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Car insurance has two primary functions: paying for accidents that the insured driver causes, and covering sudden, accidental damage that the insured vehicle receives. In order to be covered, damage must fall under a named peril listed on the policy. The policy must also include the coverage associated with that peril.
In other words, auto insurance only pays for damages caused by perils listed on the policy. Other issues such as mechanical failure, maintenance and general wear and tear will not be covered under an insurance policy. As a rule, this means that flat tires are not covered under insurance.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, however, and flat tires can occasionally cause other damages that will be covered by your insurance.
The Tires are Vandalized or Stolen
If someone slashes your tires or steals your wheels completely, you can file a claim against your insurance policy for their replacement. This type of damage is handled under comprehensive coverage, and you may need to file a police report for the vandalism or theft in order to file the claim.
Once you’ve filed the claim, the insurance company will need to inspect the damages. If you buy new tires before the claim is settled, be sure to save your receipts and don’t discard the old tires. The insurance company will need to look at them to confirm that the damages were caused by vandalism; it’s best not to buy any replacements until after the inspection to ensure that your claim gets paid before you spend money out of pocket.
The insurance company will subtract wear and tear from your tires, so the amount you receive in your settlement may not be equal to the cost of buying new tires. If you have original receipts or can prove when you purchased your old tires, that will help you negotiate a higher price. It also helps to show the tires to the adjuster so that they can determine how much tread wear the tires had.
Are Tire Blow-Outs Covered?
Vandalism is not the only cause of a flat tire. Road debris, tread wear, over-inflation and extreme temperatures can all cause tires to leak air or have a sudden blow-out. When this happens, the tire itself is not covered by most auto insurance policies, but any damages caused by the blow-out may be paid by insurance.
For example, if your tire blows out on the highway and the shredded tire flies off, damaging the side of your car, the body damage to the vehicle will be paid under your comprehensive coverage. If the blow-out causes you to lose control of the vehicle and veer off the road, hitting a fence post, the body damage will be handled under collision coverage.
Either way, only the damages caused by the tire will be covered. The tire itself is your responsibility to replace, and paying for the replacement will not count toward your deductible.
Are There Other Exceptions?
In some rare cases, your wheels themselves may come loose from the vehicle. This can happen if someone replaces your tire incorrectly, or it may occur if your undercarriage is damaged or bent from a previous impact. If this happens, you can file a claim for the damages your vehicle sustains when the wheels come off.
These claims are handled as collisions, and both the body damage and the wheels should be covered under the policy as long as you have the necessary coverage. If you can prove that someone’s negligence caused the accident, you can usually get your deductible reimbursed. Otherwise, you would be considered at-fault for the collision despite the loose wheels.
Fortunately, your auto insurance is not the only thing that can cover damages to your tires. Most tire stores offer some sort of warranty or protection program that can be used to cover the costs of replacing your tires. Depending on the store, this warranty may apply only to new tires, and you may need to purchase it separately.
For some people, purchasing a tire warranty is a good investment. This is especially true if you live somewhere with poorly maintained roads or other hazards that cause your tires to wear down quickly. In some cases, a company will provide a lifetime warranty for any tire that you buy from the store, so there’s little reason not to take out that warranty.
No matter how well-protected you are, however, you will still need to pay for new tires occasionally. Replacing worn tires is part of standard car maintenance, and by replacing them before they go flat you can reduce your chances of being involved in a more dangerous car-damaging accident. Over time, these preemptive replacements can actually save you money.