Getting something stuck in your tire happens more often than you think. The rubber material around your wheels will often pick up pebbles, debris, or gravel, which is perfectly normal and usually won’t cause any damage. But sometimes, foreign objects such as nails and screws can also end up on the road and get stuck in your tires.
If this has ever happened to you, you may have wondered what you can do and whether it’s safe to keep driving your car. To answer this question, we’ve put together a quick guide on what drivers should do in case they find themselves on the road with a nail stuck in their tire.
Can You Drive with a Nail in Your Tire?
Yes, it’s possible to drive with a nail in your tire—but only if the tire is still holding air. You should never attempt to drive a vehicle with a flat or blown-out tire as it can create extremely unsafe driving conditions. Nonetheless, even if the tire is not flat and you can technically still drive your car, we suggest that you drive to the nearest tire repair shop right away.
Driving with a nail in your tire, even if it’s only for short distances, can cause irreparable damage to the tire.
What to Do When You Find a Nail in Your Tire
If one of your tires keeps losing pressure and you suspect that it has been punctured, activate your hazard lights and carefully pull over to the side of the road. Then, check your tires for signs of damage. After confirming that you have a punctured or flat tire, the next step is determining whether you should continue driving or call for a towing service.
If you have a flat tire, go ahead and replace it with a spare—if you have one. If you don’t have a spare or you do not know how to change a tire, get your vehicle towed to the nearest repair facility.
On the other hand, if you find a foreign object stuck in the tire, such as a nail, you may be able to skip the towing service and just drive to the nearest tire repair shop. Again, check if the tire is losing air—in most cases, a stuck nail means the air won’t leak out right away, and will simply result in a gradual loss of air pressure.
If this is the case, you should be able to safely drive your vehicle to a tire professional to get it patched or repaired. Tire professionals are equipped with the right skills, tools, and expertise needed to fix a tire with a stuck nail. They are the best people to conduct tire repair as a long-term solution for your vehicle.
Reminder: DIY tire sealants, inflators, plugs, and patches are designed to be used as a short-term solution during emergency situations only. These quick fixes can make your tires more susceptible to blow-out compared to professional repair work.
Should You Repair or Replace a Punctured Tire?
While it’s possible for punctured tires to be repaired, there are cases wherein the damage is irreparable, and replacing your tires is the only safe option.
Here are the factors that professionals consider when deciding whether to repair or replace a punctured tire:
Location of hole/s
Repair: The puncture is in the tread area.
Replace: The puncture is in the sidewall or shoulder of the tire.
Size of the hole/s
Repair: The hole is less than a quarter of an inch.
Replace: The hole is larger than a quarter of an inch.
Severity of the damage
Repair: The tire has one or more punctures that are at least 16 inches apart.
Replace: The tire has multiple holes that are located close together.
Signs of a Compromised Tire (That’s About to Go Flat)
The longer you drive with a nail in your tire, the higher the risk of you losing control of your vehicle and causing a serious accident. To ensure your safety and that of other vehicles on the road, watch out for the following signs that your tire is punctured and about to go flat:
Loss of Air Pressure
Late-model vehicles are equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System or TPMS that warns the driver whenever one or more tires are underinflated. This may be used to monitor whether one of the tires is punctured or about to go flat.
A low tire pressure reading will trigger a dashboard warning light on the instrument panel that usually resembles a horseshoe with an exclamation point in the middle.
Steering Feels Off
A flat tire will make your vehicle difficult to drive straight. You may notice that your steering wheel feels like it’s being pulled to one side and that your car veers either to the left or right.
A tire that’s completely flat will cause your vehicle to slow down. At this point, your car is essentially riding on the rim. You’ll notice that you need more throttle than normal just to keep it moving at your desired speed.
A punctured or underinflated tire will flex more and overheat, often resulting in a sudden loss of pressure called a blowout. The sudden release of air pressure from the tire will produce a whooshing sound. Meanwhile the deflated rubber will produce slapping noises as it continues to make contact with the road.
Tire Appears Flat
In most cases, a visual inspection of the tire is enough to detect the presence of a foreign object puncturing the rubber. However, a deeply embedded nail can cause a slow leak that may not come with any obvious signs of damage. This will require the removal of the tire from the vehicle in order to test for leaks.