‘Blowout’. It’s a funny word. Unarguably a noun, it means…
1a. A sudden rupture or bursting, as of car tyre.
1b. The hole made by such a rupture.
2. A sudden escape of a confined gas or liquid, as from a well.
3. Slang A large party or other social affair.
4. Informal A lopsided victory or thorough defeat.
Here, we are concerned with part 1a of the definition. Blowouts are less common than they used to be but the usual suspects cause them. These are under inflation, overloading, impact damage, structural damage or a big puncture.
You’ll notice that these factors have one thing in common. All cause or lead to a sudden loss of air pressure in the car tyre. The common denominator in any blowout is that it happens suddenly. The cause matters in that by taking care of your tyres means you can often avoid the risk of a blowout. Here, ‘taking care’ means keeping your tyres correctly inflated, and inspecting them frequently to look for cuts, bulges and other significant damage. Remember that a careful inspection should follow any known or suspected impact, such as with a kerb, road debris or a pothole.
Should the worst happen and one of your car tyres deflates quickly, your response can make the difference between a safe, controlled stop and a one-way trip into a ditch or worse.
Picture the scene. You’re driving along, minding your own business. Suddenly, you hear a tyre letting go. BANG…hiss…flap…flap…flap! Your natural reaction will probably be to hit the brakes and try to wrestle with the steering wheel, which will be suddenly pulling to one side. WRONG!…and it makes no difference whether your driving a sports coupe or a big luxury car. Your natural reaction is…well, natural but it can be very dangerous.
The trick is to first of all follow the well-known advice of Corporal Jones in ‘Dad’s Army’. Instead of panicking, briefly dab the accelerator, or at least don’t lift off it. Maintaining the car’s momentum will let you keep in the lane in which you were travelling when the blowout happened. You’ll have to apply counter steering to fight the car’s natural tendency to veer off line but you’ll find that you can still follow a reasonably straight track and keep the car stable. Then, gently ease off the accelerator and let the car slow down gently.
At this point, it’s a great idea to activate your car’s hazard lights. Your car should still be under control but you’ll have to stop pretty soon and the hazards will tell other drivers that not all is well. Ignore the noise and debris emanating from your wrecked car tyre. You can then pull over to the side of the road as soon as you find a safe place to stop. Under the circumstances, it’s OK to drive on for a short distance; the failed car tyre will be history anyway.
Finally, it’s no good heaving a sigh of relief at having survived a blowout, only to be killed by a passing truck while trying to replace the wrecked car tyre. Never attempt to change a tyre on a busy road. Call out your breakdown provider if you can’t reach a safe, quiet place to fit the spare wheel.