How to Handle a Tire Blowout

Posted on by Defensive Driving | in Defensive Driving Online

No matter how conscientious a driver you are and how well maintained your car is, driving emergencies can and do happen. When these emergencies do occur, however, being prepared and knowing how to handle the situation will help you to get you, your car, and your passengers out of danger unscathed.

One of the more dramatic emergencies that you may encounter as a driver is a tire blowout. Unlike a flat tire, which involves a slow loss of air pressure, during a tire blowout the tire loses pressure very rapidly. Because of the suddenness with which a tire blowout usually occurs, it’s particularly important that you know exactly what to do in such a situation, so that you can react quickly and effectively.

Fortunately, today’s tires are generally very reliable, so blowouts don’t happen all that often. When they do occur, they happen for several reasons. The most common cause by far is under-inflation; when under-inflated; the tire walls flex more than they should. As you drive, heat builds up in the rubber, especially on a hot day, which can result in a blowout. Over-inflation can also cause a blowout, as overinflated tires are more easily slashed and punctured by objects on the road. Over-loading, large punctures, excess wear, and age can also cause blowouts.

The best way, then, to prevent a blowout is to practice good tire maintenance. Make sure your tires are inflated to within the recommended pressure range (usually indicated in a chart on the inside of the door well.) Use a tire pressure gauge to make sure you have properly inflated the tires, or, if you do not know how to do so, have your mechanic check and maintain your tire pressure. Rotate and replace your tires as necessary, making sure to check tread depth. A good test is to insert a penny head down into the tread; the tread should at least cover Lincoln’s head. If you are going to be carrying heavy loads in your vehicle, make sure that you know your vehicle’s load index rating and don’t exceed this weight.

Unfortunately, accidents still happen, no matter how prepared you are! A thumping sound in one of the wheels can be an indicator that a tire blowout is about to occur. Should you notice such a sound, pull over and check your tires.

If a blowout does happen, the most important thing to do is stay calm. As is the case in many driving emergencies, your instinctive motions aren’t likely to be the right ones. For this reason in particular, it’s important to maintain a cool head so that you can make the correct choices, the ones that will save you and your car.

If a tire blowout does occur, the first thing you’ll notice is that the car begins to vibrate and wants to swerve towards the blown-out tire, much like when a skid occurs. (In fact, handling this situation is similar to handling a skid.) First and foremost, DON’T BRAKE! Just as when entering a skid, this will cause your wheels to lock-up and will result in a total loss of control. Instead, accelerate slightly and try to keep steering the car as straight as possible; this slight acceleration will keep your car from “jumping” into the next lane.

Next, begin to slow down by removing your foot from the accelerator; do so GENTLY. A sudden release of the accelerator will have the same effect as braking. Turn on your emergency indicators to alert other drivers to your predicament and make sure you are aware of the cars on the road around you.

Don’t jerk the steering wheel or make sudden movements to force the car into the direction you want to go; rather, steer gently and gradually. When you have control of the car, begin to maneuver towards the right hand lane and, when you have a safe space on which to pull over, do so.

Once you have come to a complete halt, wait to get out of the car until it is safe to do so. If you know how to change a tire and have room to do so safely, then proceed! However, if you have even the slightest doubt about the safety of the situation, don’t risk it. Call a towing company instead.

Even if this never happens to you, knowing what to expect from a tire blowout and how to handle it could come in handy if you see someone else on the road having this problem. For example, you’ll know that the car is likely to shift toward the blown-out tire and can adjust your own position on the road accordingly. As with all things, maintaining a “safety bubble” between you and other cars on the road will give you the time you need to react to any potentially hazardous situation.

To read more on a broad range of subjects from “How To Pull Out of a Skid” to “How To Jumpstart Your Car”, visit DefensiveDriving.com’s Safe Driver Resources website!

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