In your car on the way home from work, you noticed that your front tire looked a little flatter than the others. However, when you turned your car on, your tire pressure gauge didn’t register a problem. Since the gauge seemed fine, you decided not to worry about it—unfortunately, that was a big mistake.
After getting on the highway, everything seemed fine until you hit the two-mile marker for your exit. Then out of nowhere, you heard a large explosion and your car lost control. You were swaying in and out of traffic but managed to steer the car toward the shoulder. Just as you regained control, the car behind you plowed into your rear bumper and sent you spinning—once again—out of control.
When the world stopped twirling, and you managed to focus, you realized that you and your car were upside down in a ditch. With the help of a few kind motorists, you were able to climb out of your door and examine the damage. Besides the fact that your entire vehicle was now smashed and dented, the front tire (the one that was slightly deflated) was completely blown out.
Could the entire reason for the crash have been a blown tire? Why didn’t the gauge recognize it?
Risks of an Underinflated Tire and the Importance of a Good Gauge
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), unmonitored tire pressure problems result in over 75,000 crashes and an estimated 400 annual deaths. What makes these numbers so extreme is that most drivers don’t take tire safety that seriously—thinking that the monitoring systems will tell them when to check the tires, and yearly maintenance should be enough to avoid any serious tire issues. Unfortunately, they’re wrong.
Although proper vehicle maintenance as a whole is important, a recent Department of Transportation report entitled, “Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems; Controls and Displays,” outlines that proper tire maintenance, monitoring, and inflation is key to safe and stable driving. Without proper monitoring tires can gradually become deflated and worn, increasing your risks for an accident.
As a result of these dangers, many cars have started to include tire gauges inside the vehicles to help monitor pressure changes. Although this is a good idea, it isn’t enough—especially since these gauges have been known to fail. This is why it is important to routinely check your tire’s pressure manually (especially in colder months as weather affects pressure), as well as keep an eye on the internal gauges for any discrepancies. Otherwise, if one or more of your tires’ pressures decrease by 25 percent or more and you’re unaware of the deflation, you run the risk of the following problems:
- Flat tires. When a tire’s air pressure becomes too low, the tire’s structure becomes compromised. Since there is not enough pressure within the tube to push against outer forces (the road), it will bend and succumb to those forces. Therefore, instead of a tire pushing against the road in order to keep your vehicle stable, it will flatten against the road, causing stability, braking, and steering problems.
- Steering issues. When tires lose air pressure, they can no longer keep their shape, resulting in uneven wear, increased surface area contact with the road, and increased steering difficulty. When one tire is flat or bent because of low pressure, the other three tires must attempt to compensate. This compensation causes the vehicle to jerk and unpredictably veer toward the unbalanced compromised side, making it extremely difficult to compensate with steering.
- Braking problems. Since flat tires have more surface area on the road, as well as bend more easily, braking can be diminished. When you engage your brakes, they are supposed to grasp the wheel in order to slow the rotation. However, more pressure will have to be applied on a flat tire, since the tire itself is “softer.”
- Heat risks. Underinflated tires allow for rapid heat buildup inside the rubber tube. Although tires can function with some heat, excessive buildup can compromise the integrity of the rubber and increase the chance of a tear occurring. If a hole forms, the remaining pressure within the tire could force its way out causing an explosion or blowout.
- Blowouts. An underinflated tire can easily blowout, or cause a tear in the tire that results in rapid air loss—and the potential explosion of the tire itself. A blowout can have a dramatic effect on steering, which in a front tire can cause your car to veer into another lane or off the road. A rear-tire blowout can cause your car to spin or rollover.
- Shoulder accidents. If you’re lucky enough to be able to control your car with a flat tire or after a blowout, you will still need to be able to change the tire in order to continue your travels. This means that you’ll have to pull to the side of the road or shoulder and either wait for help, or change the tire yourself. Unfortunately, hundreds of shoulder accidents and deaths occur each year due to poor shoulder visibility.
Deflated Safety Concerns, Questions and Opinions
Given the potential risks involved, do you think tire manufacturers and pressure gauge makers should be held at a higher standard? Although it isn’t necessarily their fault that the average motorist doesn’t pay attention to tire safety, should they still be held responsible for faulty products? Let us know your thoughts by leaving your opinions, concerns and questions in the comment section.
Need more information on tire safety, recall notices, or faulty injury claims? Contact us today for a free consultation and review. We’ll be happy to discuss your claim without judgment, and give you the support you need following an accident. Call today to see how we can stabilize your future without the need to blow hot air.