The short answer is no, it’s not safe to drive with a nail in your tire. As soon as any kind of foreign object has lodged itself into your tire, the chances of a blowout skyrocket. There’s a chance that the nail has caused a leak in the tire, allowing air to escape. If you’re driving at speed with a tire down on air pressure, that tire could suffer a blowout, causing it to explode and causing you to lose control of the car. On the highway, that could lead to a dangerous crash.
That, of course, is the worst-case scenario. On the flip side, the nail lodged in your tire might not be causing any hurt whatsoever. There’s a chance the nail has lodged itself into the tread such that it’s physically blocking any air from escaping. If this has happened to your tire, it’s unlikely that you’d even notice anything is wrong, because the tire and car are behaving normally.
However, the friendly nail might not stay friendly for long. If the nail shifts position in your tire, it could open up a small gap for air leakage, once again greatly increasing your chances of a blowout. That’s why it’s important that as soon as you notice a nail in your tire, you get the car or tire into a shop to check it out.
You may be wondering, how do you notice a nail in your tire?
It’ll most likely present itself to you in an inconvenient way. You’ll either walk out to your car and notice one of the tires is low on air, or one of your tires will go flat while driving. If you’re lucky, you’ll notice the nail in your tire before it’s done any damage. Regular inspections of your tires could help you catch issues — a good time to do so would be during a car wash when you’re already up close and personal with the wheels. A nail is relatively easy to see if you’re looking for it. Just take a quick glance for anything shiny poking out of the black rubber. And if you don’t look during car washes, a tire inspection is a good thing to add to a road-trip checklist.
Lastly, how do you fix the problem?
As for repairs, the resolution could be as simple as the tire shop removing the nail and patching the tire. However, there’s also a good chance that the nail has caused enough damage to the tire that repair is not an option, particularly if there is damage to a sidewall. In this case, you’ll need a new tire. Depending on the wear on your current set, it may be a good idea to replace the tire on the other end of the axle, as well, so you achieve even tire wear. Tire OEMs say it’s OK to replace just one tire if the others have most of their tread left. If your other tires have lost less than 4/32 of their original tread depth, it’s probably OK to replace just the one tire.