Tire blowouts are never fun. They make a loud, scary noise, they cause a sudden jolt to your steering, they create a safety hazard for everyone around and they cost you money spent for possible towing and a new tire. It’s no wonder that tire blowouts are one of the leading causes of car accidents, and they occur at a greater rate during the upcoming summer months.
Tire treads wear down more quickly in higher temperatures, which can take your tire from safe to prone to a blowout over the course of a few weeks, especially if you are driving a long distance for vacation.
In an average year, 400 people die due to complications from a vehicle accident involving a tire failure, according to the N.H.T.S.A. Tire blowouts occur for a wide variety of reasons; they can be due to an overly worn tire simply bursting from pressure that pops through the compromised tread; an object that punctures the tire so deeply that it loses all air pressure immediately and explodes; a vehicle hitting a pothole too forcefully; overloading of a vehicle, which puts extra and unneeded pressure on its tires, or improper inflation helping to create conditions for a blowout, among other causes. When these blowouts occur on a large truck or tractor-trailer, the treads can sit on a highway for hours or even days, creating a safety hazard for the thousands of drivers who swerve around the treads or run over them.
In addition to keeping your eyes open for loose treads on the roadway this summer, be sure to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and others on the road. It might not seem to be too dangerous to follow a vehicle with just one car-length between you at a high rate of speed, but if you are too close to a tractor-trailer that has a blowout, for instance, you are placing yourself in an immediately perilous position.
Another preventive measure that should decrease your risk of an accident related to tire blowouts is to carefully inspect your own tires and make sure that they are not overly worn and are properly inflated. The penny test still works: put a penny upside down into your tire tread. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head or even space above that head, you need to replace your tire immediately. If you see some of Lincoln’s hair as you look at the penny, you should start to plan to buy a new tire. If you cannot see any of Lincoln’s hair, your tire is still in good condition.
New tires typically have a 10/32” depth. Once your tread dips below 1/8”, your tire will soon need to be replaced. One-sixteenth of an inch is particularly hazardous and is considered the minimum depth allowed on most states’ roads.
You might need to rotate your tires if the front or back treads are getting more worn than the others. Check also for uneven tread wear as you look at your tires. You might need to have a suspension adjustment, your tires balanced or a front end alignment. If you notice uneven wear, take your vehicle to a tire specialist and have that shop inspect your treads.
Check your vehicle’s safety guide for tips on maintaining the proper air pressure in your tires. If your tires look low or too flat at the point where they meet the road, check your pressure with an inexpensive gauge and fill up at a nearby service station as soon as possible.
Fortunately, tire technology continues to advance, which has led to a decrease in accidents caused by tire blowouts. Tires are less prone to immediately deflate or disintegrate due to a blowout. However, the increasing rarity of the event can also increase the element of surprise for the unsuspecting driver.
If your vehicle does have a tire blowout, do your best to avoid jerking the steering wheel or slamming on the brakes, both of which can lead to accidents. Any sudden movements with ¼ (or more) of your car’s traction lost can create a very dangerous situation.
If your car or truck does have a blowout, try your best to do these three actions:
- Keep your rate of speed up so that surrounding vehicles are not prone to rear-end you.
- Steer in the direction against the tug that your vehicle is pulling toward after the blowout.
- As the car stabilizes, slow down and pull over as soon as possible.