If you’ve ever had the displeasure of having a punctured tire, then you know how annoying this can be. Whether you’ve pulled up immediately or continued driving for a while – if the conditions allowed that – you must have wondered how long can I drive on a punctured tire?
There is no definitive answer to that particular question, only the consensus that you shouldn’t drive on a flat tire at all. If you must, however, the trip length of your punctured tire depends on several factors, including the type of tire, the severity of its damage, and the tire build quality. In some instances, you won’t be able to travel further than a few yards, while in others, you might technically continue to drive like nothing’s happened.
In this article, we’ll look at different tire puncture scenarios and try to give you an approximate answer to the question of how long can you drive with a punctured tire.
Different Types of Tires
Before we move on, however, let’s take a look at different types of pneumatic tires to better understand their properties. There are numerous tire classifications we could point out, like classification by weather type (all-season, summer, winter), classification by road type (highway, all-terrain, off-road), or even classification by the cord layer arrangement (radial or cross-ply). However, the classification that has the biggest impact on the driving length in case of a puncture is the classification by structure to tube-type tires and tubeless tires. Aside from the biggest impact on the driving distance with a puncture, most of the aforementioned tire types feature either a tubeless or tube-type design.
A tube-type tire is a traditional option that’s been here longer and utilizes an inner tube to keep the air inside the tire. The inner tube is positioned between the tire (carcass) and the wheel rim and has a valve of its own that’s used to inflate it. Tube-type tires are slowly but steadily being phased out from the car market due to their deficiencies. They’re now primarily used in motorcycles (especially with spoked wheels), agricultural machines, and trucks. However, some older cars still use them.
Tube-type tire advantages
- mandatory in spoked-rim applications
- good for off-road applications
- retain tire pressure even when there’s tire bending
- cheap to repair
Tube-type tire disadvantages
- the quick loss of tire pressure in case of a puncture
- repairs can be more time-consuming
- friction between the inner tube and the sidewall
- heavier than tubeless tires
Most modern vehicles now rely on tubeless tires. Unlike their counterparts, tubeless tires don’t feature an inner tube but retain air pressure between the rim and the tire itself thanks to a special inner liner made of halogen butyl rubber such as chlorobutyl or bromobutyl rubber. With the special property of being able to seal small punctures on its own, it’s easy to see why tubeless tires are considered superior.
Tubeless tire advantages
- gradual pressure loss in case of a puncture
- better vehicle handling
- improved safety
- easy to repair
Tubeless tire disadvantages
- more expensive
- can look messy after too many repairs
- can’t be used in spoked-rim applications due to a lack of airtight seal
How Long Can I Drive on a Punctured Tube-Type Tire?
You typically won’t get very far on a punctured tube tire. Tube-type tires are generally unsuitable for driving if they develop a puncture due to their construction. They can’t hold optimal air pressure for long once the puncture develops, and will typically get flat in a matter of minutes. That being said, the time you’ll have before the tire gets completely flat fluctuates from a matter of seconds to a few minutes. In some rare cases when the puncture is minimal, you might even get a few hours out of it. In a sense of distance, this translates to anything from a few yards to a few miles, or a few dozens of miles if you’re lucky.
However, driving on a punctured tube-type tire is inadvisable. A flat tube tire can easily be shredded to pieces by the rim, aggravating the damage beyond repair. In such a case, the replacement of the tube or even a tire itself will be the only course of action. If you develop a puncture on a tube tire, it’s best to take it to a tire shop straightaway or replace it with a spare.
How Long Can I Drive on a Punctured Tubeless Tire?
Driving on a punctured tubeless tire is also inadvisable, but you should be able to get some healthy mileage before being forced to stop. In the case of run-flat tires, manufacturers typically recommend between 10 and 50 miles at speeds of up to 55 mph, depending on the tire quality. Some highly severe punctures will cut that mileage down, but other less severe punctures, such as a nail stuck in the tire, might remain unnoticed for days. In any case, it’s best to fix the tire if possible as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
Like it’s the case with tube-type tires, tubeless tires can also be severely damaged if driven flat for prolonged periods. It doesn’t necessarily happen as soon as you exceed the manufacturers’ recommendation, but it will happen at some point if the tire that’s losing pressure is being driven on. Since tubeless tires are more expensive, it’s less expensive to take them to a repair shop than to ruin them and have to replace them altogether.
There is no definitive answer to the question of how long can I drive on a punctured tire. The distance you’ll be able to cover depends on the type of tire and severity of the puncture, first and foremost. In some instances, a car won’t be able to cross even a few yards on a flat tire. On other occasions, you might be able to drive seemingly without issues for miles. No matter the case, a punctured tire should be repaired as soon as possible to avoid aggravating the damage and especially to avoid potential safety hazards.
Can punctured tires be repaired?
In most cases, a punctured tire can be repaired. However, a sidewall tear is impossible to repair, and so are some extreme tears of the thread.
How much does it cost to fix a punctured tire?
That depends on the severity of the puncture. A minor correction shouldn’t set you back by more than $10 to $20. However, a sidewall tear or a gaping hole, in the tire will necessitate a tire replacement in which case the price of fixing a flat tire will be equal to the full price of the tire of your choice. Also, don’t forget to include the labor costs.
Is it safe to drive on a punctured tire?
No, it is absolutely not safe to drive on a punctured tire, especially for prolonged periods. Flat tires won’t only deteriorate faster, but a car can’t maintain control with them, leading to potentially dire consequences.
How long can a punctured tire last?
A punctured tire will typically last as long as the manufacturers recommend. A special tire sealant can prolong its life by 50 to 100 miles or even longer. However, the “magic” won’t last forever, and at some point, you’ll have to fix or replace it.
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