How to Detect Flat Tires

Example of what happens to a flat tire driven at freeway speed and possibly ten miles distance.
Photo Credit: Don Stec

by Don Stec
6-30-2017
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Modern vehicles handle very well. So it is understandable when some people tell us they did not notice one tire was flat and drove several miles on the flat, destroying the tire.

The first time I had heard this I thought the driver was just not very aware of the vehicle’s handling. The driver swore the vehicle handled so well the flat was undetectable. In the last few years I have had many more people tell me the same story.

It was just unbelievable, as many of the technicians I work with can detect a tire that is only 2-3 lbs. low on air during a test drive. On the other hand, the technicians test drive vehicles searching for the most minor complaints and almost become one with the vehicle.

This may seem uncanny to the average vehicle owner. It is a skill the average person can develop to a lower extent without much effort, with the vehicle they drive daily.

Here are some visual suggestions the average vehicle owner can use to detect a tire low on air and especially a flat tire before driving the vehicle.

First have the tire pressure checked at a tire shop. Then drive the vehicle home and park it in the usual parking space. Hopefully this is a paved and level area. If it is not you will have to find a level area to do a quick check.

As a quick check I stand next to each wheel and look down to see how far the tire extends past the wheel (rim edge at the bottom). As you get used to doing this daily you will just have to stand in front of the vehicle, left and right side. This will only take a few seconds as you become more confident. If you see a great difference you should not drive the vehicle without checking the air pressure.

I know of two occasions of vehicles having a flat tire and were driven from the owner’s home to work, including on the freeway a distance of ten miles at least. The drivers discovered the flats at the end of the work day. Both thought the tire had gone flat during the day. They had no explanation of why the tire was shredded. I suggested they look at their home driveway to see it there were tire marks there. If so the tire was flat when the vehicle was driven out of the garage. One owner did tell me the tire marks were there. The other I think was too embarrassed to discuss it further, especially since the wheel was also damaged.

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