As our highways become broader and better and our cars become faster, there are even more instances of high-speed tyre blowouts causing loss of control and severe accidents. But a tyre blowout need not be serious if you have the presence of mind to control the vehicle.
The biggest mistake people make (and it’s a reflex action so it’s not really your fault) is that they slam on the brakes the moment a tyre bursts. That’s the worst thing you can do, as it causes complete loss of control and in some cases the sudden pull to one side due to a burst tyre can be so severe that the vehicle can spin or flip over. Also read: Brake failure! How to stop a car with no brakes
So how do you control a vehicle if your tyre suddenly blows out? Here’s how.
How to control the vehicle if tyre bursts
There’s a slight difference in feel depending on which tyre bursts. If it’s any of the front tyres that burst, you will immediately feel the steering wobble and pull hard to one side, which is the side of the burst tyre. If it’s the rear tyre that bursts, the car will sway suddenly, violently shuddering.
In both these situations, especially at high speeds the best thing you can do is to AVOID BRAKING. In fact, in some cases, expert drivers recommend pressing the accelerator slightly to compensate for the sudden braking effect of a burst tyre (the sudden loss of pressure acts as if the brake has been slammed on that wheel alone and it tries to pull the vehicle sideways).
The most important thing is to maintain steering control, by holding on tightly to the steering wheel and gently steering the vehicle in the opposite direction from which it’s pulling to maintain control. Only after you’ve got full steering control, should you gently slow down, first by decelerating and then gently braking once you are at slow speeds. Also read: 10 tips to survive Indian highways
A front tyre burst is more likely to cause loss of steering control, and you need to fight with the wheel to regain control. A rear wheel blowout will tend to drag the car to one side from the rear, but is generally easier to control than a front wheel blow out.
If you are driving a vehicle with a high centre of gravity like an SUV or a van, be sure to get absolute steering control before even considering braking as they can tip over quite easily, due to the high sideways force created.
Pull over to the side of the road slowly – drive a little on the rim if needed till you are safely out of harms way on the highway, put on your hazard lights and then assess the situation. Also read:10 tools to carry in your car at all times.
Preventing tyre blow outs
Checking your tyre pressure regularly is the safest way to prevent a tyre blow out. Once a week inspect the condition of your tyres to make sure there are no sidewall cracks, bulges or bald spots that could be trouble areas in a high speed run. When you drive at high speeds especially on concrete highways, the heat built up in the tyre increases its pressure and any weak spot on the tyre is a potential blowout point. Also read: What are the causes of frequent punctures
Take breaks every 2 hours or so to let the tyres cool – don’t drive at high speed for too long. Maintain the correct tyre pressure. Under-inflating a tyre causes the tyre to flex more, and that weakens the side walls while building up heat. Over inflating a tyre causes the pressure to build up faster due to heat. Keep the optimum recommended pressure. Also read: 10 weekly maintenance checks for your car
Tubeless tyres are less prone to tyre blow outs because they run cooler than tube type tyres. In a tube type tyre there is some friction between the tube and the tyre wall which causes heat build up faster. Tube type tyres also lose air instantly in cases of a nail puncturing it, while tubeless tyres lose air gradually as the nail acts as a plug temporarily. Switch to tubeless tyres if you don’t already have them. Also read: What kind of tyres to choose for your car