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Last updated: March 23, 2023

Flat Tire Facts and Guide

The most important facts, figures and instructions on flat-tire safety and tire maintenance.

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Flat tires may be the last thing on your mind when you get behind the wheel, but they’re one of the most common car issues drivers face. Knowing what to do in the event of a flat tire and how to prevent flat tires will keep you, your passengers and other drivers safer on the road. But what kind of precautions should you take? What’s the best course of action if you find yourself on the road with a flat tire?

Below, we’ll cover everything from the most important flat tire facts and figures to how to navigate the stressful process of dealing with a flat tire.

Flat Tire Facts and Figures

Flat tires lead to hundreds of fatalities per year. The numbers below underscore just how important tire safety, maintenance and preventative measures are in the United States:

  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tire blowouts and tire-related issues cause about 33,000 accidents every year in the U.S.
  • In 2020, there were over 650 traffic fatalities from tire-related car crashes.1
  • Don’t know how to change a flat tire? You’re not alone. Almost 20 percent of drivers don’t know how to change a flat tire.2
  • You can drive about 50 miles on a run-flat tire, which are tires designed to run for short distances after being punctured. According to Edmunds, run-flat tires are standard on only 15 percent of vehicles.3
  • AAA responds to about four million flat tire calls each year.

What to Do if You Have a Flat Tire

It’s important to have a plan for the off chance that you encounter a flat tire on the road. Following the steps below will ensure you maneuver your vehicle in the safest manner and do as little damage as possible to your car:

  1. Don’t slam the breaks: Your instinct might be to slam the breaks when you feel/hear the thumping sound of a flat tire. This would be a mistake. If you slam your brakes, you could lose control or damage your vehicle. Instead, turn on your hazards, slow down to about 20 miles per hour (mph) and find a safe spot to pull off on the side of the road.


Although a simple tire patch-up can cost $30 to $60, driving on a flat tire could lead to other vehicle damages, such as structural wheel damage, brake damage or alignment issues, which cost thousands of dollars.4

  1. Don’t drive on it: Unless you have a flat-run tire, you should not drive on a flat tire. You could cause further damage to your car or get into an accident.
  2. Change your tire: If you have a full-sized spare and know how to change your tire, go ahead and do so. If you’re not sure how to change a flat tire, follow these steps:
    • Make sure your car is parked in a safe location.
    • Turn on your hazards if you don’t already have them on.
    • Grab your spare tire and jack, which most people keep in the trunk.
    • Loosen the lug nuts (located on the wheel stud) with your iron.
    • Jack your car up until the wheel is about 6 inches off the ground and do not crawl under your vehicle while it’s lifted.
    • Remove the lug nuts and the flat tire.
    • Place your spare tire into the wheel stud
    • Lightly tighten the lug nuts into the spare by hand.
    • Lower your vehicle back to the ground with your jack.
    • Finish tightening the lug nuts with your iron and you’re good to go.
  3. Call for help: If you don’t know how to change a flat, call for help! Reach out to family, friends or your roadside assistance provider if you have one. More on roadside assistance options below.

Ways to Prepare for and Prevent a Flat Tire

Have the Proper Equipment and Practice Tire Repair

As discussed above, you can give yourself some peace of mind by learning how to change a flat tire and carrying the proper equipment. And practicing changing a flat isn’t just about building confidence. Making mistakes like leaving the lug nuts too loose, crawling under the car or placing your jack on the plastic part of your car frame can all lead to unnecessary injuries and damages.

If you’re unsure exactly where to place your jack or other car-specific information, consult your owner’s manual.


Do you want some practice removing and placing tires? Watch a step-by-step video, like this one from O’Reilly Auto Parts, to see how it works.5

Get Roadside Assistance

You can sign up for roadside assistance with your own insurance company, a third-party provider or your credit card company. Roadside assistance companies offer a number of benefits and services, including:

  • Emergency medical assistance
  • Flat tire replacement
  • Fuel refills
  • Jump starts
  • Towing
  • Winching

Some of the biggest roadside service companies include AAA, AARP, Motor Club of America and the Allstate Motor Club Membership.


If you have a Visa card, Mastercard or Chase card, you can sign up for roadside assistance with rates starting at around $60 per service.

Maintain Your Tires

You can reduce your risk of getting a flat by having proper tire maintenance and safe driving habits, like driving slowly through construction zones. Some of the biggest things you can do to keep your tires safe include:

  1. Check your tire pressure: The NHTSA suggests using a pressure gauge once a month to ensure proper tire pressure. The recommended pressure is usually located on the side of the driver’s side door or along the door jamb.
  2. Rotate your tires: Switch the front tires to the back and vice versa. You can have a mechanic do it for you, but Edmunds recommends rotating tires every 5,000 to 10,000 miles to give the front tires a break from the regular wear and tear they endure, especially for front-wheel-drive cars.
  3. Avoid driving over road hazards: If you can, avoid road hazards, such as potholes, metal, glass, nails and other road debris.
  4. Avoid overloading your vehicle: If you have to carry a heavy load when moving or going camping, you may want to increase your tire pressure to the maximum recommended number.6
  5. Check your tires for recalls: You can use this NHTSA tool to check for key recall dates on your vehicle. Most tires have a recommended manufacturer lifetime before they become a hazard to drive on and some manufacturers will offer a replacement for free if you can verify your tire is defective.


Flat tires can be unpredictable, stressful and dangerous situations to navigate. However, with a bit of preparation and planning, you can acquire the tools and knowledge to manage a flat tire with ease. Proper tire maintenance, safer driving habits, having the right equipment and other key points presented in this guide will keep you safer, prevent vehicle damage and save you money in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do run-flat tires work?

Run-flat tires are reinforced with a sidewall design that keeps your tire running even after it’s been punctured. The additional support will allow you to drive for about 50 miles on a flat tire.

Why do my tires keep going flat?

Here are some of the most common reasons why you might be experiencing a recurring flat tire:

  • Loose valve stems
  • Tire puncture from glass, nails or another sharp object
  • Poor tire damage repair
  • Dry rot
  • Old tires
  • Wear and tear
  • Temperature fluctuation (usually when it gets hot)

How much do run-flat tires cost?

According to CARFAX, a run-flat tire can cost anywhere from $150 to $500. Rates for regular tires start at about $50.

How can I tell if my tires are run-flat?

Run-flat tires will sit lower to the ground than other tires on your car. If you can’t tell by looking at the tire, you can always check the air pressure with a pressure gauge.


  1. Tires. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2023).

  2. How to Prepare for a Flat Tire in the Age of Social Distancing. Consumer Reports. (2020, Apr 12).

  3. What Are Run-Flat Tires? Edmunds. (2022, Feb 23).

  4. Here’s Why You Really Shouldn’t Drive on a Flat Tire. (2019, Sep 8).

  5. How To: Change a Flat Tire. O’Reilly Auto Parts via YouTube. (2018, May 1).

  6. Why Blowouts Happen—and How to Avoid Them. Popular Mechanics. (2013, Aug 20).