Getting a flat tire while your car is parked can be an annoying surprise. While it may be tempting to just leave it until you can get it fixed, this isn’t recommended in most cases. Parking a car with a fully flat tire for an extended time can lead to additional tire and wheel damage.
However, if handled properly, leaving a car with a flat parked for a short time before repair shouldn’t cause major issues. Here are some important factors to consider when dealing with a parked flat tire
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Suspension and Wheel Damage
The main risk with leaving a flat tire on a parked car is additional damage to the wheel and suspension components. As the tire deflates completely, the weight of the vehicle rests more on the wheel rim instead of being cushioned by pressurized tire air.
This places strain on the wheel bearings, ball joints, control arm bushings and shocks/struts. Prolonged parking like this can bend components or wear down rubber and joints prematurely.
The rim itself can also become bent, cracked or warped under the vehicle’s weight without tire inflation. Damaged, loose or severely worn suspensions intensify the risks.
Tire Sidewall Damage
As a tire goes flat, the sidewalls have nothing to hold them up. This allows them to flex and warp excessively under the car’s weight.
Parking for extended periods on a flat tire can over-stress and stretch the sidewalls. This leads to cracks and bulges in the rubber which require tire replacement.
The degree of damage depends on how fully deflated the tire gets and how long it’s left parked that way. But the flexing puts added wear on the tire structures.
Brake and Hub Wear
Parking with a flat also keeps the brake components engaged slightly on that wheel, even when in park or neutral. This constant contact accelerates pad and rotor wear.
In addition, the wheel bearings and hub see more pressure and friction when the tire is flat. This advances deterioration that can lead to expensive hub, bearing and axle repairs.
Tire Tread Imprinting
Having a parked car sitting on a flat tire risks imprinting the tire tread pattern into the road surface. This makes the tire harder to balance and maintain proper traction when reinflated.
Imprints form fastest on extremely soft surfaces like mud or asphalt on hot days. But even concrete can imprint some shallow tread marks when parked overnight.
Corrosion and Rust Risk
A flat tire allows more moisture to accumulate inside the wheel assembly. This moisture, especially road salt in winter, promotes corrosion on brake parts, wheels and axle components.
Rust weakens steel rims and brake rotors faster than normal. The stagnant moisture also breeds tire rim and brake corrosion.
Excessive Load When Moving
If forced to move the parked car before fixing the flat, even just pushing it a short distance, the handling and steering are severely compromised.
This risks damage to suspensions, drivelines and tires that aren’t designed to support one wheel with minimal air. The rotors and brakes on the flat side are also overloaded.
Only attempt moving a parked flat in an emergency using very low speeds and short distances. The risks of component failures or accidents are extremely high.
To minimize risks when temporarily leaving a parked flat tire:
- Chock the wheels to prevent any rolling.
- Turn off traction control to avoid system damage.
- Set the parking brake only lightly, not fully engaged.
- Place cardboard under the tire if possible to prevent imprinting.
- Avoid leaving it longer than overnight before getting the tire repaired or replaced.
It’s not recommended leave a parked car sitting for long with a fully flat tire. Doing so risks damaging wheels, suspensions and driveline components not designed to support the vehicle weight without tire inflation.
But when temporarily unavoidable, take precautions like chocking wheels, releasing the parking brake and putting cardboard under the tire. Have the flat repaired or replaced as soon as reasonably possible to avoid unnecessary mechanical damage.