How to Safely Handle Your Vehicle During a Tire Blowout
Do you know how to survive a tire blowout on the highway? If not, then you must read this article before you drive again. Your life may very well depend on it.
Fortunately, it is possible to survive a tire blowout if you know what to do and have time to react.
We’ve written this guide to educate all drivers on what to do during a tire blowout. Even better, we also teach you how to prevent blowouts before they happen.
For your own safety, do not get behind the wheel again until you’ve read this guide.
Educate Yourself to Prevent Tire Blowouts
Knowing what to do during a tire blowout can save lives in a moment of crisis. (And we do cover that later in this post.)
But preventing that crisis from ever happening is even better. The first thing you can do to prevent tire blowouts is to educate yourself.
Know the Facts
This education starts with learning how serious tire blowouts can be. Consider these statistics about blowouts.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, flat tires and blowouts cause over 78,000 accidents per year. Also, these accidents claim more than 400 lives and injure 10,275 people annually. Furthermore, tire-related factors accounted for 1 out of every 11 accidents (9%).
However, those estimates were reported way back in 2003. According to a more recent report, 738 people died from tire-related accidents in 2017.
Lastly, here’s the most important statistic about tire blowouts. The number of blowouts that are preventable is nearly 100%.
Know the Causes
Next, it’s important to know what causes tire blowouts to understand how to prevent them. When you fully comprehend why this preventative maintenance works, you’ll be less likely to neglect it.
Here are the most common causes of tire blowouts:
- Worn out tires that are below minimum tread depth
- Under-inflated tires
- Over-inflated tires
- Slow leaks/flat tire
- Structurally compromised tires, including sidewall bulging and punctures that sever the bead (steel cords that reinforce the tire’s structure)
In addition, these conditions can be exacerbated by outside factors. For instance, the hot road on a summer day can make such a tire more likely to blow out. So can potholes, nails in the road, and other tire-damaging road hazards.
What to Do During a Tire Blowout
If your vehicle does suffer a blowout, your ability to act fast could mean the difference between life and death. So, before you learn what to do during a tire blowout, you should first learn to recognize what a blowout feels like.
What a Tire Blowout Feels Like
If you’re driving down the road and your tire suddenly goes flat, you’ll often feel a strong pulsing or rhythmic thudding from one side of the car and you may feel a strong pull in the direction of the blown-out tire. Now, here are the steps you should immediately follow when this happens.
Step 1: Stay Calm
First, remain calm. This keeps you in control of your actions so you can guide the car to safety without further complications.
Step 2: Correct Your Steering
Next, grip the steering wheel firmly and correct your steering. Drive straight and do not try to jerk the wheel suddenly. Jerking the wheel can cause a dangerous loss of traction that could result in a serious accident or rolling of the vehicle.
Step 3: Gently Decelerate
Do not slam on the brakes! Take your foot off the gas pedal and gently apply the brakes.
Step 4: Pull Over
When you’ve sufficiently slowed the car, ease to the side of the road safely away from traffic.
To help you understand this further, we’ve made this video to demonstrate these instructions.
What to Do After a Tire Blowout
Here are the steps to take when you’re safely stopped after a blown tire.
Step 5: Warn Others
Put the car in park, activate the parking brake and turn on your emergency flashers. If you can safely do so, put road flares and/or safety cones around your vehicle. Leave yourself enough space within the cones/flares to change the tire.
Step 6: Change the Tire or Get Help
If you have a spare tire, plenty of safe work space and the ability/tools to change the tire, do so. If you are lacking any of these things, call for professional roadside assistance.
Preventative Maintenance to Avoid Blowouts
Now, let’s take a look at several preventative steps you should take to avoid tire blowouts.
Check Tire Pressure Often
One essential way to prevent blowouts is to make a habit of checking (and double-checking) your tire pressure often. Cars manufactured after 2007 make this easy.
In these cars, the tire pressure is monitored automatically by an electronic monitoring system. If tire pressure becomes higher or lower than is safe, the driver will be alerted with a “check tire pressure” notification on their instrument panel.
If your car was made before 2007, you’ll have to check manually. Although, even if your car is new, it’s good to do a manual air pressure check according to safety guidelines. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
What You’ll Need to Check Tire Pressure
The first action is to obtain a tire pressure gauge if you don’t already have one. These are easy to find and typically inexpensive (as in $1). You should be able to find an accurate tire gauge from the automotive section of any department store or discount outlet.
Next, know the correct tire pressure for your tires. This information should be found labeled in the doorway of the driver’s side door and your vehicle owner’s manual. You can also find online tools to learn optimum tire pressure.
But that information applies specifically to the standard wheels that come with the car. The recommended pressure range may be different if you have aftermarket wheels of a different size. You can most likely find the recommended pressure on the sidewall of the tire or get it from the manufacturer.
How to Check Tire Pressure
To check your tire pressure, unscrew the valve stem cap from one tire. Insert the gauge quickly and firmly until the initial hissing noise stops.
The meter on the end of the gauge should pop out partially and stop. The number it stops at is your current tire pressure. Check it one more time to make sure the reading was correct, then screw the valve stem cap back on.
Repeat this check on all four tires.
When to Check Tire Pressure
Now, here’s how often you should check your tire pressure. Obviously, check right away any time the tire pressure light on your dashboard comes on.
For older cars that aren’t equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems, you may want to check whenever you gas up. Gas stations usually have tire inflation stations.
Always check air pressure before and after long trips. Check during extreme temperatures and extreme temperature changes.
The loss of air pressure can be significant when the tires are cold. But when the weather warms back up, the air pressure rises and could cause over inflation. Not only that, but extreme heat also makes the rubber of the tires weaker and more likely to pop.
Check the pressure whenever your tire looks abnormal. If it is misshapen, swollen on the bottom, scratched, or you see a nail or other object that may have punctured it, check the pressure.
Lastly, check air pressure any time your driving doesn’t feel right. For example, if you feel thumping while you drive or differences in how the car handles, you may have a flat.
Don’t Neglect Regular Tire Maintenance
Besides incorrect tire pressure, a blowout can also happen when tires are too worn out. Avoid this by sticking to the appropriate tire maintenance guidelines provided by the manufacturers of both your vehicle and your tires.
Know Your Tires
There is a lot of information you should pay attention to when you purchase your tires. Most important is the recommended lifespan/mileage of the tires. If you don’t have this information, get it from the tire manufacturer or the retailer you purchased the tires from (or your car dealer if they’re the original factory tires).
If the tires aren’t the ones that came with the car, you’ll also need to find out when you purchased them and the vehicle’s mileage at the time. You’ll need this information to determine when the tires need replacing.
You should be able to find this information on the purchase receipt if you still have it. If you don’t, perhaps you can find out from the retailer the tires came from.
You may have no way to determine the true age/mileage of the tires. In this case, take your car to a tire center right away to have them assess the condition of your tires.
General Tire Maintenance Guidelines
You should have your tires rotated on a regular basis regardless of their age. “Rotating” the tires means moving the rear tires to the front and the front ones back. This alternates where each tire receives most of the wear-and-tear during driving.
Generally speaking, tire rotations should be done every 5,000 miles or every 6 months, whichever happens first. If you don’t do this, the tires will wear down faster.
The other benefit to regular tire rotation is that you’ll have tire experts looking closely at your tires at least twice a year. They’ll let you know of any existing problems with your tires, brakes, or anything else they see.
Other Tire Tips
Finally, here are some other tips on how to take care of tires so they don’t blow out on the highway.
Be Prepared: Always Have a Spare
You should never be without a spare tire. If your car gets a flat, you must be prepared to switch it out with the spare.
Otherwise, you’ll be stuck one day on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck. Or worse, you may be tempted to risk a blowout by driving with a flat tire.
Therefore, always have a spare tire in your vehicle. Additionally, you’ll also need a jack and a lug wrench to be able to complete the tire change.
And always make sure your spare is properly inflated. The best way to do this is to have an air pressure gauge and a manual tire pump in the vehicle, too. (The recommended tire pressure should be on the sidewall of the spare.)
Finally, take care to replace the spare as often as necessary. If it becomes punctured, damage or old or worn, replace it.
Having these items will also prepare you in case you do have a tire blowout.
Don’t Drive With a Flat
Never drive with a flat tire if you can help it. A punctured or slow-leaking tire will lose air pressure and can easily lead to a blowout.
A popped or totally flat tire is even worse. Don’t drive with such a tire. Instead, put on the spare and get to a tire shop right away.
Now, sometimes, you might have more than one tire leaking but only one spare. In this case, you may consider driving on the leaking tire, just until you reach the tire shop.
If you’re close to the tire shop, the leak is very slow, and the tire still has decent pressure, you may be able to make it if you put on your hazard lights and drive slowly. But we don’t recommend it.
It’s much safer to have the car towed to the tire shop.
Or buy new tires and put them on yourself. You can have new tires delivered to you or pick them up in a different vehicle.
The bottom line is, there’s no reason you should ever have to drive on a flat tire. There are always better options.
Don’t Drive Far on the Spare
Unlike your regular tires, spare tires are not designed for heavy use. They’re only made to travel a few miles, just to get your car to the nearest tire shop. If you overuse your spare, it becomes a blowout risk.
Save Lives With These Tire Safety Tips
Remember: the best way to survive a tire blowout is to prevent it from happening. The second best way is knowing what to do if it happens.
This is life-saving knowledge you’ve learned here today. Don’t take it for granted.
Always obey these safety tips, especially the ones to prevent blowouts. And share this page to keep others safe, too.
Want to be the safest driver you can be? Sign up for a DriveSafe Online® defensive driving course today.