Tire Blowout

It's pretty much the driver's universal nightmare: a tire blowout at 65 mph on a crowded freeway. The tire, say, the front-left, ruptures and rapidly starts disintegrating, while pulling your vehicle to that side. What do you do? How do you react? Perhaps, instinctively, you take your foot off the accelerator (isn't that what you've done during a skid?) and pull the steering wheel hard to the right as you push down hard on the brakes.

This is an instance, it turns out, where our instinctive responses -- releasing the accelerator and slamming the brakes -- are the two most dangerous things you can do, and that's why tire blowouts caused 535 traffic fatalities last year. The goal, experts say, is to "drive through" the blowout, maintaining control by keeping the wheels turning at a safely diminishing speed.

The key is to control the panic reaction which could lead you to react instinctively.

What To Do:

  • Instead, gradually release your foot from the gas pedal and grip the steering wheel firmly
  • Counter steer away from the side of the blowout and avoid sudden jerks of the steering wheel.
  • The overall goal is to keep the vehicle balanced and controllable.
  • Let it slow down on its own while you guide it off the road. In other words, coast!
  • If necessary, even give it a little gas to overcome the drag on one side of the vehicle.

Bottom Line:

Get off the road as soon as possible, but only as soon as safely possible. Ultimately, staying calm (and perhaps controlling some of your instincts) is the best way to deal with a blowout. The best way to prevent one in the first place is to keep your tires properly inflated, so check your tire pressures monthly. If you have a sudden blowout on the road, remember to "drive through" it.