There are multiple factors that can lead to a tire blowout, also called tire explosion. According to the pros at Good Tire, most of these are preventable through routine tire service and tire changes. The most common issues leading to explosion include improper tire inflation, overloading of the vehicle, over-worn tread or damaged tread.
What To Do If Your Tire Explodes
If your tire explodes, it is very important that you follow some careful steps to safety. These steps include:
- Not slamming on the brakes because doing so can make you lose traction and control of your vehicle
- Steer away from the direction your car is pulling because of the blowout while trying to keep the vehicle in a straight line
- Allow your vehicle to slow down gradually
- Steer your vehicle off the roadway and call for assistance or execute a tire change
Tire blowouts are among the biggest fears of new drivers, in particular. This is why it is important to discuss tire blowout safety with young drivers.
What is the TPMS?
The TPMS, tire pressure monitoring system in newer car models, helps drivers avoid blowouts by monitoring tire pressure. Besides helping to prevent catastrophic accidents, this monitor also improves fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by alerting drivers when their tires need air or have a problem. Still, even with this alert system in recent model vehicles, hundreds of people die because of automobile tire malfunctions across North America each year. Tens of thousands are injured from tire blowouts.
Why Tires Blow Out
Tires explode for a variety of reasons. These can include problems with the vehicle or tire itself, driver errors or environmental causes. The most common causes of exploding tires include:
- Tire wear
- Damage to the tire
- Aging tire
- Manufacturer’s defects
When one of these issues occurs, it is far more likely that the vehicle will experience a blowout. The risk of auto accidents is also much greater. When a tire is shown to be blown out after an accident, investigators work to determine whether the tire was a factor in the crash, whether directly or indirectly. If one of the above-listed circumstances toward blowout were true during the pre-crash phase, the tire is considered a direct cause of the accident. If none of these are true of the tire’s pre-crash condition, the tire was indirectly involved in the accident.
Why Under-Inflation Causes a Tire Blowout
Tire blowout often occurs because of under-inflation. This condition is often signaled first through reduced fuel economy. But it is much more dangerous than what it does to your wallet. Under-inflation can lead to separation of the tire, causing the tire explosion characteristic of blowout.
Under-inflation causes tires to separate because of the following effects:
- Reduced vehicle handling
- Increased stopping distance
- Increased stress to other parts of the tire
- Heat buildup
Ten percent of the vehicles experiencing pre-crash tire problems have at least one tire that is under-inflated by 25 percent of the ideal pressure, according to recent studies. Correctly inflated tires have a greatly reduced percentage of involvement in these accidents.
Under-inflation increases risk of tires playing an indirect or direct role in accidents by 300 percent. At the same time, tires with reduced tread depth to 2/32″ or less also increase the chances of an accident by 300 percent. This is compared to tires with tread depth of 3/42″ to 4/32″ depth. New vehicle tread depth is typically 10/32″ to 11/32″.
Driver Factors in Tire Explosions
Drivers frequently play a role in their tire blowouts and resulting accidents. Drivers with little experience behind the wheel frequently get into accidents after a blowout because they struggle to safely maneuver their vehicle. Drivers who speed and accelerate rapidly in stop-and-go traffic also increase their likelihood of an accident because of a blowout. Tire blowouts can happen at any speed, not just beyond the speed limit. But the faster the vehicle is traveling when the tire explodes, the greater the odds of catastrophic injuries or death.
Environmental Factors in Tire Blowouts
Tire problems like blowouts can occur because of environmental issues. These issues include wet, underwater or slick roads. These conditions, such as icing of the roads, are much more common in winter in colder climates.
Still, tire blowout season for the industry typically starts in May and continues through October. More tires blowout in these months because of the heat. During the hottest months, people are also taking more vacations and driving longer distances, as a result. Driving longer, faster and farther with more weight in the vehicle is the perfect recipe for a tire explosion.
Heat is especially intense with an under-inflated tire. When you add the extra weight packed into a vehicle on a road trip and the heat of summer, enough heat builds up in the tire to cause a blowout or a serious accident.
How to Handle a Tire Blowout
How you handle your tire blowout is a big issue in preventing a car accident. As soon as you hear the explosion of the tire, avoid slamming on your brakes. Doing so can lead to skidding from the loss of traction on your damaged tire and the other wheels. It makes you lose control of your vehicle.
However, you can still safely maneuver your vehicle after a blowout. You simply need to keep yourself calm. The vehicle will pull strongly to one side or the other, depending on which tire blew out. You must counter-steer the vehicle, meaning turn the wheel in the opposite direction from the pull, to keep the car moving straight ahead while it gradually slows down on its own. As you do this, look for a safe place to pull off of the roadway and out of traffic.
After pulling off the road, turn on your flashing emergency lights. If you have reflective triangles or cones, place those on the road so that other drivers can see your troubled vehicle and avoid it. If you are in a safe place out of the way of traffic, you can proceed to change your tire. But if you are unsafe or do not know how to change to the spare tire, call for emergency roadside assistance.
Of course, the best way to handle a tire blowout is to prevent it, altogether. Through routine maintenance at your tire service provider, you can prevent a major accident from happening.