Tyre blowouts are a much rarer occurrence than they ever used to be, thanks largely to the improved design and quality of modern tyres. When they do occur, however, they can be extremely dangerous and scary, especially when you are doing seventy miles per hour on a busy motorway.
How to prevent a blowout
The most common reason for a tyre blowout is that the tyre is under-inflated. This is particularly true with van tyres when the vehicle is heavily loaded, but also applies to cars and other vehicles.
Under-inflated tyres bulge out under the vehicle’s weight which means that when the vehicle is driven at speed, the tyre bounces up and down. This movement of the tyre wall generates a high level of friction which means that heat is also produced. This heat can weaken the tyre and result in a burst or in some cases, a tyre fire.
So to avoid blowouts, check that all of your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure and check the tyres for any existing bulges which may indicate a fault in the tyre wall. A bulging tyre should be replaced immediately.
Be sure not to over-inflate tyres as this can also result in bursting. Consult your handbook for the correct pressures and check them regularly; it really could be a matter of life and death.
What to do during a blowout
The most important thing to do is to stay calm and think straight. If the blowout occurs to a front tyre, be sure to hold your steering wheel very tightly and stabilise the car. The car will try to go to the direction of the blown tyre, which will take you either into other traffic or into the central reservation (if you are on the motorway or dual-carriageway). So, you need to grip the wheel tightly and correct the car as best you can.
Try to avoid braking if you can, but if you do need to brake, do so very gently. Hard braking can exaggerate the pull on the car to the right or left and could cause an accident, so brake gradually and be prepared to correct the car. If possible, let the car come to a natural stop and try to get over to the hard shoulder as fast as you can.
If it is the rear tyre that goes, again grip the wheel and correct any swerve. However, controlled braking is now a good idea. Braking shifts the weight of the vehicle to the front tyres, giving the driver control again. Braking should be gentle, as with front tyre blowouts, and some serious correction may well be needed.
If the car slides around too much whilst braking, come off the brake and change down a gear or two to slow the car. This can cause the car to lurch, so be prepared and make sure that there are no tailgaters behind you before using your gears to slow the car.