair a fully deflated tire, your only real option is to call a tow truck.

Driving on too flat of a tire is a reckless decision that threatens the safety of you and the people around you. You should not ignore the problem of a deflated tire.

Most often, a tire has enough air to drive to the nearest car service center. That’s because most leaks are slow, and are noticed before they are dangerously low. Once discovered, it is not recommended to postpone a trip to the tire repair shop, as you could make a critical situation worse.

The tire is a complex structure, not a homogenous piece of rubber. A tire consists of several layers that are responsible for a particular characteristic. The technology and material features of each element are different and have their own nuances.

Of course, the tread pattern is not applied to the tire simply for visual effect. A flat tire immediately loses its drive functionality, and its traction characteristics decrease.

can you drive on a flat tire? only so far
  • The car starts to move a little to the side due to the imbalance
  • When you increase the speed it becomes harder to drive and steer
  • If you continue driving on a flat tire, the car begins to consume more fuel
  • An extremely deflated tire will be out-of-round and will eventually begin to split apart.
  • The cord loses the ability to evenly distribute the load.
  • In a fully deflated tire, the pressure on the rim increases dramatically, and the rubber may rupture completely
  • If you drive on a very flat tire, the tire may come off the rim, causing a loss of control of the vehicle, along with a likely deformation of the rim
  • The car’s braking system starts to work less efficiently, which is especially dangerous when you need to brake sharply
  • It will not be possible to drive and maneuver normally on a flat tire as the car will skid on corners
  • The rubber begins to overheat, which causes even faster failure, and is no longer repairable
  • Riding on a flat tire is dangerous due to the possibility of a second puncture and complete failure of the wheel
  • Riding on a flat tire will damage the tire and reduce its service life

If your tire is completely flat

When there is almost no air layer between the ground and the rim, you must not drive on a flat tire. The rubber will likely split out completely, and the rim, scraping on the road surface, will deform quickly. Time for the spare or a tow.

Field Repair Kits – Not For The Faint Of Heart

For those folks who are a little more hands-on, there are field repair kits available. Also called plug kits, these allow you to actually perform a field repair of the tire to allow you the ability to get to a service station. This is a great option for those who frequent areas that are far from cities or towns, especially where towing service is not available.

Note: We receive a small commission on some purchases, at no additional cost to you.

Related: Faulty Tire Pressure Sensor

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