flat tire

How To Safely Handle A Tire Blowout

It’s one of the most unexpected—and unnerving—driving experiences: a tire blowout. And something as small as a nail in the road can be the cause.

“It happens any time the air in the tire escapes at a rapid speed,” says James Solomon, a defensive driving expert with the National Safety Council (NSC). According to the NSC, the top five causes of tire blowouts are under-inflation, overload, uneven tread wear, damage and defects.

Fortunately, tire blowouts seem to be on the downswing since the implementation of tire pressure monitoring systems, says Solomon. Still, he cautions, the unexpected event could occur, so it’s important for drivers to understand the possible causes and the proper responses, as well as the steps to take to help prevent a tire blowout.

What To Do

broken down car“A blowout is pretty obvious,” says Solomon. “You’ll hear a pop, and one side of your car will drop down.” If it’s a front tire, you’ll hear a flapping sound, and the steering wheel could jerk from your hands. A back tire may be less dramatic, but both situations should be handled the same.

“The last thing you want to do is jam on the brakes, especially in traffic,” says Solomon, even though that may be your gut reaction. The goal is to gain control of the vehicle as it continues to move and to get it away from traffic. He recommends signaling for a lane change and easing your foot off the gas pedal while steering to the side of the road as quickly and as smoothly as you can.

Turn on your hazards, and once the car is safely off the road, call for assistance. If you have the GEICO Mobile app, you can use it to request Emergency Roadside Service. If you’re fixing the flat yourself, make sure you’re a safe distance from traffic.

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How To Prevent It

man checking tire treadThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that about 11,000 tire-related accidents happen every year, so tire upkeep is essential. A good first step is to check tire pressure, using a tire gauge, just as often as you check your oil or washer fluid—preferably once a month, advises Solomon. “If the PSI (pounds per square inch) is off by more than two pounds, fix it.” You can find the correct pressure for a tire in your owner’s manual or on the sticker inside the driver’s side door frame. And it never hurts to do a visual check before you get in the car, says Solomon. “If one tire looks lower than the others, it probably is.”

NHTSA also recommends that you check tread wear every month using a simple penny test. Place the coin headfirst into the groove; if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace the tire.

Another smart strategy? Add Emergency Roadside Service to your GEICO car insurance policy for just pennies a day per vehicle. Plus, you can request roadside help in as little as two minutes when you use the GEICO Mobile app. Be prepared and download it today!

Read More: 5 Hi-Tech Safety Features To Look For In A New Car

By Sue Carpenter

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    Leave a comment

  1. Eva Mae Musgrave says,

    I have a Mercedes and I don’t have an extra tire as they say I can drive 50 miles on a flat tire . You should include this in your info.

  2. EJT says,

    My truck seems to always have a different psi in each tire, each month when I get my diagnostic report from on star it always indicates and shows that the tire pressure in each tire is different, whereas the psi in all four is supposed to be 35psi.

  3. DW says,

    Good article. I might add using a quarter, rather than a penny, gives an extra measure of safety. Even then, if you’re close to Washington’s head, you won’t stop as quickly in the rain (an extra 40 feet at 50mph)! That could be critical…

  4. Johnnie Ainsley says,

    One of my continuing bad experiences involves the interstate on-ramp. As I accelerate to merge with traffic, the driver of the car behind me will cross the white line, go around me, and assume the right lane of traffic in front of me. This causes me to have to brake to avoid a side collision and results in a chain reaction of braking cars on the on-ramp behind me.

  5. Clavon Moore says,

    That was very refreshing, it”s been a while since I’ve read up on the simple things of driving !!!

  6. Tony Fleming says,

    Hints are nice, but sometimes the damaged is more extensive. This morning I was drifting to pull off area on the side of the road I66, didn’t notice how steep the drop off was prior to pull off area, I blew two tires, damaged two rims which are unrepairable and must be replaced, plus the car hit the ground hard as each tire burst. Should be checked to ensure no damage to tire rods or undercarriage is this a covered accident. Emergency crew changed tire to spare, but I had to drive back stopping to fill other tire continuously until reachjng home.

  7. Sylvia Kilman says,

    Thank you for reminders on checking your fluids your tires your gas it’s helpful especially in Hot Months

  8. Elizabeth Dannert says,

    Thank you for these hints they were very helpful. I have 16 year old that I’m teaching how to drive so this was very useful.

  9. seth says,

    Your instructions are vague and useless. Front vs rear-drive and front vs rear tire require different driving skills to be called upon. And throwing in different transmission types also alters things, with a manual tranny offering the better solutions. Do not treat the public like a bunch of idiots. Or perhaps the publisher simply does not know the answer here.

    • D Bean says,

      Hi Seth, seems like you are having a bad day. Sorry about that.
      However, I find the instructions fairly useful and definitely more educational than your criticism. I assume that the articles were meant to be short and easy to read. You can always google to find specific answers to your specific needs. Again, no need to get upset.

  10. Tami W DeBerry says,

    I recently had a tire blow out. Called roadside assistance once I was safely on the side of the road. They said it would be 90 minutes. It was too hot to wait 90 minutes. I called some men from my job. The came and put the donut on in less than 30 minutes. I canceled roadside assistance. Don’t get me wrong. I have had to use roadside assistance lots of times for my son’s car. He had no choice but to wait. Waiting in the heat for 90 minutes is not an option for me. I cannot take the heat. I’ll get sick. I have no problems with geico. Never have. Just can’t wait in the SC heat for 90 minutes.. I’ll need EMS to transport me to the ER if that happens…