Picture this — you’re in the middle of the road having one of the smoothest rides you have ever had in your life when all of a sudden your car starts to emit this funky sound seemingly from your tires.
You pull over and check your wheels but there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with them. Are you in the clear or is this a sign of an even bigger problem with your car?
Reasons Your Car Sounds Like It Has a Flat
While you may not have a flat tire, the hiss and thump usually accompanied by vibrations can be indicative of other similar and potentially more dangerous problems with your car.
In most cases, the telling sound of a flat tire in the absence of an actual flat, itself, can be indicative of an issue that lies along that area.
That said; as soon as you hear that sound, immediately look for the nearest place where you can safely pull over and check your vehicle for signs of damage like the following:
1. Uneven Tread Wear
Your wheels will eventually experience wear and tear due to continued use. If they are installed correctly, they should experience a uniform distribution of stress and will therefore experience uniform distribution of wear.
However, this isn’t always the case and any uneven distribution will eventually lead to uneven tread wear. While this is certainly not a flat tire, it can make you feel like you have one due to the vibrations and unnatural sounds brought on by the unequal surface exposure.
This may be caused by improper alignment, over or under inflation as well as problems with your wheel suspension.
2. Misalignment of Front Wheels
If you only happen to notice the weird sound only when you accelerate, then you should consider getting your front wheels checked for possible issues with alignment.
Misaligned front wheels can easily be overlooked and can be caused by a myriad of things such as hitting a pothole, bumping a curb, other forms of heavy impact, or something as simple as wear and tear.
Aside from sounding like a flat, you may notice your vehicle veering towards one direction when in motion.
If this is the case, then your wheels are probably misaligned and should be taken to a mechanic to get adjusted to avoid any further damage or accidents.
3. Issue With Wheel Bearings
Wheel bearings are either steel balls or tapers that are enclosed by a steel ring that connects your tire to the axle, allowing it to rotate and spin within control.
Much like other issues with the wheel, wheel bearing failure can also exhibit symptoms similar to a flat tire.
Wheel bearing issues can be caused by something as simple as contamination with dirt or grease as a result of frequent driving in muddy, dirty areas, or places with uneven roads.
Other times, it can be caused by poor installation and accidents in which case it would be best to get it looked at by a mechanic for an urgent fix.
4. Bulge in Tire
A car sounding like it has a flat might mean the exact opposite — the tire may be bulging.
A bulge in your tire can be caused by impact damage such as hitting humps, curbs, or potholes. These impacts can cause air to leak from the inside of the tire towards its body causing what is referred to as a sidewall bubble.
If your car tire has a bubble, it is no longer safe to use and must be changed immediately. Driving with an unattended tire bulge runs a great risk of this bulge blowing up. Basically, it’s a road accident just waiting to happen.
5. Bent Rims
Bent rims can easily be missed. This is especially true if the damage has been done on parts that are not immediately visible such as the inner part of the rim or the sides.
Bent rims can mimic flat tires in the sense that they can cause shakiness and vibration when you’re driving due to the way bent rims can cause uneven contact with the road when driving.
You may notice the shaking and thumping noises to accelerate as the car accelerates.
Driving with bent rims can lead to irreparable damage on the rim or, worst-case scenario, the wheel coming off mid-ride. So if this is the case, best get your rim fixed as soon as possible.
6. Air Pressure is Low
A flat tire is a tire with less than 20 psi (pressure per square inch). Given that, there may be times wherein you feel like you have a flat tire but in reality, your tire just has low air pressure and needs to be filled with air.
This case is an easy fix. Just fill your tires with air. This can be done in the nearest repair shops, mechanics, and some gasoline stations. Be careful not to over or under fill your tires as this could lead to an actual flat tire.
To avoid this issue, routinely check your tire pressure, maintain it at its predetermined ideal pressure, and avoid driving long distances on tires that have insufficient air pressure.
Is It Safe To Drive a Car that Sounds Like It has a Flat but Does Not?
Sure, maybe if you were driving it to the nearest repairman or mechanic. But if you plan on taking a vehicle under this circumstance anywhere else? No.
Sure, you don’t have a flat now, but the risk of the other conditions that could be causing your car to act up and sound like that aren’t that good either.
Driving a car making any unusual noises is not a good idea and should be taken in to get checked immediately to avoid the risk of road accidents that can spell out harm not only to you and your passengers but to all other vehicles and people that may be around you.
Flapping, vibrating, and thumping noises are not only indicators of a flat tire. They can hint toward other problems with your car’s wheels that may not be as apparent to most drivers.
Whatever the reason, if you happen to find yourself on the road, you should always be attentive. And if your ears pick up on that tell-tale sign, best drop whatever it is you’re doing and get your car checked out to potentially save not only your life but countless others on the road.