No one wants to find a nail or bolt in their tire. The tire may be unsafe to drive on, you might have to spend money on new tires, and then there's the waiting — first for assistance and then for the tire to be fixed or changed. As you wait for the tow truck, you can find clues that will tell you what might need to be done to the tire to get you back on the road. Some punctures can be patched, but others damage the tire to the point of it needing to be replaced. Knowing what to look for can help you when you're at the tire store. Note that with the availability of 24/7 roadside service, you shouldn't have to try changing the tire yourself.
Is the Tire Holding Air?
First, is the tire flat, or is it holding air? If the air does not appear to be leaking out, that indicates the object punctured the tire rather cleanly and is actually sealing up the hole. That could be a good sign, although the thickness of the object and whether or not it punctured the inner liner also influence whether the tire can be patched. Basically, it's possible for the object to make a hole that's too wide to be patched and for the object to be too long for the tire to be patched. But in general, seeing that the tire is holding air is a positive sign for patching.
Can You Tell What Angle the Object Is At?
If the object went into the tire at an angle, it's not patchable, and the tire will have to be replaced. If the object went in straight, then patching is a possibility. This might be hard for you to tell, depending on where the puncture site ends up when you stop your car to take a look. When you call for roadside service, the tow truck operator can help you look.
Where in the Tire Is the Object Located?
If the object punctured the tire among the treads, patching is a possibility. If it punctured the tire closer to the edge, that's something that would require replacing the tire. (Also, look at the sidewalls — if you see any cracks, especially if the tire has lost air, then the tire needs to be replaced no matter how patchable the actual puncture site might be.)
When the tow truck arrives, the driver may be able to confirm some of your suspicions. When you get to the tire store, you'll be able to follow along with what the tech is saying and ask questions about why they're recommending a particular course of action given what you've seen.
To learn more, contact a resource that offers 24/7 fleet roadside assistance.