We’ve all seen shredded fragments of tires along the side of the road or interstate: the aftermath of a tire blowout. But what exactly causes a tire blowout? What is it? What do you do if you suddenly find yourself experiencing one? What should you do afterward? And most importantly, how can you reduce your likelihood of having a tire blowout in the first place?
Statistically, the average driver will experience five flat tires in their lives. Hopefully, you find yourself on the safe side of a flat tire, such as in the neighborhood at low speeds, or you notice a flat tire before you start your drive. But there’s a real possibility it could happen while you’re driving at higher rates of speed on major highways. Reading this guide before it happens will help you feel prepared just in case you experience a tire blowout.
Recognizing a Blowout
First things first. What exactly is a tire blowout? You hear it by other equally descriptive names, such as catastrophic tire failure or tire burst. A blowout is when, for reasons we’ll discuss next, your tire bursts and rapidly loses air pressure. It’s a very distinct sound and feel when it occurs. A loud pop followed by the car suddenly becoming more difficult to steer can be a very daunting and very dangerous experience. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9% of accidents are tire-related. But it doesn’t have to be if you’re well prepared to handle the moment.
Why Do Blowouts Happen?
There are numerous reasons why tires burst or have blowouts. And while some, like the weather, may be beyond your reach, many are well within your control. Some of the most common reasons for why blowouts happen that you can control include:
- Underinflation. Driving with too little air pressure in your tires.
- Overloading. Excessive weight in the vehicle, such as hauling a heavy load, especially if your tires are also underinflated.
- Worn Treads. Worn out tires with low tread are more likely to burst.
- Slow Leak. Tires with a slow leak will become underinflated and are more prone to blow out.
Did you know there’s even a “season” for blowouts? Most tire bursts occur between May and September, and there are some good reasons for that, many of which are either out of your control or within limited control:
- Heat. Sorry, you can’t change the weather.
- Travel Distance. More people are on the road for longer during summer road trips and vacations. And the more you travel, the more likely you’ll experience tire failure.
- Potholes and Road Hazards. While you cannot control potholes or other road hazards, you can remain alert and give enough space to allow you to see and avoid them in time. Plus, summer is also when more road construction occurs so that you could encounter more road hazards.
What to Do During a Blowout
The unavoidable is occurring, and you’re barreling down the interstate at 70 miles an hour when everything suddenly goes wrong: blowout. What you do during a blowout is a big contributor to avoiding an accident and keeping your fellow motorists and those in the vehicle with you safe.
- Stay Calm. If you react with panic, you’re more likely to overreact.
- Grip your Steering Wheel. Remember driver’s ed, with your hands at 10 and 2? Employ that grip right away to gain the best control. Do your best to maintain a straight trajectory. You may feel the car try to pull in one direction. Try to stay straight and in control.
- Don’t Brake. Slamming on your brakes may be your gut instinct, but don’t. If the car is pulling too much, pressing gently on the gas to accelerate may help you regain control. Next, slowly let off the gas and allow the vehicle to slow down naturally.
- Pull Over. Whether you’re on side streets or the interstate, try to pull over as far from traffic as you safely can. Remaining in the middle of the road is dangerous for both you and other drivers.
- Put on Hazard Lights and Parking Brake. Make sure other motorists recognize you aren’t going anywhere by using your hazard lights. Put on the parking brake, especially if you’ve stopped on any kind of grade, up or down.
What to Do After a Blowout
Your car has come safely to a stop on the side of the road…now what? Breathe. Take in a deep breath and continue to stay calm. Your calmness has a tremendous benefit not only for you but for any passengers in the car as well.
Now that you’ve taken a deep breath, it’s time to evaluate your surroundings. Do not exit your vehicle until you’re sure you are safe to do so. If it’s not safe because there isn’t enough shoulder or distance between you and the continuing traffic, stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt on. If you can safely exit, do so and move a safe distance away from your vehicle.
Call for assistance. Get a tow truck, roadside assistance, or a friend or family member to pick you up or assist in changing a tire.
Change the tire. If the surroundings are safe to change your flat tire and you feel confident, change the tire to your spare. Remember that a blown tire is likely hot, so give it a little time to cool down. Once you’ve put the spare on, drive slowly, continuing to use your hazard lights to indicate your intentionally slow rate of speed. Spares aren’t meant to be driven on for long distances or high speeds. Use your spare to get to a shop and get a new tire right away.
How to Avoid Blowouts in the Future
Because there are several reasons within your control that can cause blowouts, there’s also really good news. This means there are several things you can do to avoid or minimize the chance of a blowout. Maintaining your car’s drivability is important. Take care of your car, and it’ll take care of you.
- Check Your Tire Pressure. This isn’t a one-and-done task. Check it often. Knowing your vehicle and its components, like the tires and tire pressure, puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to proactive maintenance. It’s a lot easier to add a little air than to deal with a blowout.
- Don’t Drive on Worn Tires. While you’re checking the pressure, take a peek at the tread. If you’re not sure how much tread you have left, use the “penny test.” Put a penny with Lincoln’s head facing you upside down inside the tread. If Abe’s head is buried, you still have plenty of tread. If you can see all of him, it is time to replace the tire.
- Avoid Heavy Loads. Understand the weight load your tires can handle. This may be a great time to inflate your tires to the tire’s max PSI (listed on the tire) instead of the vehicle’s ideal PSI to prevent underinflation under the strain of the extra load.
- Add Roadside Assistance. Consider proactively adding roadside assistance protection for added peace of mind in the event of a blowout.
- Have the Spare Ready. There’s very little that’s more frustrating than a blown tire, only to find your spare tire is missing or flat. Make sure you know where your spare is supposed to be, that it’s actually there and in good, roadworthy condition.
Direct Express Auto Transport: Partnering in Your Safety
Yes, Direct Express is an auto transport broker. But we’re also people who care about other people. That means helping you stay safe when you’re driving your vehicle and finding you great options when you need to transport it. For more great safety tips and auto-related topics, check out our blog. And when you need to ship your vehicle, use our online calculator for a quote or contact one of our helpful customer service representatives at 800-600-3750.