At some point in your driving career you may walk up to your vehicle and notice the ominous glint of a nail head in the tread of your tire. It’s an uneasy feeling when you have to drive with a nail in your tire. What do you do about it? Do you need to have it fixed right away? Is the tire even leaking?
Just because you have a nail in your tire doesn’t mean you'll have a flat tire. In some cases, the nail can be short enough that it doesn’t even penetrate through the tire’s airtight lining. In other cases, it’s trajectory may have missed the lining altogether. Or if the nail did puncture right through the liner, it may be sealed or nearly completely sealed around the offending nail. Here’s what you should do:
Check your tire pressure
Always keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle. You should check your tire pressure every other time you fill your fuel tank. If the tire is significantly lower on pressure than it should be, put your spare tire on, or have a mechanic do it for you, and have the tire with the nail in it professionally repaired or replaced as soon as possible. If the air pressure is only slightly low, top it up and bring your vehicle to a tire repair shop to have it fixed properly.
Have the nail removed and the tire fixed
An often overlooked aspect of tire repair has to do with the steel belts inside the tire’s layers. When the tire is punctured, water, snow, and moisture can eat away at the steel belts and cause corrosion. This can compromise your tire and the belt might end up letting go and cause the tire to shimmy. Have the puncture hole repaired using a combination plug and patch, which is the only approved method of tire repair.
Replace the tire if necessary
Unfortunately, there are areas of the tire that cannot be repaired, such as the shoulder and the sidewall. In both of these locations, there is too much flex and movement and a plug-patch will not hold. Also, if the puncture is in the tread but the hole is larger than a quarter inch, it cannot be repaired safely. Whether due to location or size, there are times that a tire repair is not possible and the tire must be replaced entirely.
Don’t take a chance driving with a nail in your tire. Have a professional inspect and repair your tire as soon as you can.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as My Tire Has a Nail in It. What Should I Do? and was authored by Jason Unrau.