How to Safely Exit the Highway with a Flat Tire

You feel that awful vibration. The car becomes difficult to steer and pulls to one side. As the car slows, you can hear that familiar flop, flop, flop. You have a flat tire. While your first inclination is to curse your luck and your car, it is imperative that you react properly to the situation. Bad decisions made now can mean disaster and possible death.

Hints:

  • Never hit the brake hard after a blowout or flat tire.
  • Control of the vehicle is the most important consideration with a flat tire while driving.
  • Seconds count after a blowout or a flat tire occurs at highway speeds.

Most flats that occur while driving are in the form of a blowout. A rip in your tire allows all of the air to instantly be released. Blowouts can be frightening when they occur. However, a blowout is not any more dangerous than a flat tire made by an object that has penetrated the tire and caused it to go flat quickly. Whether it is a blowout or not, the next step is the same. You must be able to maintain control of the car.

You keep control by first gripping the steering wheel tightly. Do not immediately press on the brake. Remove your foot from the accelerator. Let the car coast for a bit to make sure that you have control. If it is a front tire, you will feel a strong pull in the direction of the flat. On a rear wheel, controlling the car’s fishtail feel can be difficult.

Once you are sure that you have control of the car, apply a very light touch to your brake. Suppose the car feels stable and brakes slightly more to slow the car enough to leave the highway. On an interstate, moving to the shoulder is not usually too tough.

You must begin changing any necessary lanes before you have lost too much of your speed. It is best if you can somewhat match the speed of the cars nearby to avoid collisions. Once on the shoulder, slow the car down to a stop and turn on the emergency flashers. Pull as far from the traffic lanes as is safely possible.

On a two-lane road without a shoulder, if a side road or driveway is visible, coast or drive slowly to it and exit the road. If nothing is visible, pull as far to the roadside as possible. Turn on the emergency flashers. Be careful to guard against soft or muddy shoulders. These can create more problems when changing the tire and returning to the road surface. In any event, look very carefully before exiting your vehicle.

You never want to continue trying to drive on a flat tire. This will ruin the tire beyond any possibility of repair. You also run the risk of damaging the wheel too badly to mount a new tire. This makes the flat or blowout a much more costly problem. Once you have safely stopped and exited the vehicle, it is time to either mount the spare tire or call for help.

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