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Tire Blowout: How to React

Did you know that colder temperatures will lower the air pressure in your tires? Low pressure results in more friction between your tires and the road. More friction leads to a greater chance of a tire blowout.

This is what was on my mind this chilly October morning as I was bringing my kids to school. Looking at both the first frost of the year and the tire pressure signal on my dashboard.

Different than a flat tire, a tire blowout is when your tire explodes, leaving behind dangerous debris and causing a sudden pull to one side.

Each year, blown tires cause more that 78,000 accidents with over 400 of them being fatal. It is imperative that you know how to react in this situation. The proper response to a tire blowout might not be what you expect.

Before we go on, take a look at the video of a driver who did not know what to do when their tire blew.

I've gotta say, his reaction is pretty awesome! I can't imagine being so calm after rolling a car. There are dozens of other videos that result in spinning, rolling and hitting other cars. Some people aren't as fortunate as the guys in this video.

These videos made me realize how common this is, and even worse, I didn't know exactly what I should do if this happened to me. Think about it, we see shredded tires all over the highway; it happens all the time. So let's take a look at some of the common causes of tire blowouts and then the four steps to surviving one.

What Causes A Blown Tire

  • Improper Inflation- This is, without a doubt, the most common cause of tire failure. An under inflated tire creates friction between the rubber and pavement. In this case, it's only a matter of time until you're on the shoulder of the highway.
  • Potholes- Hear, hear, o people of Michigan! This is bad news for us. Other than doing your best to avoid them, there is one thing you can do. If you're in the Grand Rapids area, you can report them by calling 311!
  • Worn Tread- Along with checking your tire pressure every month (when the tires are cold) be sure to check the actual treads. If they are 4/32" or deeper, you are good to go.

    A quick quarter test can tell you if your tires are still good. As pictured below, stick the quarter upside down into one of the grooves. If the tire comes up to the top of George Washington's head, you still have at least 4/32" tread. If it doesn't touch his head, it's time for new tires. Be sure to check a few different spots on your tires.

Gandville Trailer sells trailer tires!

Even if you remember to take perfect care of your tires, the truth is, they can still have a blowout. Especially in Michigan, the weather can change quickly and potholes can be big enough to home a family of raccoons. Some risk factors are out of our control, which is why it is necessary to be prepared for tire failure.

4 Steps To Survive a Tire Blowout

You'll know instantly if you have a blown tire. There will be a loud popping sound and then a strong pull on the vehicle to one side. Here's what your immediate next few steps should be:

1. Accelerate

This counterintuitive first step might have been a surprise to you. After all, it goes against the natural urge to hit the brakes and get to the shoulder as soon as possible. When you have a blown tire creating drag, stepping on the accelerator a little harder will not actually speed up your vehicle. But it will stabilize your vehicle in your lane and help you to regain control. 

Do not: Step on the brake.

2. Gently Counter Steer

The goal here is to keep your car perfectly straight here, so don't over react. When you try turning a vehicle with a failed tire at high speeds, you'll end up like the guys in the video above. What I mean by counter steering is to gently guide the vehicle straight down your lane. If your vehicle is pulling to the left, carefully push towards the right just enough to keep it from veering.

Do not: Jerk the steering wheel.

3. Slow Down

At this point you should have decent control of your vehicle. Without stepping on the brake, slowly pull your foot off the gas to let your vehicle slow down on it's own. With the dragging tire, slowing down won't take long at all. By now, you or a passenger should be able to switch on the hazard lights as well.

Do not: Abruptly take your foot off the gas.

4. Pull Over

When your vehicle has slowed to around 30 MPH, and you feel that it is safe, very slowly guide your vehicle to the shoulder of the highway. There you can bring your car or truck to a complete stop and let out a sigh of relief.

Do not: Pull over too quickly.

We teach our kids to stop, drop and roll if they find their clothes are on fire. We know not to swerve when there's a deer in the road. It's better to brake and maybe hit the deer than a tree or another car.

Smothering a fire on yourself, hitting the deer, and driving through a tire blowout are all counterintuitive, but they're all effective. Keep these 4 steps in mind and run through them in your head when you're driving.

Just like CPR and first aid skills, I hope you never have to use this information, but knowing it could be life saving someday.

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At Grandville Trailer, we're pullin' for ya.

-Ally Mollenkamp