What to do if a punctured tire happened on the off-road?

What to do if you have a punctured tire and what are the ways to repair it

Experienced drivers are not surprised by such a trifle as a puncture, but the beginners are usually confused in the sequence of actions, forget about the important details and don’t know what to do with the punctured wheel, even at the tire fitting shop – especially if they are starting to offer a choice of several options or to scare expensive repairs. Let’s establish the algorithm of operations for flat tire detection and understand what to do immediately and what to choose afterwards.

Having detected a flat tire, you must first stop in a safe place, turn on the alarm, assess visibility and, if necessary, set the emergency stop sign: according to traffic regulations it is set at least 15 meters from the car in a built-up area and at least 30 meters outside the built-up area. At a choice of a place of a stop it is necessary to consider the space from the side of the car necessary for work with the deflated wheel. It is not necessary to stop directly on the road and in places where you may not stop: even if a flat tire also refers to the forced stop, but it is quite possible to drive a few tens of meters to choose a safe and convenient parking place. In the dark time of the day or in the limited visibility conditions (for example, in a fog or rain) it is necessary to put on a vest with reflective elements – it is required by paragraph 2.3.4 of traffic rules and common sense.

Now it is possible to start to work with a wheel. Consistently consider several options for action, and then proceed to the ways of repairing the damaged tire.

The most obvious solution when you have a flat tire is to replace it. If you have a spare tire that you are certain is in good condition, the best option is to install it and go to a tire shop to repair the flat – this repair will be more reliable and better than doing it yourself.

If you don’t have a usable spare tire, but have a pump or compressor, you can assess the damage to the wheel and try to inflate it again to get to a tire shop. Start looking for the place of the air leak better from the valve (aka “nipple” or “nipple”): often the cause of the defective spool is a flat tire. Check it easy: unscrewing the protective cap (if there is one), pour water on it (or suck it, as in childhood): air bubbles will give out the leak. In this case, you can try to replace the spool valve by unscrewing it and screwing in a new one, but if there is no new valve, as well as a store nearby, you can try just unscrew and screw it back in. Regardless of whether this helps or not, you need to visit a tire shop to replace the spool valve or the entire valve.

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If the valve is tight and the wheel is flat, it is probably a puncture. The easiest way to find a puncture with no foreign objects is to pour water on the tire, inspecting the surface: the damage will reveal itself with air bubbles. However, often the cause of the puncture can be found with it: a self-tapping screw, nail or other random object sticking out of the wheel will clearly indicate the place of depressurization. In this case, do not immediately remove the foreign object from the tire: it partially seals the hole, and if the pressure loss is slow, you can try to pump the wheel and drive to the tire fitting.

The same goes for wheels that are leaking around the rim or from a faulty valve. Usually the air is bled out slowly, and you can inflate the wheel and have time to get to the place of repair. By the way, rim leakage can occur due to deformation of the disc by impact – for example, when hitting a pothole with sharp edges. These situations can damage both the rim and the tire sidewall, in which case the rim will need to be straightened and the tire will need to be repaired or even replaced. To avoid rim leakage, you should inspect your rims every time you change a tire. Loss of tightness is either due to corrosion or disc deformation, and it’s not just steel rims that can corrode, but alloy rims as well. So if you see blistering paint or rust on the rim, you need to put your tires on rim sealant: it will cost less when changing tires than removing and re-tying them later to fix the rim leak.

If you found a puncture, but there are no foreign objects in it, and you do not have a spare wheel and tire repair kits, there is another folk method of temporary “repair”. In the found hole you can screw a screwdriver – if, of course, you have one. As a last resort, you can look for a self-tapping screw in the cabin, unscrewing it from some part of the interior. This method can not be called reliable: it is unlikely to provide complete sealing of the wheel, but at least can help to get to the nearest tire fitting shop.

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And a couple more useful notes. If the wheel is completely deflated, it is easier to inflate it without a spool: the last one should be unscrewed, then inflate the tire and quickly screw it back in. The thing is that the spool itself when inflating the compressor has the resistance, and in the case of loose fitment flat tire to disk capacity of a simple store compressor may not be enough, and the absence of spool helps increase air flow and facilitate the work of the compressor. If this does not help, you can jack up the car, hanging the flat tire: this will improve the adherence of the tire to the disk, and the chances of inflating the tire will increase.

Now consider the options for self-repair tire with special materials that are worth carrying with you or, if the puncture caught you in the city, buy in the nearest car store.

1. The most common, cheapest and easiest way to repair yourself is to install a raw rubber harness. Harnesses are sold complete with an abrasive awl to widen the hole in the tire and improve the contact of the repair harness with its edges, as well as a needle to install the harness and an adhesive to fix it and at the same time seal the puncture. When selecting a repair kit in a store, you should pay attention to the following nuances:

  • The abrasive awl should not be too “toothy” so as not to damage the strands of the cord – it should just pull them apart and slightly work the edges of the hole;
  • The kit should include glue – without it, the tourniquet will hold in the hole worse, and there is a chance that it will trap air.
  • The harness must be reinforced with strings – simple strips of raw rubber are hard to put into the hole without tearing them.
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The installation of the harness is done in the following order. First, the hole found is enlarged with an abrasive awl – you must insert and remove it several times at the puncture point. Then the harness is inserted into the eye of the needle, and glue is applied to it. Then the needle with the tourniquet should be inserted into the hole in the splint and pulled out sharply – so that the tourniquet remains in the hole, and the needle came out without it. If you succeed, you only have to trim the end of the harness flush with the tire surface and inflate the wheel.

The advantages of repairing with a tourniquet are quite decent reliability, simplicity, and cheapness. A well-repaired tire can be driven around for a long time, and if the repair site starts to leak, you can either replace the harness or have the tire repaired at the service station. Disadvantages include the possibility of damaging the cords during installation, as well as less reliability compared to “complete” repair methods in a tire shop. Strictly speaking, the tourniquet is still a temporary repair, so if you can inflate the wheel and drive to the tire shop, it is better not to increase the hole in the tire and get to the experts.

2. The second repair option is aerosol liquid sealants sold in cans. To repair a punctured tire with sealant, you need to remove the foreign object from the puncture site, then pour the sealant inside the wheel through the valve, twist it to distribute the composition inside the tire, pump the wheel and drive a few kilometers at low speed for a final even distribution of the sealant.

Some of the pluses of this repair are simplicity and less labor-intensive than installing a harness. However, there are also disadvantages: the larger the hole, the higher the chance that the sealant will not be able to fix it, and on the balance of the wheel such a repair can affect. Compared with the harness, it can be considered even less reliable and preferred, but simpler.

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If you put the spare and brought the wheel to the tire shop, you may also be offered several options for repair. Consider the most popular with an indication of the advantages and disadvantages.

1. The first method of repair is the same harness installation described above. As we remember, the harness refers to the temporary repair, so among specialists in tire fitting this method is considered bad form, but many workshops do not exclude it from the list of services. All the advantages and disadvantages here are the same: this repair will be the fastest, easiest and cheapest, but less reliable than other methods. You should choose it in cases where the price and/or speed of the procedure is more important to you than anything else. If quality is the priority, you’re better off with the options listed below.

2. The second option for repairing a puncture is to install a patch on the inside of the tire, the so-called cold vulcanization. In this case, the tire is removed from the rim, the surface around the puncture is treated with abrasive and the damage is sealed with a special patch. This is a more preferable repair method to the tourniquet, because it is more reliable and durable, especially for lateral punctures where the tire tread is not thick, but the tire sidewall is thinner. Among the disadvantages we can mention only the higher cost: in addition to the repair of the tire itself you will have to pay for the removal and installation of the wheel (or to do it yourself), tire fitting and balancing.

The third option is a “complex” of the first and second: the installation of the so-called repair “mushroom”. The “cap” of the mushroom is the patch, and the “stem” is slipped from the inside of the tire to the outside. After the patch is glued on, the excess part of the stem is cut off, just as in the case of the harness. This closes not only the inside of the tire, but also the hole itself. The advantages and disadvantages of this repair method are generally the same as the patch.

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4. An extreme, “emergency” measure when repairing a punctured wheel is to install a tube in it. Usually, this method is used for tires that are no longer worth repairing, or “for reliability” after repairing a complex puncture. You should understand that almost all modern tires are tubeless, so they are not designed for mounting a camera, so you should not drive on a wheel that has been repaired in this way for a long time. Installing a camera is a temporary solution for driving until you buy a new tire, and sometimes such wheels are left as spare. So this method of repair can be kept in mind as a backup.

We have deliberately left methods such as combined tire repair with a tire harness and patch and hot vulcanization out of the scope of this text. The first one is used quite rarely and for specific damages, and its existence is quite easy to know. Well, the second is used to repair serious side cuts, and it is not only rare, but also very expensive. The place of the cut in this case is prepared, filled with raw rubber and treated with a hot vulcanizing press. Not every tire shop has the equipment for this procedure, and the repair price can be about half the cost of a new tire.

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