Help me nail down a solution here...
May 25, 2011 11:16 PM   Subscribe

There's a nail in my tire, what's the best course of action for the circumstances at hand? Quick responses welcomed.

Full story follows so you can have all the facts (if you want them):

So, I'm due for a set of tires, that goes without saying. However, they're not to the point of 'dangerous to drive' either. Please don't belabor this point too much, let's focus on the nail's impact on things.

Earlier last week, I noticed a sound coming from my vehicle that I identified as something relative to the wheels spinning since it was obviously occurring once every wheel revolution. Think a very gentle, hardly noticeable
"mmph...... mmph...... mmph.. mmph... mmph, mmph, mmph "
that disappears in the other road noise as you accelerate. I figured I either had (in decreasing order of likelihood) a tire that was out of round, brake rotor/pad problems, or something wrong with the suspension.

Went to Costco, explained the situation to the manager who was very nice/helpful and he took a look, said I needed tires but was ok for now, he felt around trying to see if he could identify a problem with the tire and found the head of the nail sticking out of the right front tire tread about 2-3 inches from where the curve of the tire's sidewall begins (on the engine side of the wheel if it matters). His response was that it was probably what was causing my noise but I'd be hard pressed to find anyone willing to plug it due to the tire's age and the location of the puncture since it was somewhat near the sidewall.

Money in this household is tight now so after shopping around for tires it seems like if I wait til sometime next month I might be able to get about a hundred bucks knocked off what I'm looking at paying at Costco at the moment. Normally I'd take the risk and wait since I only drive around town for short distances but this weekend being memorial day and all I was planning on driving ~3 hours on the innerstate to be with family. So that's the monkey wrench...

I know how to plug a tire, having done it once before. We also have AAA roadside membership since my girlfriend's car used to be a real beater (and is now a vintage VW beetle that could put her on the curb at the drop of a hat).

I'm considering risking it as is and seeing if I can make the drive home. From there I'll either look for memorial day sales if I feel the need, or simply drive it back on Monday and try to wait until the awesome sale day in a month or so. I did find one store in town that has my size ( P185 / 60R15 ) and wouldn't be an awful deal but still would be quite a bit more than if I can manage to wait. Plus buying from Costco would have a few fringe benefits as well.

I have NOT noticed a change in air pressure since the noise began.

Thoughts? Experiences? Ideas? I saw this question and gleaned some information (that I mostly already knew) from it but would appreciate any other opinions on the current situation.

My car is a manual transmission 2007 Toyo Yaris by the way with 78k miles on the stock tires. I drive VERY passively and have minimized weight by removing the backseat, blah blah.
posted by RolandOfEld to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total)
Bonus link if you like Car Talk. Lord knows I do.

Some mixed messages here. More of the same.

This would be my repair-and-hope-it-holds method.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:24 PM on May 25, 2011

Do you not have a spare tyre you can swap in?
posted by coriolisdave at 11:45 PM on May 25, 2011

Find a shop and have them patch it, IMHO. (That nail hole sounds easily patchable to me, FWIW.) Failing that option, head to an auto salvage yard (junkyard in the US), and find a tyre of the same size that has no holes. Mounting and balancing might cost a few £'s, but it may make you feel better.

Failing those two, you can always pick up a can of "Fix-A-Flat" and inject it and hope for the best. (Make sure to verify the tyre pressure after using it is within spec.) Good luck!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 12:02 AM on May 26, 2011

If there's some good reason you're not simply switching it out for the spare, you should be OK to plug it. And if you think you're going to put more than another thousand miles on it, put an inner tube in it after driving home.
posted by flabdablet at 1:53 AM on May 26, 2011

I'm guessing you are not using the spare for this because you don't have one.

I had a similar problem once (needed to make a shortish trip before a proper replacement tire was available), my local tire place gave me a used tire for cheap (~$30 including putting it on) that I drove on for a couple of weeks.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:52 AM on May 26, 2011

The noise you describe is a little worrying. I wonder whether the nail might've broken a belt in the tire. Is the surface of the tire bulging outward at all, in the area around the nail?

At the very least, I'd get it plugged before your trip. Especially so if you don't have a spare to fall back on.

When shopping for new tires, look at online dealers like TireRack. You could get a set of very highly-rated Bridgestone Insignia's delivered to your door for $337, though you'd have to pay a local shop another $50-$100 to mount and balance them for you.
posted by jon1270 at 4:16 AM on May 26, 2011

If you have a nail in your tyre, it will make a noise when it goes around. A nail will not be able to 'break a belt' in a tyre. The belts are steel and will only be slightly displaced by the nail, not broken.

If you have a non-space saver (ie full size) spare, then fit it now and the nail tyre will be fine for a puncture swapper if you get a real, air gets out, puncture issue. I'd drive it like that (with the spare) and put the spare back in the car and replace the original 4 tyres when you get the money.

If you don't have a spare that is usable, I personally would drive 3 hours on the interstate with a nail in, but in no way would I do that with my family in the car. That's risky as the higher speed and load put more stresses on the car than driving around town.

If money is really that tight, why not replace the pair that has the nail included? Then, in a month, replace the other two at a more convenient time. You only need to (with regards to safety) replace an axle set at a time, so just put the other two tyre purchases off.
posted by Brockles at 5:10 AM on May 26, 2011

You could always try that tyre plug method and see what happens - it's not ideal and I'd not use it for a long term fix, but just to get you through may be ok.

By 2-3 inches from the sidewall, do you mean 2-3 inches from where the tread starts? So in the middle of the tread? If so, patching it there is not 'somewhat near the sidewall' in any tyre structural case.
posted by Brockles at 5:13 AM on May 26, 2011

The spare is not full size. Good call all.

Here's a thought, would it be worth it to buy another wheel and get a tire mounted. Basically I'd be planning ahead to have a 5 wheel rotation plan when I went ahead and bought 4 tires sometime in July. That way in the meantime I'd be running on one new, 3 older tires.... I'd say if I kept my mileage down I shouldn't hurt anything wear-wise right?

Brockles: I wasn't clear about my reasoning, here's the reason I'd rather buy 4 at a time: Costco (and other retailers it seems) often have a buy 4 get XXX off, or buy 3 get a 4th free deal. That's why I'm attempting to lean in that direction if at all possible. Right now, for example, Costco has a buy 4 Michelin tires and get $70 off. The problem is they don't offer any tires in my size except Bridgestone. Bridgestone goes on a similar special next month. Make sense?

I think I'm going to load up and drive it, it'll just be me and my girl and we have no deadlines to meet at the opposite end of the road. I'll load up with patch kit, pump, and some fix a flat and make sure our cell phones are charged in case we need to call AAA.

On preview: Maybe its a bit closer to the sidewall than I mentioned earlier, but it is in NO way in the sidewall.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:16 AM on May 26, 2011

Take it to a local tire shop and get it fixed. It's cheap, fast, and easy. And if it isn't safe to fix it, they can tell you -- which none of us can confidently do over the internet.
posted by Forktine at 5:16 AM on May 26, 2011

Forktine: I pretty much insert my experience with the tire dept. manager at Costco as what you're recomending I do.

He said (roughly)
1) the tire, in and of itself, is fine to drive on but nearing the end of it's life
2) that a shop isn't likely to fix the nail due to the combination of it being borderline near the sidewall and the tire being older anyway
3) of course he had no real assurances one way or the other regarding when/if it will ultimately go flat, which I appreciate as realistic.

I'm guessing if they fixed it and it didn't stay fixed it somehow could reflect badly upon the shop, which I understand. *shrug*
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:26 AM on May 26, 2011

that a shop isn't likely to fix the nail due to the combination of it being borderline near the sidewall and the tire being older anyway

A local shop (tire shop, general mechanic, etc.) will be better able to tell you about his willingness to fix it, and it will cost you $15-$20 to fix. Ignore the guy at Costco. You don't have the money to buy a new set of tires, and you have a nail in your current tire: the solution in this situation is always to at least try to patch the tire. If someone point blank tells you "I cannot patch the tire," then worry about your other options.
posted by deanc at 5:43 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

+1 finding a place that will put on a cheap used tire. I am not terribly car-knowledgeable but it is the sort of thing I doubt a Costco manager would suggest, but I'm sure the wee garage down the block from me would slap something on quite cheaply.
posted by kmennie at 5:52 AM on May 26, 2011

Ok, ok, running to see what the nearby tireshop says as a second opinion.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:02 AM on May 26, 2011

New tires should be purchased at minimum in pairs. Assuming the cost of moving tires around and balancing them is included in the cost of the tires themselves and not an additional charge, split the difference between buying now at higher prices and buying later at lower prices. Buy two new tires, and replace the bad one and the matching one (may also require moving tires around to get the two new ones either front or back, I forget which it is you're supposed to put new tires on, and a matching pair of old tires on the other). In a month, when tires are cheaper, buy two more new tires and replace the other ones.

If the cost of moving tires around and balancing them isn't included in the cost of new tires, you probably won't save any money by splitting up your purchase, so just buy 4 new tires now, unless you can find a local garage that's willing to do the repair. Costco is likely more scrupulous than most places because they're a big company with corporate bureaucracy behind them.

I can certainly understand money being tight and wanting to save money, but a blow-out at highway speeds has the potential to kill you or other people if you lose control of the car. Making that decision for everyone else on the highway you plan to take on the long weekend in order to save $100 is unconscionable.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:21 AM on May 26, 2011

If no one will fix it, buy one used tire from the local wrecker, put the two best matching tires on the front of the car, and the mismatched tires on the back of the car to get you through the month or two before you are able to replace all four tires.
posted by csmason at 6:40 AM on May 26, 2011

I would try taking it to Wal-Mart. I recently had them fix a flat tire with a nail in it for $10. I have a hard time envisioning that they would turn you away. Good luck!
posted by Ostara at 6:59 AM on May 26, 2011

In my experience, "too close to the sidewall" is a line. 2-3 inches in sounds fine by me (but I am not a car guy). A patch job should be entirely possible -- it's just the getting past someone who wants to sell you a new tire to just fixing the old one.

Also in my experience, DO NOT TAKE OUT THE NAIL.

If you need more peace of mind, those spraycan tire repair things like Fix-a-Flat work awesome, are pretty cheap, and should be available at your local box store.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:07 AM on May 26, 2011

Sorry, I can't let this one slide by:

Flabdablet - ...And if you think you're going to put more than another thousand miles on it, put an inner tube in it after driving home.

Excuse me!? Inner tube in **modern** radial car tire with flexible sidewalls!?

Please explain how that seats the tire bead to the wheel!

OP, don't do that, even if you can find a mechanic crazy enough to attempt it.
posted by de void at 9:08 AM on May 26, 2011

I recently had a nail in my tire and the local shop charged $25 to do a proper patch; it might have been more than what others are quoting because it is a run-flat tire; that is also why I didn't plug it, which is my usual response to a flat. Although they are supposed to be temporary, I have found that plugs usually last the life of the tire and as long as you have an air compressor are quicker and easier than using the spare.

I have heard of people using inner tubes in tubeless tires, but they actually shorten the life of the tire due to heat buildup and I think it would be hard to find someone to do it.

Whoever works on your tires at some point will not appreciate it if you use Fix-a-Flat; some places will not repair tires that have been treated with Fix-a-Flat.
posted by TedW at 11:16 AM on May 26, 2011

Pulled the trigger on four Firestone FR710 since it was in stock and a decent deal. I appreciate everyone's input and it's been filed away for future usage.

Sidenote, the noise has disappeared so it was probably the nail.

Now I just hope I got a decent tire, the reviews on tirerack seem REALLY all over the board for most of the tires I looked at. Oh well.

Thanks again.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:28 PM on May 26, 2011

I once put an inner tube in a near-end-of-life radial that had run over a board with lots of nails sticking out. It worked just fine for the 5000km I subsequently put on that tyre before replacing it.
posted by flabdablet at 4:33 PM on May 26, 2011

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