Flat Tires and Tire Blowouts
Getting a flat tire or blowout while driving can be a frightening experience, especially if you are driving at high speed on a highway.
Sometimes a punctured tire will lose its pressure slowly, giving you time to handle the situation. Other times there is a sudden and immediate loss of pressure where the tire is quickly destroyed, making it difficult to keep control of the vehicle. This is called a tire blowout.
In most driver’s manuals you will find a chapter on how to handle a tire blowout and some basic tire maintenance tips.
DMV questions about tire blowouts are not common, but show up in some states. It is, however, important that you understand how to prevent tire blowouts and how to act if it should happen to you. The more knowledge you have, the less reason to panic.
In 2019, a total of 612 people died on the road in tire-related crashes. Don’t let it happen to you.
Preventing Flat Tires and Blowouts
It is not possible to avoid all tire accidents, but the risk can be reduced, and the damage minimized by adjusting speed to road conditions and by having the tires properly inflated.
Proper tire maintenance, including rotation, balance, and alignment, can help your tires last longer, which will in turn save you money. This is also good for your fuel economy.
All modern cars have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) that monitors the air pressure and warns when a tire is significantly underinflated. Even if your car has TPMS, you should check the pressure manually on a regular basis. Get yourself a simple tool to check pressure and always check when tires are cold. When you adjust the pressure, you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
When the temperature drops, it becomes even more important to keep track of the pressure. If it is cold outside the air pressure in your tires decreases. If you are driving a long stretch from a warm are and up in the mountains, you may have to stop and adjust the pressure.
The air pressure should also be increased if you load your car more than usual. Heavy load and too low air pressure cause the tire side to bulge outwards, which makes it more prone to damage.
What is the Penny Test?
The penny test is a simple way of checking tire tread.
Place a penny into a tread groove with Lincoln’s head first. The tread should cover a part of Lincoln’s head. If it doesn’t and all of the head is visible, your tread depth is less than 2/32 of an inch and the tire is worn out and must be replaced.
Most states require at least 2/32-inch tread depth for your tires to be legal.
DMV Questions and Answers
Question 1: Which is a common cause of tire blowouts?
A) Driving too fast for conditions
B) Underinflated tires
C) Slow braking
ANSWER: B. Most tire blowouts are caused by incorrect tire pressure. If tire pressure is too low, then too much of the tire touches the ground. This increases friction and your tires will wear down quicker. There is also a great risk of overheating, which may cause a tire blowout. You can also blow out a tire if you carry too much weight or run over glass, a nail, or hit a curb. Read more .
Question 2: Which is most likely to happen if you have a front tire blowout?
A) The front of your car will pull towards the side of the blowout .
B) The rear of your car will sway away from the blowout.
C) Your car will sway from left to right.
ANSWER: A. If a front tire goes flat, your car will pull strongly in the direction of the flat tire, not in the opposite direction. This is why you should keep a steady grip of the steering wheel to control your car.
Question 3: If a tire blows out, which action should you avoid?
A) Easing up on the gas pedal
B) Turning on the emergency flashers
C) Pressing hard on the brake pedal
ANSWER: C. If a tire blows out, you should avoid slamming on your brakes. Instead, you should slow down gradually by taking your foot off the gas pedal. If you must use the brakes, you should brake lightly.
Question 4: In which direction should you steer if a tire blows out at high speed?
A) Straight ahead
B) Sharply to the left
C) Quickly to the side of the road
ANSWER: A. If a tire blows out at high speed, it is important to keep control of your vehicle. Hold the steering wheel tightly and keep the vehicle going straight. Take your foot off the gas pedal and let your car slow gradually.
Question 5: Which helps to prevent tire blowouts?
A) Making sure everyone in the car is buckled up
B) Keeping your windshield clean, inside and out
C) Regular checks of tire tread and tire pressure
ANSWER: C. Making sure your tires are in good condition is the best way to prevent tire blowouts. Check tire tread and tire pressure.
Question 6: If the center treads wear out quicker than the rest, your tires are:
ANSWER: B. One symptom of overinflated tires is the excessive wear on center treads. Overinflated tires give less traction and increases the risk of skidding and a tire blowout.
Question 7: What is the first thing you should do if a tire suddenly goes flat?
A) Hold the steering wheel tightly and steer straight
B) Immediately steer to the side of the road
C) Brake hard to keep control
ANSWER: A. Your first action is to grip the steering wheel tightly. With a flat tire your car is harder to control. Steering sharply to the side or slamming on the brakes are the worst possible actions you can take. Instead, you should steer straight and let the car slow to a safe speed before you use the brakes or pull off the roadway.
Question 8: Which tire pressure will give your car the best grip or traction?
A) Overinflated tires
B) Underinflated tires
C) Tires with correct pressure
ANSWER: C. No surprise here! Correct tire inflation gives your car the best grip. It also helps prevent excessive wear that is important for your safety on the highway. Properly inflated tires can also save you as much as 11 cents per gallon on fuel!
Question 9: Car tires are generally worn-out and unsafe if the remaining tread depth is:
A) Less than 2/32″
B) Less than 4/32″
C) Less than 8/32″
ANSWER: A. Most states and manufacturers have established a 2/32-inch minimum tread depth requirement. You should never drive a car if the remaining tread depth is less than 2/32″.
Question 10: What can you check with a penny test?
A) Your tires
B) Your brakes
C) Your headlights
ANSWER: A. The penny test is an easy way of checking the tread depth of your tires. Read more: What is Safe Tire Tread?
Key Points for Preventing Tire Blowouts
1 Check tread wear and tire pressure on a regular basis, and always before longer trips.
2 Keep tire pressure according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
3 Replace tires before they become worn out. In general, you must replace them if any part is below the 2/32-inch minimum tread depth requirement.
4 Don’t overload your car. Too much weight can damage your tires.
Read more about tire safety and maintenance: www.nhtsa.gov .
Key Points for Handling Tire Blowouts
1 Hold the steering wheel tightly with both hands.
2 Steer straight! Don’t jerk the steering wheel to the side or try to steer off the roadway until the car has slowed down.
3 Ease off the gas pedal and let the vehicle slow gradually.
4 Never slam on the brakes. Only use the brakes when your car has slowed and use them cautiously.
5 Pull off the roadway in a safe place and at low speed. Don’t drive on a damaged tire more than absolutely necessary.
6 If you have stopped on the shoulder, don’t forget to turn on your emergency flashers.
7 Do not attempt to change the damaged tire unless you are in a safe place away from travel lanes.
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