Originally published on wikihow.com
There isn’t a doubt that a tire blowout ranks the highest on any highway driver’s list of fears. With good reason, as a tire burst could lead to a complete loss of car control. With SUVs and MUVs, there is the possibility of a flip-over, too. A blowout is dangerous no matter how good a driver you are or how safe your car is.
The good news is, with tire technology continually improving, blowouts are becoming an infrequent occurrence. Still, they do happen and it’s best that you know what to do if you suffer one.
Start with maintaining a safe driving speed; there are just no two sides to this. The lower your speed, the higher your chance of survival. A blowout at 80–90 km/h (50–56 mph) will be far less dramatic than one at 140–150 km/h (87–93 mph). Indeed, if you survive a tire burst at 150 km/h (93 mph), consider it a gift of God.
Do not slam on the brake pedal. Of course, this is easier said than done, as our brains are hardwired to instinctively jam the brake pedal in an emergency. Hard braking is actually the worst thing you can do as it will further imbalance the vehicle and throw it out of control.
Don’t abruptly take your foot off the accelerator. Do it slowly and gradually. In fact, Michelin recommends that you maintain accelerator input momentarily, before releasing it slowly. The deceleration force from a blown tire is so strong that your car will anyway slow down rapidly. If you have engaged cruise control, be sure to disengage it immediately.
Try your best to keep the vehicle pointed straight. Cornering or turning with a blown tire will greatly upset the car’s composure. If your car is pulling to one side, you might need to pull the steering in the opposite direction to keep it going straight. This is critical, else you risk drifting into the road divider or worse still, the opposite lane.
Do not attempt to over-correct. The key is to maintain the vehicle’s stability. A sharp yank of the steering wheel can result in a rollover. Even when you have gained control and are slowly moving to a safe parking spot, do so with the mildest steering inputs possible.
Allow the vehicle to gradually coast to a stop. Use engine braking if necessary. Lightly engage the brakes only when your car has decelerated to a slow speed. Use the turn indicators and pull over safely off the road. Drive on the bare metal wheel if you have to, but do not stop in the middle of the road as you run the risk of getting rear-ended by a speeding car. Remember to activate your hazard lights when stopped.
- If your car pulls to the left or right side and the steering has gotten heavier, either of the front tires has burst. The direction that the car pulls in is the side of the damaged tire. On the other hand, if your car weaves, a rear tire has blown. Again, don’t brake. It can lead to your car fishtailing.
- If you drive an SUV or MUV, the probability of a rollover is extremely high. SUVs also have a greater chance of losing stability and steering control. Maintaining a conservative cruising speed is recommended.
- Always drive with both hands on the steering wheel. It’s difficult to control the car in an emergency situation if you have only one hand on the wheel (and the other holding a coffee cup).
- Above all, try to remain as calm as possible. You shouldn’t panic and you certainly shouldn’t overreact. In most cases, but not always, a tire burst is accompanied by a blast sound or a loud pop.
- The situation worsens if the roads are wet. It’s best to maintain a lower driving speed in the monsoons. On the flip side, the odds of an overheating tire are also lesser in rain or cold weather.
- Understand that your car will behave very differently with a blown tire. Effectively, the vehicle now has only 3 contact patches with the road (instead of 4). Any sharp inputs (steering, brake, accelerator) must be avoided.
- Rubber parts or a broken wheel could have damaged other components of your car. Have a mechanic thoroughly check your car before fitting the spare wheel and driving away. If the extent of damage is severe, call for a tow truck. Most car manufacturers & expressways offer roadside assistance now.