Here is some good advice to follow if you have a tire blowout.
A tire blowout isn't just a flat tire - it's an instant loss of tire pressure while driving, often accompanied by dramatic shuddering and explosive noise. This can be very dangerous and could even result in a total loss of vehicle control. A tire blowout at high speed on the highway can be disastrous if you don't keep your cool. Luckily, we can suggest a few things you could do that will mitigate the risks if you have a tire blowout. We'll have a look at what causes a tire to blow out and what you should do if your tire blows out while you are driving. Perhaps even more importantly, we will discuss which actions you should avoid if a tire blows out. Finally, we'll look at some preventative measures.
Identifying a Tire Blowout on the Highway
Tires blowing out ordinarily doesn't happen at low speeds unless you hit a curb or pothole so hard that the resulting damage causes the tire to burst. A high-speed tire blowout causes a loss of vehicle stability. But first, you need to be able to quickly identify a tire blowout the moment it happens. The sooner you realize it's a tire blowing out, the sooner you can act correctly to prevent an accident.
This is what typically happens:
- There is a 'bang' or 'pop' as the tire bursts, then a sharp 'whoosh' as the air escapes
- You feel the vehicle dip to one side and then pull to that side
- Flapping, rattling, and vibration follow as the rotating deflated tire hits the road
What Causes a Tire Blowout?
Tire blowouts can have several causes, but here are the four most common ones:
- Underinflation. Yes, an underinflated tire is more likely to burst than an overinflated one. A soft tire deforms more as it rotates with the vehicle's mass resting on it. This generates lots of friction at higher speeds, causing the tire to overheat and fail, resulting in a blowout.
- Heat. Heat contributes to the likelihood of a blowout. A soft tire that might have survived a short highway trip in winter might overheat quickly in 'blowout season' - between May and August - when it's hot in the US.
- Overloading. Don't overload your vehicle and stress the tires beyond their safe load limit. This is particularly risky in the case of trucks that carry heavy loads. A truck-tire blowout is potentially more dangerous because it is more difficult to control a high-riding, heavily laden vehicle in an emergency. This is why semi trucks have multiple wheels and axles.
- Prior damage. A tire that has already sustained damage by hitting a curb or pothole could have been weakened sufficiently that it will burst when stressed. Or the damage can cause air to escape, leading to an underinflation blowout.
- Age. Tires should be replaced when they are four years old at most, but this depends on where the tires are stored, how they are used, and what their typical expiry date is - it helps to have a maintenance schedule or checklist to keep track. An old tire might look fine, but its rubber compounds gradually break down over the years, weakening the tire and increasing the risk of a blowout. Regular use can prevent premature aging as the heating and cooling of the tire keeps the rubber relatively supple.
What Exactly Should You do if You Have a Tire Blowout?
If you have a tire blowout, you should stay calm, first of all. If you panic, you will probably end up making everything worse and do the wrong thing. How easy it is to control your vehicle after the blowout depends on the situation and the speed. A small vehicle such as a Kia Forte or a CUV like a Toyota RAV4 might seem easier to control, but long-wheelbase vehicles with a wide tire footprint are typically easier to handle. In the end, any car from an old, used truck to a new, hot hatch can be a handful in such an emergency.
Whatever the vehicle, do the following:
- Stay calm and don't make any sudden moves
- Lift your foot off the gas pedal gradually and don't step on the brakes
- Grip the steering wheel and just keep steering the vehicle straight ahead
- If you were braking at the time of the front-tire blowout, accelerate a little to transfer the weight to the rear vehicle
- If a rear tire blows, ignore the above step
- The goal is stabilizing the car so once that happens, allow the car to slow down by itself without braking
- Observe other traffic, signal, and pull off the road where it's safe
- Once you are at around 30 mph, brake to gently bring your car to a standstill
- Switch on your hazard lights
- Leave the vehicle only when it's safe to do so
- Retrieve the spare and change the blown tire - you can follow our guide on how to change tires here; alternatively, call a tow truck or roadside assistance
Maintaining Your Spare Tire and Other Preventative Measures
Your spare tire should always be in good condition and correctly inflated to ensure that it is always ready for service. If your spare tire is a full-size one on a standard rim, rotate it together with your other tires to keep it in use. Remember, you eventually have to replace it anyway due to age, as we mentioned before. Check your tires weekly for low tire pressure, sidewall or tread damage, and foreign objects stuck in them, such as nails.
By law, all new passenger vehicles in the USA have been equipped with tire-pressure monitoring systems since 2007. Never ignore a pressure warning light that comes on. In fact, you should know what all the warning lights mean, so familiarize yourself with them or read our guide on dashboard warning lights. If there is damage have the tire inflated and go to a tire shop to determine why it's losing air. Maybe they can repair it safely; replace it if they can't. Don't put your safety in jeopardy to save a dollar or two. A tire blowout at night or in poor weather can cause a serious accident with rim damage tbeing he least of the possible dreadful outcomes. Skimping on tire safety can cost you - your money or your life.
Never take chances with tire safety. Look after your tires as outlined in this article and you should have thousands of miles of safe driving ahead of you. Memorize our tips and advice on how to deal with a blowout and you will be able to handle the situation if it arises. And never forget about your spare, hidden away in the trunk - it's your lifesaver when you're stuck next to the road with a blown tire.