My tyre warning light is on – should I go to a tyre shop?

What to do if you notice debris stuck in your tyre

A couple of weeks ago, we had a motorist come to our tyre shop in Darra because his tyre warning light was lit on the dashboard of his vehicle. He was sure nothing was wrong, but thought it best to get it checked out. He’d been driving for 30 minutes with the tyre light glowing. He was lucky he came to us and didn’t continue driving.

What he thought was a faulty warning light turned out to be a potential blowout. He had a piece of plastic wedged between the tread blocks, and it had worked its way into the tyre. Completely flat with the tread, it made no sound on the road. The driver couldn’t feel it as his wheels spun. That little piece of plastic – which looked like a fragment from a front or rear bumper – could have been the cause of the driver’s death.

Debris on the road is a big problem for tyres

A short while ago, I read that road debris is responsible for more than half of the UK’s tyre punctures. The finding came from a survey conducted by Highways England and Bridgestone. Specifically, the survey asked about blowouts at speeds of 60 to 70 miles per hour.

We’ve discussed blowouts before, with five ways to avoid blowouts:

But a piece of plastic or glass or a nail in the road? How do you allow for this? It’s a terrifying thought. And it is not only England’s roads that are affected. We’re seeing more debris embedded in tyres in Brisbane today than we used to. A lot more.

What happens when you get debris in your tyre?

You may spot a pothole of brick in the road and take measures to avoid it. But a small piece of plastic or glass or a nail can easily go unnoticed. You will rarely feel it as you drive over it. Which means you could be driving with a potentially fatal flaw in your tyre. Fortunately, most debris damage leads to a slow puncture at worst. Some punctures are more rapid. Some lead to a blowout, especially if you are travelling at speed.

A weekly check of your tyres is usually enough to alert you to any debris and to deal with it. If you have debris embedded between the tread blocks, it is best to take your vehicle to a tyre shop and let them deal with it. The tyre may already be punctured. Removing a nail will simply let the air out faster.

Can all punctures be repaired?

Whether a puncture can be repaired depends on how big the puncture is and where it is on the tyre. Most punctures – like those caused by a nail – are repairable. If a puncture is bigger than around ½ centimetre, then it is likely that the tyre will need to be replaced.

If the damage caused by the debris is to the sidewall of the tyre, it is least likely to be repairable: the rubber there is thinner and less rigid. Damage to the sidewall that is near the tread is most likely to lead to a new tyre being required.

Can you repair a puncture on the road?

If you suffer a puncture while driving, a plug kit is usually able to make a temporary repair. This will seal the hole from the outside, and help it hold air long enough to allow you to get to a tyre shop or garage for a permanent repair.

Beware! The chemicals that plug kits use can damage a tyre over time, and so it is very important that you take the tyre to a tyre shop and explain what has happened and what plug kit you used. The technician will then be able to clean the tyre properly and make the repair effectively (if it is possible to do so).

How are tyres punctures repaired by professionals?

A permanent repair can only be made by patching from the inside. The tyre is removed from the rim, inspected, and cleaned to remove imperfections. It is then ground down so that there is a suitable area to stick the patch.

The patch inserts a rubber plug into the hole. The patch on the inside helps to keep the plug in its place and the air in the tyre. The patch is attached to the tyre using a special rubber cement, and then sealed with a special coating. The technician then cleans the repair on the outside of the tyre. When the repair is dry, the tyre is replaced, re-inflated and checked.

A word of warning about repaired tyres: the speed rating will be affected. The tyre will last a long time, but you should take care of driving at high speed.

Don’t take a chance on your tyre holding out

Those warning lights on your dashboard can fail. But is it worth taking the chance? If your tyre warning light starts glowing suddenly, our advice is to get to a stop and call out a tyre repair service. If you notice a nail or other debris in your tyre during your weekly tyre checks, get your vehicle to the tyre shop straight away.

Don’t risk a blowout. The consequences don’t bear thinking about.

If your tyre warning light comes on or if you find debris in your tyres, contact us at Darra Tyres. Be safe, not sorry.

Keeping your family and fleet safe on the road,

Kevin Wood

About the Author

Kevin has been at the forefront of the tyre industry for over 20 years. Kevin's speciality is in industrial and commercial tyres including the management and upkeep of fleets. Kevin has worked with vehicles his whole career from painting, mechanical, suspension and panel beating he has also spent time in the Australia Army as a driver. He has driven all size of vehicles throughout his career so understands the demands placed on drivers.