Have you ever wondered why your bike tires looked a little flat even when the pressure was right? Well, it is absolutely normal if you use radial ply tires.
Radial ply tires tend to bulge slightly at the sides due to their makeup, making your bike tires appear flat. Tires could also appear deflated due to tire leaks, failure of the valve system, punctures, overpumping, road hazards, and others.
Regardless of what the cause might be, flat-tire scenarios are never pleasant. This article shall buttress each of these reasons and give you insight into the best way to handle a flat-looking tire.
Table of Contents
Reasons your tires look flat
As earlier mentioned, several factors can cause flat tires and some of them include:
- Radial tire types
- Irregular wear
- Valve stem leakage
- Improper tire inflation
- Bad roads
- Road Hazards
- Buy high-quality tires
Radial tire types
In the older days, cross-ply tires were standard for any vehicle. These tires had strong sidewalls made from rubber, then cords that were made of polyester, steel, or Nylon.
The cords criss-cross each other at a 45-degree angle towards the motion direction. The fusion of these materials led to the production of tires that were so stiff that they rarely bulged at the sides.
However, the late 1960s brought a change in their structure. Instead of crisscrossing at a 45-degree angle, the cords were at a 90-degree angle to the motion’s direction.
This slight change caused them to perform better than cross-ply tires.
With this refurbishment, they became Radial tires and have remained in use to date. Radial tires had better grip and less build-up, which made them last longer than cross-ply tires.
But, its flexible structure made them bulge slightly even when correctly inflated. If this is what you experience, then you don’t have to worry as slight bulging is one of its characteristics.
Punctures are the result of sharp objects such as nails, glass shards, screws, nails, and other sharp objects. When punctured, the rate at which your tire deflates depends on the size of the damage.
Patching can easily fix some of these punctures, but others cause permanent damage to the tire.
Most times, you don’t know when your tires are punctured until they’re completely down because it makes no warning sounds.
As a measure, you should check for little holes and punctures before going on any trip in your vehicle.
Wear and tear is a common happening for any material you use frequently. For tires, there are basically three types of irregular wear – Center wear, Heel and toe wear, and one-sided wear.
Center wear is a pattern more common on wheels of high-motorized cars. High torque levels during fast accelerations can lead to the wearing of the tread center.
Heel and toe wear happens at a slower rate than center wear as it is caused by regular usage. When tires run on roads for a long time, you begin to see visible signs of the force exerted on them.
Over time, they become susceptible to other hazards which increases the chances of having flat tires.
One-sided wear is visible in a part of the tire’s treads. Deviations in the axle geometry are one of the major reasons for this wear.
For instance, driving up a curb aggressively momentarily causes a slight deviation in alignment.
One-side wear is dangerous as it sometimes catches a biker off guard by changing the position of the wheels from the specified one.
When this isn’t addressed, it could lead to road accidents, endangering the driver, and passengers, if any.
If you notice any misalignment of the wheels, report to a specialist for correction.
Valve Stem leakage
Valve leakage is another common reason for having flat tires. The valve stem is the small piece you unscrew when there’s a need to pump the tire.
Little harm to this piece could cause severe damage and lead to a leveled tire.
One of the main reasons for a leaking valve is wear and tear. As time passes, the mechanism weakens till it cannot retain air.
Air leaks slower when the damage to the valve is less, but this makes it difficult to detect the problem. When this happens, you experience a slower pace when cycling.
Improper tire inflation
Tire inflation plays a large role in preserving its performance.
Maintaining the right air pressure helps you utilize your wheels, giving you the best of them. On the other hand, improper inflation can damage the rubbers leading to irregular or rapid wear.
Did you know every month tires lose at least one pound per square inch of their pressure? This said, checking your air pressure should be part of your regular monthly routine.
Pressure can also vary with the weather conditions of your environment. For instance, during winter, tire pressure decreases every time the temperature drops by 10 degrees.
This is a result of condensed air which takes up more space because it is cold. However, driving heats it up, returning the pressure to its normal level.
To gauge your tire’s inflation pressure, use the pressure gauge tool. However, note that some bikes have different pressure recommendations which you must consider when using your tires.
Sharp objects are not the only cause of punctures. During the hotter seasons, the rise in temperature can cause heat accumulation which will cause the tires to expand and blow out.
In cases where there’s no blowout, it could lead to premature wear and tear.
You can’t easily avoid this occurrence, especially during unbearably hot seasons. Signs to look out for include extremely hot tires and low air pressure.
When you notice this, it’s best to park the bike under a cooler shade and wait for the tires to cool. While waiting, keep an eye on its air pressure, ensuring it’s properly inflated.
Your bike’s regular path eventually takes a toll on your wheels. If you frequently run on regular pavements, the wear will take a longer time.
However, this cannot be said for gravel roads. The impact of gravel might not be instantaneous, but they are abrasive on tires causing it to slowly lose its grip.
Potholes are another tire-damaging element to look out for. The worst of its kind are those on asphalt roads that stretch your tires in an abnormal way.
Collision with hard surfaces
When your tires rub sharply against a sidewalk or pop on a curb, there is a slight deviation in the rim. At its initial stage, it is impossible to detect, but it causes a gradual loss of air.
Fixing this requires expert knowledge, so visit your mechanic when you notice such a fault.
How to prevent a flat car tire
Flat tires are occurrences you sometimes have no control over. While there is no perfect time to have a flat tire, you should always be prepared for this.
There are several methods to employ to prevent having flat tires unexpectedly. These methods include:
- Check tire pressure
- Rotate your tires
- Avoid overloading
- Avoid bad roads
- Always carry spare tires
- Buy high-quality tires
- Monitor the condition of your tires
- Make sure the brakes work perfectly
- Drive cautiously
Check Tire Pressure
Keeping your tires properly inflated is the first step to avoid flat tires. You should do this monthly, using a tire pressure gauge for specifications.
The vehicle you use also has recommended pressure levels which you must follow. However, checking the pressure level is best when the car is static.
The right pressure level saves you from unexpected happenings, preserves fuel efficiency, and increases the tires’ lifespan.
Rotate your tires
Do not use the same tires for too long. Instead, rotate it once in a while.
Rotation helps you detect wear patterns, inspect tread, and ensure they are properly inflated. But, confirm that your vehicle supports tire rotation before proceeding with such measures.
Avoid overloading your vehicle as this weakens your tires. Your car manual will give you recommendations on the weight your vehicle can bear.
In any event, where this is unavoidable, consider increasing your tires’ pressure to support the weight of the load. This doesn’t mean you should over-inflate. Instead, you should use the maximum pressure limit on your tires.
Avoid Bad Roads
This might sometimes be impossible, especially when there aren’t alternative pathways. However, if there are alternatives, use these options to sustain your tires for a longer period.
Always carry spare tires
No matter how cautious you are, you could bump into sharp objects that could puncture your tire. It’s worse when you’re in a remote location that’s far from civilization.
In this case, a spare tire can come in handy. But, having the skills to change your tires is also essential.
As such, carry along the necessary tools you’ll need to handle such a situation. These include gloves, a flashlight, a tire gauge, a wrench, and a jack.
When you notice a flat tire, find a nearby spot to pull over. Use brakes to keep your vehicle static and hazard lights to increase your visibility to other drivers.
Loosen the lug nuts using a wrench, then a jack to lift your vehicle inches above the ground. Take off the lug nuts and the flattened tire.
Place your spare, replace the nuts, and lower the vehicle. Use the wrench to tighten the bolts properly.
Buy high-quality tires
High-quality tires are more durable, reliable, and less susceptible to wear and tear than tires of lower quality. Thus, when buying tires, ensure they are of high standards and suit your type of car.
Scouting for quality tires can be difficult, so you should check in with your mechanic for advice on the best tires to buy.
Monitor the condition of your tires
Once or twice a week, inspect your tires. This visual inspection makes it easy to spot faults like cracks, bubbles, and bulging, which could be warning signs.
When you notice this, take proper steps to have them fixed.
Ensure your brakes work perfectly
Your tires and brakes are intertwined elements of your vehicle. Applying your brakes wrongly or quickly will have a negative impact on the tires, decreasing its longevity.
Road debris could bite in deep enough into your tires and create punctures. So, when driving, it is best to avoid roads with high levels of glass shards, nails, or construction materials.
Additionally, you should learn to avoid curbs instead, opting for better parking spaces.
Is it normal for a tire to go flat?
Yes. While there are several preventive measures, flat tires are unavoidable. As long as you use an automobile, you’ll experience this setback a few times.
Thankfully, we’ve outlined all the precautionary methods to handle such a situation. First, go for tires of quality that suit your automobile.
Air pressure is another factor you should never overlook as that is the supporting frame of a solid tire. Thus, never leave your tires underinflated and in the same vein, don’t over-pump it.
For efficiency, make it a routine to check out your tires for warning signs before every trip.
Having flat tires is part of the elements of owning a bike or car. It’s something you can’t avoid, especially when you frequent routes covered with gravel.
Some might worry about the appearance of these wheels while driving. As explained earlier, this is common with radial-ply tires which have a more flexible structure than their predecessors.
However, the case differs for flat tires as it removes the ability of a vehicle to function properly. In some cases, it causes major road accidents, especially on busy highways.
Avoiding flat tires begins with your tire types. Softer rubbers are prone to punctures from sharp objects. Even worse, a case of high temperatures could pop the tires unexpectedly.
While higher quality tires are preferable, they are also prone to flattening. Thus, you should maintain them, check them, and have another set to support them.
Finally, bad roads are never helpful for tires. Avoid them and you just might never have to change tires for a while.