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photo of a flat tire blowout

Your Guide to Tire Blowouts: What to Do and How to Avoid Them.

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? And what do you do if you suddenly find yourself experiencing one? What do you think you should 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 life. 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 it could happen while driving at higher speed rates on significant highways. Reading this guide before it happens will help you feel prepared just in case you experience a tire blowout.

Recognizing a Tire Blowout

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 distinct sound, and you feel it when it occurs. A loud pop followed by the car suddenly becoming more challenging 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 why blowouts happen that you can control include:

  • Underinflation. You were driving with too little air pressure in your tires.
  • Overloading. Excessive weight in the vehicle, such as hauling a heavy load, significantly if your tires are also underinflated.
  • Worn Treads. Worn-out tires with low treads 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 excellent 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 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 significantly contributes 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, let off the gas slowly 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 grade, up or down.

What to Do After a Blowout

Your car has come safely to a stop on the side of the road. So 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.

Now that you’ve taken a deep breath, it’s time to evaluate your surroundings. Wait to exit your vehicle until you’re sure you are safe to do so. If it’s unsafe 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 space away from your car.

Call for assistance. Get a tow truck, roadside assistance, or a friend or family member to pick you up or change a tire. 

Another Thing You Can Do After A Blowout

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. Spare tires are only supposed to be driven short distances. And do not drive at 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 several reasons within your control can cause blowouts, there’s also good news. That means there are several things you can do to avoid or minimize the chance of a blowout. Maintaining your car’s drivability is essential. Take care of your car, and it’ll take care of you.

  • Check Your Tire Pressure. That 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 unsure how much tread you have left, use the “penny test.” Put a penny with Lincoln’s head facing you upside down inside the tire’s tread. If Abe’s head is not visible, 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. That 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 peace of mind during a blowout.
  • Have the Spare Ready. Very little is 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 and that it’s in a good, roadworthy condition.

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