Have you ever left your car sitting around for a while and then when you finally go for a drive, you hear an incredibly annoying thump-thump-thump sound? That, my friend, is the result of flat spots on your tires. Not only are they irritating, but they can also be dangerous if left unchecked. The good news is that flat spots are easily preventable if you follow a few simple tire care tips.
Here’s a quick answer:
The best way to prevent flat spots on your tires is to not park your vehicle in one spot for more than a week. If it must sit longer, be diligent about moving it back and forth at least a couple times a week to shift the tire contact patch. Proper inflation, rotation every 5-8k miles, and parking on surfaces out of direct sun will also minimize chances of flat spotting.
What Causes Flat Spots?
When your vehicle sits in one spot for an extended time (usually a few days or more), the tire rubber compressed under the weight of the car loses its elasticity and takes on the shape of the pavement underneath. The result is a flat area on the tread rather than a round tire. This causes an uneven ride when you hit the road again.
Why Flat Spots Are An Issue
Aside from being a nuisance, flat spots on tires can seriously impact handling and control. Having less tread contacting the road in key areas reduces traction. Flat spots also cause vibration and impact shocks that can loosen wheel nuts over time. In extreme cases, pieces of tread can separate. For these reasons, it’s important to avoid flat spots whenever possible.
5 Pro Tips to Reduce Flat Spotting
Luckily, outsmarting flat spots is not difficult with a little planning and TLC for your tires. Here are 5 key tips to keep your tires round and happy:
1. Maintain Proper Tire Pressure
Keeping your tires inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure is rule #1. Under-inflated tires increase friction and are more prone to taking on flat spots when parked. Check pressures at least monthly and before long trips. Investing in your own portable tire gauge saves trips to the gas station.
2. Move It or Lose It
Avoid parking in one place for more than a week if possible. If your car must sit for longer, move it forwards and backwards at least every couple of weeks to spread out the contact patch rather than concentrating pressure in a single spot. Even better, take it for a spin around the block to restore tire shape.
3. Use Tire Savers
For long-term storage (if you’re deploying overseas for example), devices like tire savers can save your tread. These ramps lift the tire up off the surface so it retains its round shape. Just make sure at least 2 wheels are up at a time to prevent rolling.
4. Stay Protected
Shield tires from direct sun when in storage to prevent damage from UV rays. The sun’s radiation can accelerate cracking. Use a tire cover or keep it garaged if possible. Avoid parking on hot asphalt for the same reason.
5. Rotate On Schedule
Regular tire rotation helps prevent irregular wear issues like flat spots by exposing the tread to different pressure points. Rotate every 5,000-8,000 miles following your owner’s manual guide. Mark your tires to track their locations.
What To Do If You Already Have Flat Spots
If you’ve already gotten unlucky with flat spots, don’t panic. Here are your game plans:
- For mild cases caught quickly, immediately re-inflate to the max pressure rating and go for a drive to heat up and round out the tire.
- For more stubborn spots, you’ll need a longer drive. Plan to motor at highway speeds for at least 150 miles. The friction will smooth them.
- If a flat spot still doesn’t improve after driving, it means permanent damage may have occurred. Consult a tire shop about shaving or replacement.
Take Control of Tire Care
With this handy knowledge, you now hold the power to prevent annoying and unsafe flat spots on your tires. A little TLC goes a long way. Stay proactive on pressure checks, parking limits, and scheduled rotations. Your vehicle will thank you for the smooth ride!
1. What is the easiest way to prevent flat spotting on my tires?
The #1 way to prevent flat spots is to keep your vehicle parked/stored for less than a week at a time. Parking or storing long-term in one place is what causes flat spots to develop. If you must keep your vehicle immobile for a longer period, be sure to move it at least a couple of times per week.
3. Should I over-inflate my tires if I know my car will be sitting?
No, over-inflating your tires is not recommended and can lead to other issues. Always keep your tire pressure at the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended level for safety. Over-inflating can create excessive wear in the middle of the tread and also increases the chances of a blowout or other damage.
3. How long does it take for a flat spot to form?
Most flat spots start to form within about 5-7 days of consistent parking/storage. In as little as 2 weeks, a semi-permanent flat spot can develop that is challenging to fully remove. Keep this timeframe in mind as you maintain and move your stored vehicle.
4. Is it okay to park on grass or dirt to avoid flat spots?
Parking on softer surfaces like grass or loose dirt unfortunately does not prevent flat spotting in most cases. Since the vehicle’s full weight still rests on the contact patch of tire to ground, compression and flat spotting will still occur over time.
5. Do special tire savers work for storage?
Yes, using dedicated tire savers or ramps to elevate stored vehicles helps avoid flat spotting during long-term parking. Make sure at least 2 wheels are elevated to prevent unwanted rolling or shifting. The savers allow the tires to retain their round shape without taking on uneven spots.