Both new and used cars can suffer from tyre punctures, although they are statistically more likely to occur when your tyres are old and the rubber is wearing thin.
With modern cars and tyres, a sudden puncture has fortunately become a very rare occurrence. But as well as posing a potential danger, a slow puncture can go undetected for some time, affecting a vehicles performance and shortening the life of a tyre.
If you are involved in an accident and your tyres are in poor condition, your insurance policy could also be invalidated, so it’s important to keep an eye on the condition of your tyres. The best way to check your tyres is by performing a visual inspection as recommended in the Highway Code. You may be able to spot a foreign body, such as a nail or sharp stone embedded in the tyre. Another clue to a puncture is if one tyre has deflated to the point where it is flat enough to have a different shape to the others. You may also hear a difference while you are driving, like the sound of an object in the tyre hitting the road every time the wheel turns. You may also find car starts pulling to one side if a tyre has lost some of its pressure.
Many modern cars are now fitted with run flat tyres, these have a more rigid sidewall designed to keep the tyre’s shape if the pressure is lost. The disadvantage is that punctures are very difficult to detect on a run flat tyre. Cars fitted with run flat tyres from the factory, or any car manufactured later than 2012, should have an onboard tyre pressure monitoring system so you will get a dashboard warning if a tyre deflates.
If you’re still in doubt or want to make sure, check your tyres pressure using a gauge. It’s better to have your own gauge in your garage or toolkit, as petrol station gauges can often be inaccurate. You can also buy valve caps with an indicator that alerts you if pressure is low in a tyre.
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What’s the best way to tackle a slow puncture?
Depending on the location and size of the puncture, a garage may be able to repair the tyre using a specialised rubber plug and glue. It is more likely that they will be able to plug a puncture in the tread of the tyre where it meets the road, than in the side wall. If you own a tyre repair kit you may find it has a foam or sealant to stop air escaping from a tyre. While these are useful in emergencies where a tyre has completely deflated and you still need to get home, experts in this area of the motor trade will often refuse to repair a tyre containing sealant.
If you have a slow puncture, then you’re better off just topping up the air from a foot or petrol station pump and taking your car straight to the garage.