What to do if there is a nail in your tire

Is it Safe to Drive with a Nail in My Tire?

Yes, it is safe to drive with a nail in your tire if it’s small and if the tire is holding air. Drivers run over nails all the time without realizing it. If it’s a large nail and the tire is losing air fast – it’s better to tow it to a tire shop though.

Sometimes the nail is small and hasn’t even punctured the tire, and in that case, you can remove it, but make sure it hasn’t reached into the tire treads. If it punctured the tire, you should take it to a tire shop to repair it as soon as possible.

Aside from that, if the tire is flat or blown out, there’s absolutely no reason to drive on it. Instead, you will want to put on your spare tire to get to the local repair shop. 

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

Odds are, if there’s a nail in your car’s tire, you’re not going to find it while conveniently parked in front of your local mechanic. That means, should your tire fall victim to a wayward piece of metal, you’re going to have to get it to the shop before it causes even more damage. But can you drive your car with a nail in the tire? It does seem like a bad idea.

Really, it all comes down to distance. Autoblog reports that the longer you drive with a nail in your tire, the more damage it can do. “As soon as you notice a nail in your tire, contact a tire store to have your tire inspected. Driving with a hole in your tire is potentially dangerous and could cause a blowout. Furthermore, driving too long with the nail can ruin the tire, so you will have to replace the entire tire, instead of having a small piece plugged,” Autoblog explains.

A mechanic working on a car tire. | Emmanuele Cian
A mechanic working on a car tire. | Emmanuele Ciancaglini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

RELATED: Say No to the Donut, Demand A Full Spare Tire Instead

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Is it Possible For a Nail to Puncture the Sidewall of a Tire?

Yes, a nail can penetrate the sidewall of a tire, causing significant damage to the tire. Sidewalls are actually the weakest component of a tire, and they are particularly prone to punctures because of their design.

Radial tires are the most common type of modern tire. In other words, they have a steel band that runs the length of the tread and aids in the stabilization and strengthening of the road contact surface. Radial tires do not have a steel band in the sidewall like conventional tires. To strengthen the rubber and make it more puncture and flex resistant, they instead employ ply or nylon reinforcing fibers. That is why, it is quite easy to penetrate the tread of a radial tire, yet the vast majority of nails never make it all the way through. When they come into contact with the steel band, they do not break, but rather become stuck in the rubber tread block. Because it just produces noise and a small unbalance, this is a rather harmless phenomenon.

Sidewall punctures are significantly less common than other types of punctures, but they have the potential to be far more serious. There is nothing in the sidewall that will prevent the nail from passing through completely, and deflation is unavoidable if this happens.

Should I get the tire replaced after removing a nail?

Knowing how to take a nail out and patch your tire is a great skill to have, and it can really help you out in a pinch. However, just as with a spare tire, a self-patched tire should only be considered a temporary solution. Even if your patch is holding in air just fine, your tire is much more likely to blow, so you should get it replaced or professionally repaired sooner rather than later.If your tire is still in good shape (other than the nail hole), an auto shop can patch it from the inside. This will fully fix any issue caused by the nail while usually costing less than purchasing a new tire.

What Should You Do When You Have a Nail In Your Tire?

The low tire pressure created by tire punctures can lead to tire damage, low gas mileage, bent rims, and dangerous vehicle handling troubles. Additionally, you may fail your car inspection if your tires are not in tip-top shape. So what can you do when you have a nail in your tire? There are a few possible solutions you can turn to:

Professional Tire Patching Service

The best possible solution is to bring your vehicle to an expert for patching service. A professional can quickly find the puncture, remove the nail/screw, patch your tire, and refill your tire with air. This service provides a reliable repair without any of the hassles or risks associated with the alternative solutions. How much does professional tire patching cost? At Chapel Hill Tire, our local tire patching flat repair services are just $25. 

DIY Tire Patching

Some drivers attempt DIY patching, but this is not the best solution for most drivers. Many of these patch kits can cost as much as professional service, and it can be easy to damage the tire while attempting a patch. Not to mention, the patching process can be physically challenging and it often completely empties the air out of your tire—leaving drivers with a tire too flat to bring in for a refill. If you end up having to tow your vehicle, you will find yourself facing a much larger bottom line than the money you saved on a tire patch kit. 

Fix-a-Flat

Pressurized tire patches like Fix-a-Flat and other synthetic solutions can fix tire punctures from nails, but they come with their own set of risks and considerations. Most severely, they have been linked to risks of tire pressure monitoring sensor damage. Additionally, the sealant can create trouble when you need future tire services, which could result in premature tire replacement and extra labor costs. Much like tire patches, these solutions often cost just as much as professional tire patching, so you can save some trouble and money by turning to the experts. 

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What Part of the Tire Is the Nail In?

Your answer to this question will affect whether the damage is easily fixable or not. Modern tires usually use a soft, flexible sidewall and rigid steel belts that run under the tread. If the nail is in the area covered by those steel belts, repair is a likely possibility.

However, if the nail is at the outer edge of the treads, or the sidewall, you’ll need a new tire. Repairing a tire in this condition is not possible.

How to Be Prepared for Nails in Tire

At some point, every driver is likely to pick up a nail or screw in their tire. There are several ways you can be prepared the next time this happens. Consider:

  • Keeping a tire gauge in your car
  • Carrying a portable air compressor
  • Checking your tires regularly
  • Learning how to change a tire

Replace with your spare if necessary

Photo: robmba via cc/Flickr
Photo: robmba via cc/Flickr

If your tire is leaking air (or you suspect it is), you need to swap it out with your spare tire. Chances are you have a temporary tire, also known as a donut, that is designed to get your car to the closest mechanic or repair shop to get your full-size tire fixed. Because these tires are only meant to drive short distances (and at slower speeds), it’s imperative that you head straight to get your tire fixed rather than driving around for a few days with your spare.

Some cars these days don’t come with a spare tire at all, so it’s important to check so you know for sure whether or not you have one. If you don’t, your manufacturer probably provided a compressor and sealant kit to allow you to temporarily repair the tire.

Repair vs. Replace a Punctured Tire

There are some instances where repairing the tire

There are some instances where repairing the tire could be a good option. On the other hand, if the tire has been severely damaged, you want to replace it. Let’s look at a few reasons either is the best option. 

Repairing a Punctured Tire

If the puncture area is in the tread, it might be repairable. The tread is simple to patch up and shouldn’t compromise the safety of your tires.

However, the hole must be a quarter of an inch thick or less for a patch to work correctly. Additionally, multiple holes would need to be a minimum of 16 inches apart for a repair to be effective.

Replacing a Punctured Tire

There are valid reasons to opt for a replacement rather than a repair. For example, if the puncture has occurred in the sidewall of the tire, your on-road safety would be compromised if you fixed this tire. 

Additionally, any hole larger than a quarter of an inch is too large for repair. If you are dealing with multiple holes close together, you will also want to replace the tire. 

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