Losing a tire while driving is a nightmare for any driver. Whether you have a sudden puncture or a complete blowout, the loss of control under already stressful driving conditions can test even the most skilled drivers. Whether you have a complete blowout or just a nasty puncture, here are some things you need to know to help you stay safe when you lose a tire on the road.
Diagnosing the problem
Believe it or not, getting a flat tire isn't always as dramatic as it looks in the movies. If you have a sudden puncture or blowout, there can be a loud noise and lots of vibration, but if you get a smaller puncture or slow leak, you may only notice a little sluggishness when you try to accelerate or an odd thumping sound where the limp rubber makes excessive contact with the road. If you notice that something is just not quite right, pull over somewhere safe and take a look at all four tires.
If you can't tell by looking at your tires whether one is going flat, check the pressure using a tire pressure gauge. It's a good idea to keep a tire pressure gauge in your car so you can check the tires individually to make sure they have enough air in them for safe driving. If you're not sure how much pressure should be in the tires, you can check the sticker on the driver-side doorjamb that indicates what the ideal pressure should be for your car.
If you have a blowout
Having a tire blow out on you while driving can be downright terrifying, especially if you aren't prepared for it. Not sure what a blowout feels like? You may hear a 'boom' or popping sound, followed by the loose rubber flapping against the road. Usually, the car will slow down, then begin to pull to the left or right, depending on which side the blowout occurred.
The most important thing to do when you think you've had a blowout is to stay calm. Avoid braking, but remove your foot from the accelerator and let the car slow down naturally. Pull over to the side of the road once you've slowed down enough to do so safely, and keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.
If your car tire is just a little flat, you might be able to drive with it long enough to get to a service station and have it repaired or replaced. However, if you have a blowout, you'll need to replace the tire before attempting to drive anywhere. Be sure to turn on your hazard lights so other cars will be aware of your presence, and make sure you keep a reliable spare in the car at all times.
It's a good idea to learn how to change a car tire before you actually need to use the knowledge. This will make it a little less stressful when you have a tire emergency, especially if you can't get any help. Be sure to only use the spare tire until you can get to a service station for a proper replacement. Most spares aren't meant to be driven over long distances, and you shouldn't drive with one on your car any longer than you have to. Many spares are narrower and thinner than regular tires, and this size difference can put a strain on your car's structure.
Run-flat tires are becoming more common, especially on newer-model cars. These can help save you the inconvenience of having to change a flat tire by the side of the road, but they aren't as widely available as standard spare or regular tires. If you do have run-flat tires on your car, it can help make the car more stable during a blowout, but ironically, these types of tires are also more likely to experience a blowout, according to a study by J.D. Power.
Whichever type of tire you have on your car, and regardless of the type of flat tire that you experience, preparation is key to getting through the situation with as little stress as possible. Know how to react and how to get your tire repaired before you ever need to use the knowledge for a safer driving experience. For more information, you may want to contact a local tire store like Jensen Tire & Auto.