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Tires need to be replaced when the treads wear past the point they are able to provide sufficient traction. Legally, this point is 2/32″, but a case can be made that tires should be replaced much earlier. Besides treadwear, there are other reasons you may need to replace your tires. One of these reasons is a flat. Your tire may unexpectedly lose air pressure, and become unable to support the weight of your vehicle, and its occupants.

Flats can occur anywhere and at anytime. In some cases, they happen suddenly while driving, forcing you to react quickly in order to avoid a collision. Other times, air pressure declines gradually. Below, we’ll explain several reasons car tires lose pressure, and describe how to respond when it happens unexpectedly on the road.

Common Reasons Tires Lose Air Pressure

Most flats are caused by small objects in the road that puncture the rubber material of the tire. This can happen when you drive over broken glass, small branches, pieces of metal, or nails. These and other types of debris may penetrate the treads or sidewalls. New tires can withstand pressure from sharp items better than older tires, though deeper grooves between the treads may direct such items inward.

Another potential cause of flats is faulty valve stems. While most of the attention is directed to the tires themselves (e.g. treads, beads, sidewalls, etc.), the stems can also contribute to a loss in air pressure. Some are constructed in a way that makes them vulnerable to leaks due to temperature and load.

Tires can also go flat as a result of poor mounting and damaged rims. Here, the pressure placed on the rubber material causes the internal bead bundles to separate, leading to air leaks. It is important to have damaged rims repaired before mounting new tires in order to prevent a recurrence.

Reacting To A Flat While On The Road

If you experience a flat while driving, you’ll hear a thumping noise as the tire rotates on the axle. You’ll also feel a pull to the side with the flat. This is a safety issue since your ability to control your vehicle will be impaired.

Most people instinctively apply their brakes. This is a bad idea. Because other drivers are not expecting you to suddenly stop in the middle of the road, they may collide with your vehicle. Instead, look for an opening to change lanes, and direct your car to the right side of the road.

Safety Considerations When Changing A Flat Tire

Once you have maneuvered your vehicle to the side, you’ll need to change the flat (unless you have a roadside service plan). Consider the amount of room you have on the side of your car with the flat. A lot of people attempt to change tires with insufficient room between their vehicle and others that are driving past. If you suspect there is too little room, don’t try to change the tire. Call a tow truck.

Also, if your car is parked on a slope, don’t change the tire. There is a chance your vehicle may roll once you have lifted it on the jack, even with the parking brake engaged. If you are parked on level ground, you should still put blocks behind the wheels, if you have them available.

The placement of the jack is also important – for your safety and to avoid damaging your car. There are specific jacking points that should be used. If you’re uncertain where these points are under your vehicle, consult your owner’s manual. Keep in mind that lifting your car on an improperly positioned jack is dangerous. The jack may collapse, or your vehicle might roll off it.

Flat tires are as inevitable as they are unpredictable. The important thing is to know how to react when you lose air pressure, and the precautions to take if you decide to change the flat on your own.

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Filed under: Truck Tires

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