Can I drive a car with a flat tyre?

Hearing that sudden bang and the unmistakable flap-flap-flap of a flat tyre can be heartbreaking, particularly if you’re miles from home or the nearest garage. So what do you do if you’ve suffered from a flat tyre? How far can you drive? What can you do about it? Let Scrap Car Comparison guide you through everything you need to know. 

If your tyre has blown out and caused significant damage, you may find that it’s actually quicker, easier and makes more economic sense to scrap the car, rather than go through the cost and time of repairs. If this is the case, speak to one of our friendly advisors who’ll be more than happy to find the very best price that your car could fetch as scrap or salvage.

Close up of a tyre on a car

Can you legally drive with a flat tyre?

As we’ve mentioned above, the Highway Code states that your tyres must always be inflated to the correct pressures. If you have a flat tyre, then at least one of those pressures is definitely going to be below acceptable standards – you’ll certainly never find a manufacturer recommending pressures of 0psi. 

Driving with a flat or damaged tyre could see you slapped with a hefty fine. The DVLA does not look kindly on punctured, flat, damaged or even tyres without enough pressure, and you could face a fine of up to £2,500, three penalty points and even a driving ban if it is deemed that you are driving your car in a dangerous condition.

Is it safe to drive with a flat tyre or puncture?

Driving on a flat tyre is certainly not something we would advise you to do. For starters, the Highway Code requires that all of your tyres must be inflated to the correct pressures. By default, then, a flat tyre means your tyre is no longer in a roadworthy condition and therefore you are driving in contravention of the Highway Code, and thus, illegally.

Aside from the legal issues you could find yourself in, driving on a flat tyre can cause even more damage than just needing a fresh set of rubber. The longer you drive on a flat tyre, the more chance you have of the rubber beginning to break away, which could result in your wheel rim beginning to make contact with the road itself. If this happens, you could find yourself needing an entire new hub, rather than just a tyre, adding much more to your final repair bill – or even resulting in a trip to the scrap heap for your car.

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How far can you drive on a flat tyre?

It is not advisable to drive any distance on a flat tyre at all. Putting any amount of driving force through a wheel with a punctured tyre could result in even more damage to both the tyre and the wheel. Not only does this increase the likelihood of an expensive repair bill, but also means you are far more likely to be involved in an accident if (or when) your tyre finally lets go completely, thus putting yourself and all other road users in unnecessary levels of danger.

What to do if you notice you have a flat tyre

There’s no guarantee that you’ll spot that your tyre is flat before you get into your car to drive away, so it’s important to understand the steps to take if you get a puncture in a variety of potentially dangerous scenarios:

  • On the motorway – Getting a tyre puncture on the motorway could be life-threatening. At those sorts of speeds, a gradual decrease in tyre pressure is unlikely. In fact, if your tyre puncture is caused by impact with debris, the force could result in a deadly blowout. If you’re lucky enough to notice only a gradual deflation of your tyre, you will probably need to pull over into the hard shoulder immediately (with care – no sudden, erratic turns of the wheel) and treat it like any other breakdown on the motorway: get out on the left side of your vehicle and climb over the barrier. Alternatively, if you have a run-flat tyre (more on those later) you can continue on for a limited distance- but you must reduce your speed.
  • On a residential street – This is likely to be a far less spectacular tyre explosion than you could suffer on a motorway, but could still result in a loss of control. If you get, or notice, a flat tyre while driving in these areas, it’s often safe to simply pull over and either change the tyre yourself or call someone to do it for you. Just try your best to get the vehicle out of the way of other drivers, without impacting people’s safety.
  • On a rural road – These roads can be more dangerous that motorways at times, especially with poor weather conditions. If you’ve got a run-flat, great. Take advantage of it to get somewhere safer to address the problem. If you don’t have run-flat tyres, you’ll need to pull over and get out of your vehicle to move somewhere safer. You should also lay down a warning triangle behind the vehicle… assuming you have one.

How far can you drive on a run-flat tyre?

Run-flat tyres are specially designed tyres with reinforced sidewalls – effectively meaning that if there is a sudden loss of pressure, the tyre can stay rigid despite there being no air in it at all. However, this doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. 

A run-flat is designed to get you to your nearest garage or tyre centre without having to get out a spare tyre on the side of a busy road. Every manufacturer will differ in their own guides as to what you can do with a run-flat, although most will allow speeds of up to 55mph. If you are running on run-flats, it is recommended you don’t drive any further than 50 miles on them. For more information on run-flat tyres, have a read through our dedicated blog page here.

Small family car with a spare donut tire mounted as the car had a flat tire

Can you drive a car with a nail in the tyre?

If you stop to check your car and see that there is a nail or screw embedded, your instinct may be to remove it to stop anything from getting worse. In actual fact that may be one of the worst things you could do, as you could end up making the puncture worse as you pull the offending debris out. You may also find that the nail or screw could be pushed in far enough that it’s actually helping keep the tyre inflated by stopping even more air from escaping.

The safest thing to do is to drive to the nearest garage or tyre centre to get it professionally fixed or replaced. Be sure to drive carefully and make sure it is the closest place possible – driving for longer distances could result in a tyre blowout, putting yourself and other road users in danger.

How long does tyre foam last?

Tyre foam is a clever creation that’s useful in an emergency, but not designed to be a long-term solution. When injected into a punctured tyre, it fluffs up with enough force to not seal the puncture, but keep the tyre inflated to a suitable pressure level, too!

Unfortunately, it’s not going to save you the cost of a tyre change; tyre foam is only designed to last for between 50 to 100 miles of driving before the pressure will start to decrease again. If you’ve used tyre foam to help you complete a journey, you should absolutely try to get there via the nearest tyre-selling garage.

How to use a puncture repair kit to plug a hole

The idea of plugging a hole in a tyre might seem intimidating – almost as intimidating as then driving on that tyre again and trusting it to remain intact. However, it is possible, and there are kits designed to make it as easy as it can be. The kit you purchase will have its own set of instructions, but generally, they work like this:

  • Insert the ‘rope’ plug through the hole in the tool – it’s a bit like threading a needle at this point.
  • Forcibly push the tool, with the plug attached, through the puncture hole until a couple of centimetres of the plug remain visible.
  • Remove the tool – the plug should stay in place, sealing the puncture.
  • Using a cutting tool, trim the excess ‘rope’ off so that the plug is as flush as possible to the tyre.
  • Reinflate the tyre to the optimal pressure.

Of course, that last point is very important, and leads us onto our next section…

How to use a tyre inflation kit

Inflating the tyre once the puncture is repaired is the final hurdle to getting your journey back underway. This is done using a device that’s essentially a portable version of the air machines you find at most petrol stations:

  • Remove the air cap from the tyre and attach the hose that comes with the device.
  • Connect the device to your vehicle’s power source, most likely via the 12V port (though modern cars & devices could use USBs)
  • Turn the device on and watch the gauge, ensuring you don’t allow the tyre to go over the optimal pressure reading.

Can a blown tyre damage your car?

Significant damage as a result of a tyre blowout could see you needing more than just a new set of rubber to get the car back on the road. If the damage has totted up a repair bill that you just can’t afford, then why not give the team at Scrap Car Comparison a call? We can get you the very best price, no matter the car’s condition, and we’ll even come and collect it from you, free of charge, wherever you call home.

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