As most of you loyal readers already know, I spent the last few days in the Kruger National Park. While there, I came across two different people with burst tyres. The first was an elderly couple on the S125, the road linking the two southernmost gates of Malelane and Crocodile Bridge. It runs just north of the Crocodile River, although frustratingly it doesn’t get as close as it might and the river views are mostly blocked by vegetation.


Nonetheless, it is a road which has previously given me memorable (and in 2022, ting-able) sightings. All the major browsers can be found here in decent numbers, which in turn attracts the usual cohort of predators. I personally have seen pride of 12 lions on this road, as well as a handful of leopard sightings. Spotted Hyaena are common and Wild Dogs are known to frequent the western portion of this road. Even the elusive Honey Badger is sometimes reported. All in all, it’s a great choice of road to stop and change a tyre.


Which is exactly what the elderly gentleman was doing. He was outside his car with his back to the riverine undergrowth, busy tightening the last of  the wheel nuts on the spare he had just fitted, when I bumped into them. His loving wife of probably 50 years was dutifully standing guard outside the car with, I kid you not, an umbrella. Of course, a woman of pushing eighty brandishing an umbrella can easily fight off a pride of hungry lions, an elephant in musth, a grumpy hippo making it’s way back to the river after a night of poor foraging, a stealthy leopard (it was literally the day after the reported Leopard attack on a worker near Skukuza) and the 200-strong herd of buffalo I had seen moments before.


Of course, I stopped an offered to help. In my boot I have a tin of tyre jack, which is an emergency tyre inflator and sealant. I have some tyre plugs like they use at your local garage, and I have 12V compressor which plugs into your cigarette socket. I also have a spare umbrella which can double the armaments available.


The old man, wiping sweat off his brow, proudly told me that, although it took him 28 minutes, he had successfully changed the tyre himself, and it was the first time he had changed a tyre himself since the Valiant he owned in 1967. I smiled and went on my way.


Fast forward two days and I am on the H10 between Lower Sabie and Tshokwane. It is not a particularly fruitful road in terms of sightings, unless the savages you are trying to spot are Toyota Fortuner drivers towing caravans and well exceeding the speed limit. I get to the Nkumbe lookout point which is 394m high and offers an expansive view of the vast plains below. Somewhere in the distance I notice a small herd of Zebra.



Figure 1: The view from Nkumbe look out point. Try spot the Zebras


In my more immediate surroundings there are a family in a BMW X6 in the parking lot who have just removed a whopper of a tyre, probably a 285 or so, and replaced it with the Marie biscuit spare. Of course, my offers of help are once again turned down. The driver, this time in his mid-forties and clearly with a stronger will to live, told me he became aware of the puncture about 7kms ago, and decided to keep driving, albeit slowly, until he reached a spot where it was safe to stop. The tyre itself was well shredded by now, but nonetheless (or perhaps precisely because of this), kudos to him.


All of this gives rise to the topic of my article, what do you do if you have a puncture and cannot stop?




It’s a famous line of Mr Miyagi in the film Karate Kid. And it’s true for any number of things in life - prevention is better than cure. Good tyres don’t often pop, unless you find yourself in extreme circumstances, such as spikes in the road, which is a whole different article in itself.


In general, as a responsible driver, you should regularly inspect your tyres, as tyres are extremely susceptible to damage from potholes, curbs and other hazards. While driving, you should be alert for any objects that could damage the tyres.


But all the more so before a Kruger trip you should make sure that they are in tip top condition. Here is what to look out for:


  • Inflation pressure – Incorrectly inflated tyres, be they over inflated or under inflated can result in uneven tread wear and affect vehicle handling, cornering and braking. Over inflated tyres have less contact area with the road and the tyre is more prone to damage from road hazards like potholes. Under inflated tyres increase your fuel consumption and tend to heat up causing the tyre to fail prematurely and possibly causing a blowout, which can be dangerous at highway speeds. Check the pressure at least once a month when the tyres are cold. Visit our website for a range of convenient tyre pressure gauges.


  • Tread depth - New tyres have a tread depth of 8 to 9mm. As tyres are used the tread will wear down. Any tyre with a tread depth of 1.6mm or less must be replaced. For easy indication, if the tread level is flush with the tread wear indicators in the grooves of the tyre tread, then the tyre must be replaced. Never, ever, travel on a tyre where the steel belts are showing through the tread.


  • Tread wear – Uneven tread wear is a sign that something is wrong. Over inflated tyres result in wear of the centre tread more than the outer edges, and the opposite occurs with under inflated tyres. If only one of the edges is worn, there are patches of wear, or one side of the vehicle shows greater wear, this is an indication that the wheels need to be balanced or aligned. Wheel balancing and alignment is important because, like tyre pressure, it affects your steering, braking and fuel consumption. Bald spotting indicates worn shock absorbers or suspension. Front tyres are known to wear quicker due to the load of the engine, therefore consider tyre rotation every 10 000km.


  • Defects – Check for any bulges, cuts or cracks, and if found, immediately replace the tyre. Also check for and remove anything that has become stuck in the tread. However, if something has gone through the rubber, such as a nail, and the tyre is still inflated, leave it in until you can get to a fuel station or tyre repair centre, as removing the item could cause the tyre to deflate.


  • Age – Old tyres, regardless of tread depth, aren’t safe. It is recommended that tyres are replaced at six years from the date of manufacture. You can determine the age of tyres by looking at the DOT code on the side of the tyre. The last four digits indicate the week and year that the tyre was manufactured. For example, a DOT code ending in 0713 indicates that the tyre was manufactured in the seventh week of 2013.


Assuming that you have checked your tyres before your trip to the Kruger, and you are satisfied they are in good condition, I would still pack some emergency tyre repair equipment in my car. You can browse our tyre repair products on Start My Car, but here a few things I recommend.




  • Tyre Sealant Spray – these have a number of names as Tyre Jack or Tyre Weld et al. They are basically a aerosol canister which contains emergency tyre repair foam. The tyre sealant works by filling the hole caused by the puncture, and then curing, similar to any other kind of glue or filler. The foam also has expansion properties, which causes the tyre to inflate and regain some degree of pressure. Tyre sealant is usually sufficient in filling a small puncture long enough that you can get to a place to get the puncture repaired (in town) or at least a place where it is safer to stop and put on your spare (in Kruger). It should not be considered a permanent repair.


  • Tyre Plugs – Plugs are the preferred of fixing a puncture caused by an errant nail or other sharp object. However, they’re only to be used for very small punctures in the centre part of the tyre tread. Putting a plug in a tyre’s sidewall is very dangerous, however, because doing so will further weaken a critical safety factor of the tyre – the sidewall carries that wheel’s load, and any damage to this area could lead to a catastrophic failure.


  • 12V Compressor – These things are super handy in the Kruger, not just for tyres but blowing up the air mattress because your princess of a daughter can’t sleep in a sleeping bag on the ground like humanity has been doing for thousands of years, and even for blowing the coals and turbocharging the braai because everyone has been up since 5am (to be first in the queue of the 6 o’clock gate opening) and just wants to eat already so they can go to sleep already to be up at 5am again tomorrow. In their traditional role, the 12V compressors can be useful in re-inflating a slowly leaking tyre to the correct pressure, which you can keep doing until you find a place where it's safe to stop to repair/change the tyre. This will at least save your sidewall and rim from excessive damage.


While I am not saying you should get out your car in the middle of Kruger to address your flat tyre, if you absolutely have to, say it's getting dark, you are on a remote road and there is no reception, I would try make it as quick as possible. Using tyre weld or the 12V compressor can get you going again in a matter of minutes, and statistically, the less time out your car, the higher your chances of survival. It avoids you having to unpack the entire boot to reach the spare, taking 28 minutes to change it, and then repacking the boot – whether or not you have a protective wife with an umbrella on board.



This isn’t an official movie quote, but let’s say you do get a puncture and have no emergency equipment on you. You also have a healthy fear of getting out your car and changing it.

Call For Help

Officially, if you have a blow out in the Kruger, you are supposed to either call the next camp, if no reception, ask someone to report to the next camp and then wait for assistance.

Change The Tyre Yourself

However if you find yourself on a remote road and no passing vehicles for some time and it's getting later in the day you could either try change the tyre or proceed to drive on your flat tyre to the nearest camp.

If visibility is good,  scan the area around and have some one (or more than one preferably) keep a lookout from next to the vehicle with doors open. Fix the tyre as quickly as you can and then get on your way.

Drive On Your Flat

I won’t mislead you – driving a significant distance on flat tyre can and most likely will cause structural damage to the tyre itself. After the tyres break up, you will damage the rim, brakes, alignment and potentially other components like your suspension and steering system.  Is it worth it? Absolutely – parts can be replaced and lives cannot.

If you have to keep driving, drive slowly, at no more than 20 km/h. On a flat tyre you should be able to drive slowly for a couple of kilometres before the tyre breaks up and the rim is exposed to damage, provided the wheel is rotating and not dragging. Try keep the vehicle on even ground as much as possible, and avoid bumps and turns. Of course in the Kruger, this isn’t always possible, so the only solution is to slow down even more when negotiating bumps and turns. On the plus side, you may actually spot some good animals you otherwise would’ve missed by spending your Kruger trip whizzing from one reported supposed sighting to another.


In Summary

Prevention is always better than cure. Before embarking on any trip it is wise to inspect your tyres and ensure that they are up to the task. If you are travelling to a remote location or one where help is not readily at hand, it is worth investing in run-flat tyres or at least some emergency tyre repair equipment. If you are travelling in an area where it is not safe to stop, be it Kruger or even downtown JHB, then don’t stop! Your life is worth more than your tyre or rim or whatever. Be aware that a flat tyre will affect your braking, handling and steering so adjust your speed accordingly.


Wishing you safe travels and don’t forget to pack an umbrella. It may just save you from…getting wet in the rain in the campsite.