Virginia Auto Service

What Causes a Tire Blowout – And How to Prevent It

The heat is on! Temperatures are rising, as summer approaches. The heat of summer results in asphalt temperatures skyrocketing- which increases the risk of a tire blowout. Read on and we’ll explain the main causes of tire blowouts- and how you can prevent them. (Stay tuned for part two, How to Safely Handle a Tire Blowout)

Tire blowout season begins in the middle of May and runs through early October. The reason for this is simple. It is during this timeframe that the temperatures outside are the hottest, and motorists are taking longer road trips in heavily loaded vehicles. It is this combination that can push a damaged or neglected tire past its breaking point. Even if you have been lucky enough to avoid tire problems, you have likely seen “road gators” (treads of blown tires) littering the highways throughout this time frame. Though blowouts are most common during these months, they can happen any time of year, especially in warmer climates like Phoenix, Arizona.

These are the most common causes of tire blowouts, and how you can prevent them:

  1. Underinflation- This is the number one tire killer, and something so easy to remedy. Air is what allows the tire to carry the weight of your vehicle and all of its cargo. The internal parts of the tire- fabric, rubber, composites, and steel- flex beyond their limits when the tire is improperly inflated. They will weaken, over-flex, and eventually fail, which results in a blowout. The recommended tire pressure for your vehicle can be found in your owner’s manual or on the driver’s side door jamb. Most vehicles manufactured in 2007 and newer are equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), however, you shouldn’t rely solely on the system. The system issues an alert only when a tire is significantly underinflated. Regardless of what your TPMS says, you should check your tire pressure at least once a month, maybe twice from May-October.
  2. Worn tires. The heat of the roads in the summer will easily rip away at the remaining tread, resulting in a blown tire. Today’s tires almost always have a wear bar built into the grooves. If the wear bar is even with the tread of your tires, they need to be replaced. Another way to tell is the penny test. Basically, you place a penny head down between the tread. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, then the tread is dangerously low and you need a new tire.
  3. Too much weight. Overloading your vehicle and applying too much weight to the tires can also critically damage them. When hauling a heavy load, you may need to reconsider the number of passengers along for the ride or if you need to carry a lot of passengers you may need to limit the amount of cargo you bring on board. You can find your vehicle’s Gross Vehicular Weight Rating in the same places as the recommended tire pressure. The maximum recommended weight your tires can carry is based on tires that are properly inflated. If they are underinflated, the number would drop significantly.
  4. Potholes and other road hazards. Slamming into a pothole, driveway lip, or other road hazards are another way to injure your tire leaving it prone to a blowout. These impacts can pinch the internals of the tire between the wheel and the object. If the impact is hard enough, it can even fray or cut the tires internals. Sometimes, the damage is immediately apparent, and other times it could take days, weeks, or even months for the damage to become apparent. Which leads us to the next potential cause of a blowout.
  5. Slow death. It is not uncommon for a tire to suffer damage that causes its demise long before it fails. Often motorists neglect to check their tire pressure or fail to realize they have a slow leak. When summer vacation comes along they will load their family into the car and head off for a fun-filled vacation. The combination of the heavy vehicle load, the high summer temperature, and highway speeds add stress to the already failing tire and it blows. Monthly or bimonthly tire checks can prevent such a situation.

We hope you find this quick guide to preventing a tire blowout helpful. Watch for our next blog in which we will discuss how to handle a blowout situation safely. For high-quality auto repair services, give the experts at Virginia Auto Service a try. Call (602) 266-0200 or schedule an appointment online today for quality care and information to help keep your vehicle performing at its best.

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