What to do when your tyre bursts at high speed

Anyone who has ever experienced the shock of a burst tyre while travelling at a relatively high speed, will relate to this article and, with our unacceptably high road accident fatalities over the festive season, this is one article to take note of.  Last year November, a tyre burst was cited as the possible cause of the horrific Limpopo accident between a Toyota SUV and a 22-seater bus in which 17 people were killed on the N1.

There are several reasons a tyre can burst, says Les Richardson, Deputy Chairman of the Tyres Equipment Parts Association (TEPA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI). “The five most common reasons are either an unattended puncture; worn or old tyres which overheat; sudden loss of tyre pressure which causes the tyre to burst or fail; impact damage from potholes etc and finally incorrect pressure having been applied to your tyres,” says Richardson.

Sometimes you are lucky enough to detect a fault early enough and be able to stop and fix it, but this is not always the case. “A burst tyre when travelling over 100km/h can be a frightening experience and a dangerous risk to the driver, passengers and surrounding cars,” he says.

In the unfortunate instance your tyre does burst, Richardson relayed these six useful tips from SupaQuick on how to stop a car safely when this happens at speed. These are worth sharing and could definitely save many lives this festive season.

Step 1 – Watch your speed

The lower your speed the better chance you have of surviving this incident. Excessive speed combined with a blowout could quickly cause you to lose control of your vehicle so try your best to stick to the speed limit in general, especially if you’re already worried about your tyres. When a tyre explodes try to stay as calm as possible and hold the steering wheel firmly with both hands.

Step 2 –  Watch the brakes

It’s most important to keep your foot off the brakes and don’t push apply them initially at all. Most people’s natural instinct is to slam on brakes however this is the worst thing to do as it will throw the car off balance and could send you into a spin where the driver loses control of the vehicle completely.

Step 3: Do not release the accelerator suddenly

Ideally, you should begin to slow down but you must do this slowly. The deceleration force caused by the burst tyre will cause your car to slow down rapidly so it is best to maintain your speed and then gradually ease off.

Step 4 – try and keep your vehicle going straight

You need to focus on your steering to ensure that you continue travelling straight in order to avoid any collisions following the blowout. Your car will swerve in the direction of the blowout but you should be able to remain in control if you can gradually slow down. Remember the deceleration force caused by the burst tyre will cause your car to slow down rapidly so it is best to maintain your speed and then gradually ease off the accelerator.

Step 5: Do not over correct

When you first feel the swerve of your car after the blowout, it may be tempting to panic and turn the steering wheel hard in the other direction. Unfortunately, this will only make the loss of control more likely. Rather do your best to keep it straight as detailed in the previous step.

Step 6: Let your vehicle coast to a stop

Let your vehicle come to a gradual stop, using engine braking if necessary. If your car has a manual transmission, gradually change to a lower gear BUT ONLY do so if you feel that the car is completely under control. If your car has an automatic transmission, stay in the Drive (D) gear and DO NOT change. The drag from the exploded tyre will slow you down.  Then once you have ensured it is safe for you and your car to stop, you can come to a complete standstill in as safe a place as possible and turn on your emergency or hazard lights. Generally when the speed drops to 50 km/h, you can gently apply the brakes until the car stops

“We urge all motorists to take these steps seriously and try and familiarise themselves with the various stages so that you and others on the road are more likely to survive a blowout unscathed. At the end of the day remember excessive speed is the number one danger on the road. It is so important to stick to the speed limit in case of any unforeseen emergencies and please check your tyres and tyre pressure regularly,” concludes Les Richardson.

Les Richardson, Deputy Chairman of TEPA