How to spot the signs of a slow puncture

What signs should you look out for to avoid the consequences of a slow puncture?

Sophisticated digital technology is so common in our modern vehicles that it can make us complacent. For instance, you may think a slow puncture is something you don’t need to be concerned about, given that all new cars now come fitted with tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) but you’d be mistaken. While TPMS can identify a drop in pressure, it can’t tell you what’s causing it. The signs aren’t always easy to identify, and if left unaddressed or ignored a slow puncture can do serious damage, or worse cause an accident. Here’s our tyre safety guide to spotting the signs early, and how to avoid or mitigate the consequences of a slow puncture.

What is a slow puncture?

When you incur a slow puncture air in the tyre is gradually lost, and as a consequence pressure drops. This means the tyre can’t perform at its optimum best, and over time you’ll probably notice a reduction in ride quality; the road may start to feel bumpier; steering response may seem a little duller; handling is not as sharp as usual. Most importantly, braking performance will be diminished, and that has a direct effect on your stopping distances – particularly in wet conditions.

Eventually, if left unchecked, a slow puncture will leave you at risk of a complete tyre failure. The consequences don’t bear thinking about, especially at high speed. Let’s look at the tell tale signs of a slow puncture in more detail.

Your car starts to pull to one side

Even allowing for the poor state of some of Ireland’s roads, all things being equal you’ll typically drive on a road surface that is relatively flat. In this case, if you were to loosen your grip of the steering wheel and notice your vehicle pulling to one side or the other of the road, experience suggests that the tyre pressure is low in one or more of your tyres – possibly due to a slow puncture. You should check your pressures as soon as possible, and if any tyre is low top up the air immediately. If the problem returns soon after, it’s more than likely due to a slow puncture.

If, however, the air pressure is as it should be and the pull persists, it makes sense to check the wheel alignment or tracking. Your nearest BestDrive branch can assist you with this, as well as a free safety check. Find your nearest branch at the top of this page.

The steering wheel is vibrating

As mentioned above, a tyre gradually loses air when it has a slow puncture, and as a result is likely to result in both the tyre and wheel becoming unbalanced. This will trigger a vibration, something which will be more noticeable when driving at a high speed. This imbalance is often likely to be a consequence of a slow puncture. Check your pressures.

Your steering feels less responsive, and the suspension feels harder

When cornering, if you’ve got a slow puncture you may notice that the steering seems a little less responsive than normal. Most drivers are sensitive to changes with their vehicle, so if you detect this issue you should check your tyre pressures. The same goes for if your car’s suspension doesn’t feel as forgiving as usual. Many of us take a regular route to and from work, so if on these occasions your ride feels rougher than usual, the chances are that one or more of your tyres is under-inflated, possibly due to a slow puncture. Check your pressures at your local petrol station, or garage.

What are the causes a slow puncture?

There are several main reasons for a slow puncture, including:

  • a nail or screw may have pierced the tyre;
  • the tyre may have suffered a severe impact after going over a pothole; or
  • the tyre valve is faulty.

Interestingly, this final point is the most common reason for a slow puncture, and the easiest to fix. That said, if the slow puncture is due to impact or penetration, often something that can’t be helped, you can do something to minimise the consequences. How? By regularly undertaking a visual inspection of your tyres, and checking your tyre pressures.

Tyre safety experts, including BestDrive and Continental recommend you do so at least once a month. Checking your pressures can usually be done at your local petrol station, more often than not for free or a very small fee. Do it next time you’re filling up on fuel.

Are there any tyres that prevent punctures?

Prevent, not really, however there are tyres with clever technologies that can negate the consequences of incurring a puncture, such as those offered by leading premium tyre manufacturer, Continental. They provide Irish drivers with two excellent products that can be a lifesaver if you’re unfortunate enough to get a puncture.

The first is their highly regarded ContiSeal™ tyres that have a unique technology designed to seal a puncture with a hole that’s up to 5 mm in diameter. These type of holes are typical of those experienced when a nail or screw penetrates the tyre tread. How does it work? It’s thanks to the special compound set inside the tyre that seals the hole instantly. As a result, you can carry on driving without the need for an immediate roadside stop to change the punctured tyre, allowing you to get safely to the nearest branch of BestDrive for a replacement tyre. With these tyres, driving performance is identical to that of one of usual condition that doesn’t have ContiSeal™ technology.

The other Continental technology that offers an extended mobility solution is their wide range of SSR Run Flat tyres. These super strong tyres negate the effects of a puncture thanks to their self-supporting reinforced sidewalls. In the case of incurring a puncture, SSR technology prevents the sidewall from being crushed between the rim and the road, and the tyre from slipping off the wheel. Not only does this solution allow you to continue your journey safely (for up to 50 miles at a maximum speed of 50 mph) you don’t need to carry a spare tyre in the boot. All four tyres should be run flats – don’t mix them with non-SSR tyres.

Tyre sidewall with Continental Self-Supporting Run Flat technology…

…and without.

BestDrive by Continental – You drive, we care.