You’re driving along when you hear that dreaded flapping sound of a flat tire. You pull over to the shoulder and step out to inspect the damage. Yep, the tire is completely flat. It’s late and you don’t want to deal with changing it right now. Can you just leave your car sitting on that flat tire until morning?
Here’s a quick answer:
It is strongly advised not to leave a car sitting overnight on a flat tire. Allowing the vehicle’s full weight to press on one or more flat tires for an extended period risks expensive wheel, rim, and suspension damage. If faced with a flat at night, move completely off the road with hazards on until daylight brings safe conditions to install the spare. Immediately proceed to get the tire properly repaired or replaced as the spare is for temporary needs.
The Risks of Leaving a Car on a Flat Tire
Leaving your car sitting overnight on a flat tire might seem convenient in the moment. But it comes with serious risks you need to consider:
Damage to the tire
Driving on a flat tire, even if just moving the car a few feet onto level ground, can cause irreparable damage. The weight of the vehicle presses the flexible sidewalls beyond their limits. This can tear the inside lining, weakening the structure of the tire.
Damage to the wheel
The extra pressure from a flat tire can warp the wheel itself. The rim supports the brunt of the car’s weight rather than having it evenly distributed with fully inflated tires. Hitting bumps or potholes with that vulnerable rim on the ground can bend or crack it.
Difficulty controlling the vehicle
With a flat tire, handling and braking become erratic and hard to control. This makes driving dangerous for you and other motorists. Sudden tire failure is possible if you lose control.
If that flat tire fails completely, you’ll be stuck until help arrives. Flats often happen at the worst times on dark, remote roads. Sitting vulnerable for hours waiting for assistance is frightening and hazardous.
Clearly, moving a car with a flat tire should only be done when absolutely necessary and for very short distances. You risk significantly more damage driving on a flat. So before answering whether you can leave a car sitting overnight on a flat, let’s review what to do when you get a flat in the first place.
What To Do When You Get a Flat Tire
Getting a flat tire when you least expect it is upsetting and scary. Staying calm and taking the right actions will get you back on the road safely.
1. Pull over
As soon as you realize you have a flat, signal and carefully pull over to a safe spot completely off the road. Hazard lights warn other drivers of your stopped car.
2. Inspect the tire
Check how bad the damage is. Can you see an object pierced through the tread? Is the tire going flat slowly or rapidly deflating? Take photos showing the tire condition if possible.
3. Get out the spare
If the tire is damaged beyond repair, you’ll need to put on the spare. Refer to your car manual for instructions on how to remove the flat and install the spare.
4. Use a tire inflator or sealant
For slow leaks you may be able to reinflate using a portable compressor or sealant product. This is only a temporary fix to get you to a repair shop.
5. Call for assistance
If unable to change the tire yourself, call roadside service or a friend for help. Waiting in a safe spot is better than attempting to drive and making the situation worse.
Ideally you would change out the flat for the spare right then and there, rather than leaving the disabled car sitting overnight. But what if it’s the middle of the night on a dark highway shoulder? Let’s explore if you can leave the car on the flat until daylight.
Can You Leave a Car Sitting Overnight on a Flat Tire?
Putting your hazard lights on and hunkering down in your car until daylight might seem like a logical solution after getting a flat tire in the dark. But should you?
Here are reasons you may be tempted to simply leave a car overnight on a flat tire:
- It’s late and you’re too tired to deal with it
- No cell service to call for help
- Unsure how to change a tire yourself
- Concerned about safety changing a tire roadside in the dark
However, as we reviewed earlier, driving or leaving a car sitting any length of time on a flat tire risks expensive wheel and suspension damage. The situation can also quickly escalate if the tire fails completely.
So while not recommended, the answer is you technically can leave your car overnight on a flat tire if you:
- Move it safely completely off the road. Park on level, solid ground if possible.
- Turn on hazard lights so other drivers see your vehicle.
- Stay with the vehicle if safe to do so. Lock doors and wait for daylight inside.
These precautions reduce risk slightly if unable to immediately change the tire out. But leaving the flat tire on means you accept liability for potential damage driving it later even a short distance.
Let’s review what to do once daylight comes after leaving a car overnight on a flat.
Next Steps Once Daylight Comes
If after getting a flat tire in darkness you waited until sunlight to take action, here are the recommended next steps:
Safely change the tire
Use your vehicle jack to lift the car and swap out the flat tire for the spare following manual directions.
Reinflate the flat
Use an air compressor to reinflate the flat tire if it held air overnight. This depends on the type and location of damage.
Visit a tire shop
Carefully drive on the spare to the nearest tire service location. Have them inspect the flat tire and repair or replace as needed. This avoids using a damaged tire.
Reset the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS)
The TPMS activates your low tire pressure warning light on the dash. Once the repaired or replaced tire is reinstalled, the system needs to recalibrate to the new tire pressure. Refer to your vehicle’s manual for instructions.
Driving even relatively short distances on a flat or underinflated tire risks extensive wheel damage costing potentially thousands. While waiting until daylight offers a bit more safety, you avoid any further risk by addressing the flat immediately.
Can I Prevent Getting a Flat Tire?
While you can’t avoid ever getting a flat tire, you can significantly reduce the chances with consistent tire maintenance best practices.
Check tire pressure monthly
Use an at-home tire pressure gauge every few weeks when tires are cold. Inflate them to the PSI recommended inside the driver’s door jamb. Properly inflated tires last longer and are less prone to hazards like nails or potholes.
Inspect tires routinely
Tires should be rotated, balanced, and aligned every 6 months or 6,000-8,000 miles. Check tread depth at least monthly using the built-in wear bars. Look for any cuts, gouges, bulges, or punctures needing repair. Address issues right away to avoid blowouts and flat tires.
Avoid curbs, potholes, median crossings, and other hazards. Overloading your vehicle and carrying heavy loads in the trunk increases risk of flats, blowouts, and premature tire wear. Defensive and responsible driving keeps your tires safer.
Staying on top of scheduled tire maintenance goes a long way in preventing annoying and even dangerous flat tires. And be sure to store a spare, jack, and tire changing tools in your vehicle at all times.
Let’s do a quick recap on what we covered regarding whether you can leave your car sitting overnight on a flat tire.
|Can You Leave A Car on A Flat Tire Overnight?
|Not recommended due to risks of damage & safety issues
|If waiting for daylight – move entirely off road & put on hazard lights
|Resolution required once daylight comes to avoid driving on damaged tire
The Takeaway on Leaving Cars Overnight on Flat Tires
While it is possible to cautiously leave your car overnight sitting on a flat tire, it comes with serious risks you want to avoid. Driving any distance or leaving a vehicle parked for prolonged periods on a flat causes unnecessary and costly damage. If faced with a flat in darkness, take preliminary safety measures but address the tire replacement at first light. Consistent tire maintenance and responsibility behind the wheel prevents most flats – and keeps you safely on the road.
Can I drive on a flat tire?
No, driving any distance on a flat tire is dangerous and risks further damage. You should only drive the very short distance necessary to get completely off the road to a safe spot.
What if I damaged the wheel along with the flat tire?
If driving on or leaving the car sitting on a flat tire bent or cracked the wheel, it needs professional repair or replacement as soon as possible. Damaged wheels impact function and safety.
Should I reinflate a tire that went flat overnight?
Only reinflate it if the tire held air the entire time. Check thoroughly for any punctures or sidewall damage first. If it won’t hold air or has leaks, it requires professional repair or replacement.
Can I prevent flat tires?
Yes! Consistent tire pressure checks and routine maintenance like rotations and alignments dramatically reduce your chances of getting flats. Drive carefully avoiding hazards and overloading the vehicle as well.
How soon should I get my flat tire fixed?
You’ll want to have it repaired or replaced as soon as realistically possible. The spare tire that comes with vehicles is intended only for temporary use until the standard tire can be properly fixed or replaced.