The fix on flats: how to handle a tire blowout

While the number of tire-related crashes has dropped dramatically since 2008, when all new vehicles were required to have automatic tire pressure monitoring systems, these numbers remain high. Tire blowouts and flats result in nearly 11,000 collisions and 200 fatalities each year.1

Why? Blowouts may be rare, but that may actually make them more dangerous when they do occur, because drivers are less prepared to handle this potentially serious situation.

When a tire blows out, it can take about ¼ second before your easy ride suddenly becomes a struggle to avoid an auto accident. How you react can make all the difference. Staying calm and in control of your vehicle is your best defense.

What a tire blowout sounds like
BANG! Whoosh! Flap… flap… flap. A loud boom reverberating through your car may be the first indication your tire has blown out. Or you may notice the sound of air quickly releasing, then the flop of the deflated tire hitting the road.

What a tire blowout feels like
When a tire explodes at speed, you will feel the vehicle slow down, then pull strongly to the left or right depending on which tire burst.2 With a front tire, you will feel the force mostly within the steering of your vehicle. With a rear tire, you will feel it more in the seat or body. Front or back, your response should be the same.

Driving through a tire blowout
According to the National Safety Council and other safety experts, there are some important tips to remember if you experience a tire blowout:

What to do if you have a tire blowout
  • Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel
  • Do not slam on the brakes
  • Let your car slow down gradually
  • Pull to the side of the road once you have slowed to a safe speed
  • Activate your emergency flashers3


After a tire blowout
Only exit your vehicle if you are certain you are safely off the road and out of harm’s way. Turn your emergency flashers on to alert other drivers, and put out reflective cones or triangles if you have them. If it is not safe to change the tire where you are, or you are unsure how, call for roadside assistance. Remember: a spare is only recommended for emergencies and should not be driven for long distances or at high speeds. Only use a spare to help you get somewhere you can get your tire replaced. Take the time to read your owner’s manual to learn where your spare tire and necessary tools are located. Your manual may also provide instructions on how to change a flat tire. It’s a good idea to be familiar with these procedures before you get stuck on the side of the road.

Preventing a tire blowout
The good news is that many tire blowouts are preventable. Most occur from May through October when the road surface is the hottest, resulting from an underinflated tire, excessively worn treads, or an overloaded vehicle. A simple, routine inspection of your tires to check for slow leaks, wear and tear, and proper pressure is important. Keeping your load light, within your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations (found in the same spot as the recommended tire pressure), can help too. Avoiding potholes is another good idea.4

Did you know?

  • Some tire pressure monitoring systems may only issue a warning once your tire pressure is well below that recommended by the manufacturer for optimal driving.
  • Extreme heat and high speed increase the likelihood of a tire blowout, particularly if tires are underinflated.
  • Gas mileage may improve by up to 3.3% when tires are properly inflated.5
Chris Hayes, Safety Specialist

Chris is a member of our Risk Control team specializing in vehicle safety, telematics and customer training.

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