If you don’t really use your car often, you’d expect the tires to last longer than usual, right? After all, the tires do not have to sustain wear and tear from driving on the road.
However, this isn’t actually the case when you refrain from using the car for long. Your tires can go flat from sitting, and their lifespan actually gets shorter than usual.
In fact, if you leave your car parked for too long, the tires can actually deteriorate and rot to a point where they are too dangerous to use. There are a number of reasons why tires go flat from sitting on a spot for too long.
Can tires go flat from sitting?
Generally, you wouldn’t expect your car tires to lose any air when not in use, as long as they are in good condition and there are no leaks. However, if you keep your car parked for an extended period, your tire may be deflated.
Even leaving your car parked for one month is enough to cause the tires to start deflating. Eventually, they can go completely flat, although it takes time to deteriorate to that extent.
How long can a car sit before the tires go flat?
The time your tires take to go flat from sitting depends on several factors. Generally, your tires will start losing air within about a month of sitting. Your tire may take a year or more to go completely flat.
In case you are about to drive a car that has been sitting for a few months, it would be better to inflate the tires first. Here are certain aspects determining how long it takes for the tires to go flat.
1. The condition of your tires
How old are your tires? Have they started developing any cracks already? Did they undergo puncture repairs in the past? All these factors deserve your attention.
A brand-new tire in good condition won’t go flat as fast as an older tire that has potentially sustained damages already. Even if you don’t use the vehicle, the damaged parts will weaken while the car keeps sitting.
2. The environment where you park
The surrounding environment will also naturally impact how fast the tires go flat. If you leave the tires exposed to heat and rain, they will deteriorate faster. This will also cause them to lose air faster than usual. On the other hand, if you park the car in a better environment, such as a garage, it will take much longer for the tires to go flat.
3. How you store the spare tire
Remember, not the four tires underneath your car go flat from sitting. Even the spare tire can go flat when left unused, because it ages at the same pace as the remaining tires. As long as you mount the spare tire around its wheel, it’s going to deteriorate and lose air.
What Happens When Tires Sit Too Long in One Place?
When your tires sit in one place for an extended period, they can encounter various glitches. This is why it is wise to check the tires before you take the car for a drive after a long time. Things that happen to tires sitting in one place for too long include:
1. Deflation through diffusion
As mentioned earlier, tires start deflating when you leave the car sitting in place for too long. This is simply because tires aren’t perfectly airtight.
Rubber is a porous material, and has microscopic passages inside it. Some molecules of air escape through these passages. Now, while a few molecules of air aren’t enough to make a big difference, think about the number of air molecules that would be escaping over a period of several months.
The effect builds up, and air keeps escaping through diffusion. Especially as the tires start to deteriorate from sitting too long, the passages expand and allow a quicker escape of air molecules.
2. Flat spotting
Flat spotting of the tires is one of the most common problems you’d face after you leave your car sitting in one place for too long. As the tires lose a small amount of air and begin deflating, the part touching the ground develops a flat spot.
Over time, this flat spot will grow rigid. This is because the tires rotate when you drive the car, and the pressure keeps shifting uniformly over every point. When your car sits in the place, the part touching the ground has to bear the pressure.
Flat spotting can result in a bumpy ride, depending on the extent of the flatness and its rigidity. In case you drive your car after letting it sit for around a month, you may feel a shimmy or harmonic vibration due to flat spots.
This would make the navigation process more challenging for the driver, leading to accidents. If inflating the tires and driving the car for a while doesn’t fix the flat spots, you may have to replace the tires or get them serviced.
3. Tire bubbles
It is also possible for your tire to develop bubbles, particularly on the sidewalls. This happens because leaving the car sitting for too long causes the tire tubes to expand.
Especially in areas that are worn-out and thin, bubbles are likely to form. While tire bubbles themselves do not pose a threat, they indicate the rotting of the tire’s internal structure. A tire with such poor structural integrity has high chances of blowing out while on the road, potentially leading to a major accident.
The tire bubbles are extremely small and it may take a professional to detect them.
However, you should still check for bubbles on the tire’s sides after leaving the car sitting for a very long time. It will also be wise to get your tire professionally tested, just to be safe.
4. General deterioration
Exposure to the environment, the internal pressure of the tires, and the car’s weight causes the tires to deteriorate over time. Even after you inflate a tire that has flattened after sitting for a long time, you’ll notice that the tire isn’t in the same condition you left it.
Heat, oxygen, and other factors cause the rubber to develop rot. The tire might start warping and developing cracks, both internal and external.
Although most branded tires have a lifespan of at least six years (even ten years in some cases), your tires may not last that long if your car sits in the same spot for too long.
Why do tires lose air after sitting?
Tires lose air over time, regardless of whether you drive the car or leave it parked. Diffusion through rubber takes place at all times, and it is also possible for tires to develop slow leaks.
However, when your car sits for too long, it hastens the process even more. As the tires start deteriorating, they lose air faster through the widening cracks and passages.
Even when there are no visible signs of damage, it is possible that your tires have developed slow leaks that are allowing air to escape. Some of the common factors behind slow leaks are:
- Bead damage
- Bent wheel
- Bad valve system
- Road damage
You might wonder why road damage and nails are relevant factors when leaving your car parked. Well, damage caused while driving can slowly grow in effect later on, such as the widening of cracks.
Can a tire get a flat spot from sitting?
Yes, when a car sits for too long, its tire may develop flat spots. In fact, your tires will most likely develop flat spots if you leave the car parked for a few weeks.
In case the flat spots aren’t too rigid already, you may be able to get rid of them by inflating the tire a little and driving around for a while. However, you should be careful as flat spots can cause car steering difficulties.
If it doesn’t work, get a professional to check your tires and see if it is possible to get rid of the flat spots. In case the flat spot is irreversible, you will have to get new tires. Driving on tires with flat spots is simply too dangerous.
Regardless of whether you park your car outside or in a completely enclosed garage, your tires will go flat if left that way for a long time. However, leaving your car exposed to environmental factors will hasten the process by causing damage to the tire.
If you decide to drive your car after leaving it parked for months, inspect the tires carefully or even take them for a professional inspection. Safety should always come first, and driving on underinflated tires, tires with flat spots, or rotting tires prone to blowing out is highly dangerous.