We’ve all seen them on the highways and interstates: strips of rubber left on the road when a transfer truck has had a tire failure, usually referred to as a “blowout.” These can be dangerous and the cause of accidents. However, the blowout itself, be it on a truck or a car, can also be one of the most common causes of car wrecks. These accidents can happen to anyone. You don’t need to be a distracted driver or traveling in horrible weather; these tire failures can cause even some of the most seasoned drivers to veer out of their lane and into another vehicle. That is why it is so important to make sure that your tires (and the rest of your vehicle) are in top condition. Here are some of the warning signs of defective tires and what you should look out for as you get out on the road.
There are several things that you need to look for on your tires when it comes to blowout warning signs. It’s a good idea to check your tires regularly, once a week if possible, once a month at least. So what should you be on the lookout for? Here are a few things:
- Sidewalls—Check these out to make sure that there are no cuts or cracks in them. These can be caused by road debris or gouges from the concrete. Also, look for bulges or blisters/bubbles in the sidewall as these spots definitely mean that the tire should be replaced.
- Tread—As you drive your car, the tread on the tires will naturally wear down. What you absolutely don’t want to do is drive a car with “bald” tires that are so worn that they have no traction with the road. If the tread is worn down in some spots and not in others, then you either have not got the tire properly inflated or you have an alignment problem that needs to be corrected. If the tread is below the minimum allowable tread depth (1/16 of an inch), then you need to invest in a new set of tires. You can easily check this using the penny test; place a penny into the groove of the tire (put President Lincoln’s head toward the tire). If you see the top of his head, then your tire tread is too worn out.
- Underinflation—Sometimes, the problem comes because the tire is not properly inflated. This doesn’t mean that the tire necessarily has a leak or hole in it. Air can slowly leak out through the rubber or valves. In addition, extreme temperature changes, especially at season changes, can cause the tire to deflate slightly because of the change in the air pressure. If this is allowed to happen over time, it can seriously damage the tire and lead to a blowout. To fix this, invest in a tire pressure gauge (probably less than $5) and check the pressure once a month. If it is low, be sure to “top it off” to the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure.
- Vibration—Sometimes, a physical evaluation of the tires will not suffice. You also need to feel how the tires are performing. This is relatively simple; if you feel the tires vibrating a lot causing the car to shake or shimmy, then your wheel may not be properly balanced or aligned. It can also be a signal that the tire is defective. Get this checked out as soon as possible.
Sometimes, you can do all of the maintenance and preemptive inspections yet still wind up with a blowout because the tires were defective to begin with. Almost every major manufacturer of tires has had a recall at some point because of defective tires. In fact, Firestone recalled over 6 million tires in 2000 because of links to possibly fatal SUV crashes. Unfortunately, there is not an easy way to tell if you have a defective tire until it is too late. When you are driving at a high rate of speed and experience a blowout, the tire pieces may actually wrap around the car’s wheel. This will cause the driver to lose control and veer into another lane of traffic, possibly leading to a high-speed collision. In other cases, the car may flip over and roll. Such an accident can lead to serious injury including brain injury or even death. If you feel that you have been injured by a defective tire or the negligence of another driver, then it is important to review your options with a knowledgeable attorney. Wolf & Pravato are here to offer a consultation so that they can apprise you of your legal rights in such a situation.