You’re driving along when all of a sudden, you hear a loud clunk and start to feel your car pulling aggressively to one side. You’re probably going through a tire blowout. Blowouts are when a tire bursts and rapidly loses air pressure. They can be frightening and, more importantly, dangerous.
Help keep yourself safe on the road by knowing what to do if you have a tire blowout. Learn more about why blowouts happen, what to do in a blowout and how to prevent them in the future.
Why do Tire Blowouts Happen?
Blowouts can happen for many reasons. Any time your tire is punctured or ruptured and suddenly loses inflation, you can have a blowout. The most common reasons for blowouts include:
- Low Tire Pressure: Many drivers are surprised to learn that underinflating a tire is often the top cause of tire blowouts. When a tire isn’t inflated enough, the components of the tire flex more than their design allows. There’s also an increase in friction between the tire and the road, causing heat which erodes the tire’s materials.
- Overloading: Too much weight on the tires — especially if they’re underinflated — can put excess pressure on the components. Your tires may become overstrained, which can lead to blowouts.
- Potholes and Road Hazards: Hitting a curb, pothole, or nail in the road can cause serious damage to your tires. Blunt forces, like hitting a pothole, could damage the interior components of the tire. Sharp objects like nails or broken glass could puncture the walls of the tire and cause a blowout.
Recognizing a Blowout
What does a blowout feel and sound like? Although each situation is different, it’s important to recognize the common signs of a blowout. The first thing you’ll likely notice is a loud noise, usually like an explosion. After the initial loud sound, there might be a “whooshing” sound as the air escapes your tire. Once the air is gone, your tire will likely sound like it’s slapping against the road instead of riding on top of it.
Depending on the side with the blowout, your car should start to pull aggressively to one side or the other. You might notice the steering wheel is difficult to control or that your seat is vibrating.
What to Do During a Tire Blowout
If you’re experiencing a tire blowout, follow these steps:
- Stay Calm: It’s easy to panic when things go wrong on the road, but it’s important to stay calm. Take a deep breath and focus on what you need to do.
- Grip the Wheel: Take a firm grip of the steering wheel so you have the highest level of control.
- Avoid the Brakes: Don’t slam on the brakes as soon as you feel a blowout. This could unbalance the car and make it even more difficult to control.
- Let Off the Gas: Gently take your foot off of the accelerator to slow your vehicle.
- Pull Over: Use your turn signal to indicate to other drivers you need to move to the side of the road. Safely change lanes until you’re in the outside lane. Look for a safe place to pull over and allow your car to slow. Once you’re in a safe spot and traveling under 20 miles per hour, gently apply the brakes until you come to a complete stop.
- Turn on Hazard Lights: Turn on your flashers to make yourself visible to other drivers on the road.
- Set the Parking Brake: Set your parking brake to help ensure your car stays put after coming to a stop.
What to Do After a Tire Blowout
After making it safely to the side of the road, you’ll need to assess your tire damage and install your spare. Safely change your tire using these tips:
- Check Your Surroundings: Don’t leave your vehicle until you’re sure it’s safe to do so. Carefully exit your vehicle when traffic allows it.
- Set Up Safety Markers: Along with your hazards, you can set up safety cones, flags, or road flares to make yourself more visible on the side of the road.
- Change Your Tire: Remove your damaged tire and install your spare tire. Be aware that the damaged tire will likely be extremely hot right after a blowout. Give it time to cool down before you try to remove it. After installing the spare tire, go slow and use your hazard lights. Most spare tires are not designed to drive long distances or at high speeds. Use the spare tire to get to a repair or tire shop for a new tire.
Avoiding a Blowout in the Future
Proper tire maintenance is the easiest way to prevent tire blowouts. Make checking tire pressure and tread a part of your regular car maintenance schedule. You can even make it a habit to check your tires for damage and proper inflation each time you fill up at the gas station. A quick check could help you avoid a blowout.
Avoid carrying loads that are too heavy for your tires. If you’re pulling a heavy trailer, for example, check that your tires can handle the weight of your vehicle and the trailer. You may need to inflate your tires to the maximum recommended pressure to help lower your risk of a blowout.
Adding roadside assistance to your car insurance can make your life much easier if you experience a blowout. Roadside assistance often includes tire change services. An expert will meet you at your vehicle and change your tire for you, or you can get a tow to the nearest repair shop if your car is too damaged after the blowout.
Being prepared for a blowout can make the experience less frightening. Remember to stay calm and focus on keeping control of your vehicle so you can safely navigate to the side of the road. Be sure you know how to change your tire or have roadside assistance so you’re not stuck on the roadside after your tire blowout.