How to control your car during a Puncture or Tyre Blowout

A puncture while driving can be a frightening experience particularly at speed. A catastrophic tyre failure (blowout) can be extremely dangerous, how you deal with this emergency and knowing the proper response can sometimes mean the difference between life-and-death.

Instinct plays a crucial role when we are faced with emergencies. Human being are programmed to react to danger by either placing themselves out of harms way or by stopping the activity that is putting us in danger. In a driving emergency our instinct is to do the things that we are programmed to do. For example, if the car is swerving to the right our instinct is to abruptly turn the steering wheel to the left. If we feel the car is going out of control, our instinct is to slam on the brakes and take our foot of the accelerator. To a large extent, instinct in an emergency can either save your life or cause death or serious injury.

Our advice on controlling your car in a tyre blowout emergency will to a certain degree go against your natural instinct, so please take a little time to read our advice which hopefully will prove useful if you suffer a puncture or blowout.

What is a Puncture while Driving?
A puncture is a slow deflation of a tyre where the air is released slowly from a small hole, faulty valve or a small cut in a tyre. In most circumstances where you suffer a normal puncture, if you follow the advice for a blowout, you should be able to bring your car to a smooth controlled stop with relative ease.

What is a Blowout while Driving?
A blowout is where all the air is released immediately from a tyre usually due to a catastrophic collapse of the Tyres integrity. There can be many reasons for such a collapse, but common ones are due to under inflation, or damage sustained by kerbing or hitting an obstacle in the road. 

Common signs of a puncture while driving

Wheel shudder:
This is where you feel a shuddering effect through the steering wheel or a wobbling feeling from the car.

Steering Heavy:
The car suddenly becomes difficult to steer, this is normally associated with a slow tyre deflation (slow puncture).

Car steers to the left or Right:
Medium tyre deflation, car feels as if it is being pulled to the left or right.

Car violently swerves to the left or right:
This is normally associated with a blow out at speed, where the tyre bursts or disintegrates on puncture.

What to do in the event of a Blowout at Speed

  1. As in any emergency the key is to try to stay calm and to react in the correct manner for the circumstances you find yourself in.
  2. Your car relies on four rather small rubber contact areas to stay on the surface of the road. When you lose a tire, you've not only lost up to 25 percent of your connection to the road, you have also altered the way the vehicle will handle. 
  3. A puncture can lead to loss of stability and directional control; make sure you do not force the car to go in the direction you want by making any sudden turn of the steering wheel.
  4. The most important thing is to maintain or regain control of your vehicle. You want to keep it on the road, pointed in the right direction, and to avoid swerving into other traffic or off the road. 
  5. Grip the steering wheel with both hands and concentrate on the road ahead whilst looking in your mirrors to ascertain a safe escape route.
  6. How you react in the first few seconds of a puncture are crucial. Do not take your foot off the accelerator, as rapidly releasing the accelerator causes the vehicle to transfer more of its weight from the rear tires to the front tires. 
  7. If you feel the car swerve, instead of taking your foot off the accelerator, tap it gently to either maintain your current speed or to increase it very slightly. We know that this is against your natural instinct but along with RoadDriver, Michelin believe that this action for the first few seconds of a puncture will help maintain or regain control of your car. 
  8. Avoid the temptation to slam on the brakes, sudden braking on a front punctured tyre will increase the weight and forward motion of the vehicle on to the flat tire or worse still the bare wheel rim. This action will either cause the vehicle to swerve in the direction of the punctured tyre or cause the rim to dig into the tarmac which could flip the car. 
  9. In a rear tire puncture, sudden or heavy braking will increase the drag factor and will throw the vehicle off balance, making steering difficult and is likely to make the car swerve or fishtail out of control which can result in a 360 degree spin.  
  10. If possible indicate left and try to gently steer the car in a steady direction towards the side of the road. 
  11. Your aim is to try to bring your car to a controlled stop either in a safe area of the road or on the motorway emergency hard shoulder.
  12. Once you have your car under control: In an automatic car ease your foot of the accelerator and let the engine gear down your speed to a slow manageable and controlled stop.
  13. Once you have your car under control: In a manual car ease of the accelerator and if circumstances allow, change down gears in a slow deliberate manner which will slow your car to manageable and controlled stop.
  14. When the car has come to a safe stop, apply the handbrake and switch on your hazard warning lights.
  15. At this point follow our (Tips and Advice Article No 33) How to change a punctured tyre.

How to control your car during a Puncture or Tyre Blowout

Tips and Advice - Article No.37 RoadDriver 2010

How to control your car during a Puncture or Tyre BlowoutHow to control your car during a Puncture or Tyre BlowoutHow to control your car during a Puncture or Tyre Blowout

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