How can I prevent a flat tire?

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tire removed because it has a small leak that can lead to a flatA flat car tire when you’re trying to get somewhere. Nothing can bring a bigger feeling of dread (other than a car that won’t start) and annoyance—especially when you’re in a hurry. A flat tire can’t always be prevented (here’s a local phone number to call for road service for a flat tire), but there are a few ways you can prevent your next flat tire.

Check for small leaks.

A small leak can turn into a big problem—and a big price tag—if not caught early. Depending on the size and location of the weak, small leaks can be fixed without having to replace the tire. However, if the tire is not repaired a small leak can get bigger and need to be replaced. If your tire repeatedly goes flat, check for small leaks by listening and looking. Some leaks are large enough that you can hear them. Other leaks can be found by spraying soapy water onto the tire. The presence of bubbles means a leak—and that you should take the tire in for repair.

Be careful in road construction zones.

Orange barrels are a mainstay on summer roads. Other than a major traffic delay, road construction zones can also be a source of a flat tire because small sharp remnants from road work can remain on the road. Drive slowly through road construction zones to protect the road workers, and drive carefully to avoid a flat tire. Try not to pull over in these areas, before or during the road work, to prevent picking up a screw or metal object that can puncture your tire.

Do a full inspection of your tire.

Improper tire tread, a bad valve stem, or a leaking rim can lead to repeated flat tires—and every one of these problems can be caught with a visual inspection and a spray bottle with soapy water. When you have to repeatedly stop to fill up your tires (even with just a pound or two of air), check the tire tread for damage or uneven wear. If the problem is not visible, spray the tread and rim to see if there is a slow air leak. Take the tire to a mechanic, who can give you options for repair or replacement of your tire problem.

Keep your tires at the right PSI.

A properly inflated tire can prevent future issues, including uneven tire tread. It can also decrease gas mileage and increase the life of the tire. Check the decal inside the driver’s side door or the owner’s manual for the right pounds per square inch (PSI) for the tires (not the tire itself). Use a tire pressure gauge to check the tire pressure on a regular basis (especially when the temperature drops). Do not rely on your eyes alone to check the tire pressure; a tire can be low on pressure without looking flat. Similarly, do not wait until the tire pressure monitoring sensor (TPMS) light shows up on the dashboard; the TPMS sensor may not light up until the pressure is 20% low, far below what is recommended.

Get a regular tire rotation.

A regular tire rotation is more than just car maintenance; it’s a preventative task that keeps your tires in good shape. As a general guideline, tires should be rotated 6-8,000 miles or every six months. Regularly rotated tires wear evenly, ensure a smooth ride, and prevent flat tires. Keep your tires in good shape. Schedule a regular tire rotation, or request a tire rotation when you schedule an occasional oil change.

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