Tire blowouts are the reason for a significant number of car accidents in the US, and are certainly one of the worst things that can happen to your car.
Tire blowout basically refers to tires bursting and losing a great deal of pressure at once, with the air escaping by tearing a large hole in the rubber. This is extremely dangerous, and can even cause your car to crash by spinning out of control.
The damage to the blown-out tire is irreparable, and you may potentially have to replace the wheel as well. A variety of factors can lead to tire blowouts, some of which you can avoid just by being vigilant and proactive.
What causes a tire blowout?
Tires can blow out for various reasons, but the basic process remains the same – a part of the rubber gets too thin or weak. The air pressure in a tire is extremely high, and it eventually rips a hole in the weakened rubber. Potential causes of a tire blowout include:
1. Old tires
Rubber degrades over time, weakening the tires’ integrity as they age. The aging process speeds up as the tires get older. Even if the treads are fine, the rubber forming the walls of the tires can degrade significantly.
Depending on how close your tire is to blowing out, there might be prominently visible signs like bulges and cracks too. Using a tire for more than six years usually puts it at the risk of blowing out, though some of the leading tire brands offer tires that can last longer.
2. Low pressure
Another common cause of tire blowouts is under-inflation. All tires have a recommended tire pressure. When the tire pressure gets below the recommended level, it starts to sag and distort as the sidewalls are thinner than the edges at low pressure.
Due to its distorted shape, the tire can no longer properly support the vehicle’s weight. Under-inflation also results in increased friction, thereby generating heat.
Together with the distorted shape of the tire, this begins to create weak spots by weakening the rubber bonds. Eventually, these weak spots will lead to a tire blowout.
Although the whole purpose of a car is to carry people and/or goods, there’s a limit to how much load you can put on your vehicle. Pushing your car beyond its limits can lead to various issues, including tire blowouts.
Remember, no matter how sturdy and powerful your car is, it’s the tires that ultimately support all the load. Putting excessive weight on the car causes stress to the tires and can make them blow out, especially if they are already weak.
4. High heat
Exposure to extreme heat can cause the rubber to soften and expand. Driving for long periods of time on hot roads can therefore weaken your tires and result in a blowout.
This is why, a majority of the tire blowouts occur between May and late August. You should take care when going on long road trips during this period.
When a nail or any other sharp object on the road punctures a tire, it may not deflate immediately. Depending on the damage, the tire can also deflate and weaken gradually over time.
At some point of time, the tire may blow out at the weak point created due to the puncture. It may take even a few months for puncture damage to result in a tire blowout, which means the damage isn’t always noticeable enough. This is why routine tire inspections are necessary to ensure a long lifespan for your tires.
6. Manufacturing defects
This is an issue that’s beyond your control – you can’t do much about manufacturing defects as they may not be visible. Often, errors in the manufacturing process separate the metal parts of the tire from the rubber.
Eventually, the internal damage would grow, potentially resulting in a blowout. Poor installation can lead to tire blowouts too, due to unequal load distribution and friction.
7. Road damage
Poor road conditions increase the chances of a tire blowout, due to the damage caused by debris and shards. Especially if you drive on roads often, the tires will develop multiple weak points from all the damage.
Eventually, these weak points can blow out. Your tires will also suffer increased road damage as a result of rough driving, especially if you turn around corners too sharply.
Although this is a part of road damage too, potholes deserve a special mention. Potholes can damage your tires severely. The sharp edges of a pothole and the impact of your tires falling into it may result in a blowout immediately. In other cases, the damage gradually grows over time and can make your tires blow out in the future.
9. Uneven tread wear
Uneven tread can cause a tire blowout too, as the areas with little or no tread lie exposed to damaging factors. Moreover, uneven tread wear is often a result of unequal stress across your tires, which is a potential cause of tire blowouts too.
How to Avoid a Tire Blowout?
Thankfully, avoiding a tire blowout isn’t too difficult unless your tire has a manufacturing defect. In fact, you can avoid almost all the factors we discussed above, just by being cautious and taking good care of your tire. Following the tips described below will help you avoid a tire blowout:
1. Replace old tires
Firstly, don’t keep driving on old and worn-out tires. Even if they still have tread left on them, the risk of a blowout poses a safety hazard. An average tire has a lifespan of six years.
Unless your tires are from a reputed brand that specifically states a longer lifespan, you should replace them after six years. Continental and Michelin, for instance, manufacture tougher tires that can last a decade.
If there are no signs of major wear and tear, even when your tire is old, inspect it professionally to see if you can continue using it.
2. Pay attention to the tire pressure
As low tire pressure is one of the reasons behind tire blowouts, you need to make sure your tires never go below the recommended pressure level. This is not hard to break since most modern cars come integrated with a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System). This system constantly monitors the pressure in all four tires.
In case the tire pressure goes under the safety mark, the warning light in the TPMS will alert you. You should then take your car to a professional who can identify which tire is lacking pressure. Before inflating it back, get the tire inspected for leaks and fix any potential issues.
3. Don’t overload your car
This is easy enough, right? You simply need to keep the load within reasonable limits. When going on a vacation with your family, don’t overload the car with massive luggage that it would struggle to carry.
4. Inspect your tires for punctures
While there isn’t much you can do about nails and glass shards puncturing your tires, you can at least inspect the tires on a regular basis. You don’t need to get an automobile mechanic as you can inspect the tires yourself.
This way, you can find and remove nails or any sharp object that may have lodged itself in your tire and thus prevent the puncture damage from growing. You should also take your tire to a tire repair shop and get the damaged part patched up.
5. Drive carefully
The way you drive directly impacts the longevity of your tires. Driving smoothly not only puts less stress on your tires, but also reduces road damage.
Careful driving will also help you avoid potholes or slow down before you drive over them. Moreover, it’s much safer than driving around too fast and taking sharp corners at high speeds anyway.
6. Avoid driving in the heat for too long
Avoiding long road trips on hot roads in summer is a great way to increase the longevity of your tires and lower the chances of a blowout. If you have to drive on such a road for a long period of time, at least try to take breaks in between and avoid stressing your tires too much.
7. Professional tire installation
It’s better to have your tires installed by a professional than to do it yourself. Incorrect tire alignment can cause uneven tread wear and tire blowouts, both of which you’d want to avoid.
An experienced professional can install your tire flawlessly. In this regard, you should also consider having the tires professionally inspected once in a while.
What to Do If a tire blowout while driving?
When your tire blows out with a loud bang, you might find yourself too shocked to react. However, a tire blowout can potentially make a car crash by losing control if you aren’t careful. Here’s what you need to do:
- In addition to the loud noise, your car will also start pulling to a side while slowing down. Stay calm and refrain from hitting the brakes. Braking will only worsen the situation, by locking the wheels and making the car lose control completely.
- Try to steer as straight as you can, while accelerating the car, rather than stopping right away. Now, slow down gradually and turn on your emergency lights.
- Steer your car to the right-hand lane and stop once it’s safe. Check if the blowout has caused any damage to the wheel.
- If the wheel is fine and you can change the tire safely yourself, do it. Else, you may contact a towing company to move the car.
Hopefully, your car will never have to suffer a tire blowout now that you know how to avoid it. As long as you’re cautious, the chances of your tires blowing out are quite low. However, in case it does happen, keep yourself calm and collected. You should usually be fine as long as you don’t lose control of the car.