What to Do If You Have a Flat and No Spare

You’re cruising down the highway when suddenly you feel that dreaded thump-thump-thump. You pull over and find the last thing you wanted—a flat tire with no spare. Now what?

First of all, stay calm—no one likes getting stuck with a flat with no spare, but take a deep breath and go through your options. We’ve all been there, so don’t panic. Here’s what you need to know.

Here’s a quick answer:

If you get a flat tire and don’t have a spare, first check if your vehicle has run-flat tires or an onboard tire repair kit. If not, call roadside assistance if available or a friend for help. As a temporary fix, use a standard tire repair kit carried in your car to seal the hole and re-inflate the tire just enough to drive slowly to the nearest service station. Prioritize your safety when assessing the situation.

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Assess the Situation

  • Make sure it’s actually flat and not just low air pressure. Give the tire a visual inspection and press on it with your foot to double check.
  • If the tire is still drivable, stop at the nearest gas station and use their air compressor to fill it back up. This can get you to your destination or somewhere to change it out.

Use a Tire Repair Kit

If it’s definitely flat, look in your trunk for a tire repair kit. Most vehicles come with these standard equipment. The kit should have:

  • Tire sealant to fill holes
  • An air compressor to re-inflate the tire
  • Detailed instructions

The kit is only a temporary fix, but it can get you to an auto shop to take care of it properly. Make sure you give the sealant enough time to set before you drive off—usually about 5-10 minutes. Go slowly and avoid potholes or debris.

Use a Run-Flat Tire

If your car has run-flat tires, you’re in luck! These special tires allow you to drive up to 50 miles at about 50 mph after getting a flat. Enough to get you somewhere safe. Look for specific run-flat labeling on your tires. If you don’t have them, consider investing in them the next time you need new tires.

Call Roadside Assistance

Most major auto insurance policies and even some credit card companies offer complimentary 24/7 roadside assistance. Call them up, provide your account details and information about your location, and they can send help right away. Common services include:

ServiceDetails
TowingUp to 5-15 miles free towing to a service location
Tire change supportTechnicians available to change out the flat
Fuel deliveryEmergency gas delivery if you’ve run out

Use Emergency Tools

Some vehicles come equipped with backup internal tire sealant and air compressor systems. For example, GM and Ford have systems known as Fix-A-Flat. Push the button and they use the onboard systems to reinflate and seal your tire. This gets you back on the road to get service. Check your owner’s manual to see if your vehicle has something similar.

Call for Backup Support

If all else fails and you’re still stuck with a flat on the side of the road, call for backup from friends, family, or a taxi/rideshare service. Many local police departments even offer free roadside assistance services. Program any emergency numbers into your phone so they’re on hand when you need them.

Getting a flat without a spare is annoying, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Just stay calm, assess all the tools and options available to you, and take action. Within a few hours at most you’ll be safely back on the road!

FAQ

1 – My tire feels low but it’s not completely flat. Can I still drive on it?

If your tire is low but still seems to be holding air, you should be able to carefully drive on it for a short distance to get to a service station to fill it up. Go slowly and avoid any bumps or potholes on the road.

2 – How long can I drive on a run-flat tire?

Run-flat tires are designed to be driven for up to about 50 miles at 50 mph once they get a flat. The sidewalls have been reinforced so you can keep on driving, but you should get it fixed properly as soon as you can.

3 – Do tire repair kits actually work?

Tire repair kits are a useful emergency solution for a flat tire. They can effectively seal small punctures and holes, reinflate the tire, and allow you to drive to a service station safely. Just be aware they are a short-term fix.

4 – Can I patch and re-inflate my tire myself?

With the proper plug kit and air compressor, you can patch and reinflate a tire yourself. Make sure the hole or puncture isn’t too large and the tire isn’t already too damaged. Be very careful plugging it yourself roadside.

5 – My car doesn’t have roadside assistance. Who else can I call for help?

If you don’t have roadside assistance coverage, you can call your car insurance company or a local towing company/mechanic shop to get help. Some local police departments also provide roadside assistance services. Family and friends are another option.

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