Though it varies depending on the damage, the good news is that flat tire repair costs aren't as bad as you might expect.
Imagine you're driving along the highway at night. It's raining hard with driving winds and cars whizzing past. Suddenly, you hear a loud bang, feel a thump, and your car pulls to one side. You're able to maintain control of your vehicle, but you already know you've got a flat. Once you're safely off the road, you inspect the damage and begin to wonder and worry about flat tire repair cost.
Almost everyone who drives a car will experience a flat tire at some point. Active Tools, a company that specializes in tire repair, estimates that 220 million flat tires occur each year in the United States alone. They also state that most drivers will experience at least five flats in their lifetimes. That's enough to spend some time thinking about flat tire repair cost. Fortunately, from punctures to blowouts, there are reasonably affordable options for any tire trauma.
What causes a flat tire
More often than not, sharp objects cause flat tires. Nails and screws left in driveways or dropped along roadways are the most frequent offenders, but knives, broken glass, and even a strong stick at the right angle all have the ability to put a hole in your car's road rubber.
However, overinflation, collisions, hitting a curb or other object, a failed valve stem, potholes, or vandalism can all contribute to a flat.
The reason is important because it usually determines the treatment. If your tire has a puncture wound, you may only need to have the damaged piece plugged, but if the sides are worn or torn from rubbing against something like a curb or sidewalk, you're more likely to need a full replacement.
What to do in case of a flat
Whether it's a puncture or a blowout, it's not a good idea to drive on a flat tire unless absolutely necessary. Langan Meriden Volkswagen in Meriden, Connecticut, advises people never to drive on a flat except to get to safety or if the damage is minimal, to get to a repair shop. Driving on a flat—even a tire with a nail still stuck in it—can cause further damage and will almost certainly increase your flat tire repair cost.
If you discover the flat in your driveway or a parking lot, change it out with your spare tire or call a towing service. If you have a blowout on the highway, carefully pull over into the breakdown lane, turn on your hazard lights, and contact a towing service. Never try to change a tire on the shoulder of a highway or side of the road.
What it will cost you
So what does it cost to repair a flat tire? Again, it depends on the extent of the damage. If you catch a simple puncture early enough, a repair will generally cost between $15 and $30. Run flat tires are an exception; they cost more to repair, and in many cases they need complete replacement. Plugs should last indefinitely, but it's a good idea to regularly check the tire pressure on any tires you've had plugged.
If a puncture is too wide to be fixed properly, a flat tire repair cost becomes a replacement cost instead. Replacement tires can be anywhere from $100 to $750 per tire, depending on the make and model of your car. However, because most suspension systems work best with matching tires, experts suggest changing two (both front or both back) or all four tires at the same time.
Additional costs and safety
Other expenses you might incur with flat tire repair cost are wheel balancing and towing services, both of which should be under $100. If you purchase an annual membership to a roadside assistance service, you may be able to avoid these additional costs altogether.
Even more important than your flat tire repair cost is your safety. If you don't know how to change a flat tire or if you don't have the tools, don't try to do it by yourself. If you blowout on the highway, call for help. Remember to stay to the side when using a jack and don't place your hands and feet underneath the car in case the jack slips out under the weight of the vehicle. Don't drive on a spare farther than the owner's manual indicates, and never drive on a blown-out tire.
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Have you experienced a flat tire? What advice would you give to others in the same situation? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.