Summer is the season of the blow-out. Temperatures rise, pavement heats up and tire pressure builds. Add to that highway speeds, lots of turns and/or frequent braking, and you may just push your tire beyond its heat limits (especially if it is old, very worn or has dry rot). Most people think that winter is the most dangerous season for driving; the snow and ice that most of the country deals with makes driving hazardous and safe tires a necessity; but ask any trucker about summer driving, and you’ll find that extreme heat can be just as scary. So, a few tips for driving in the summer heat:
1. Check your tire pressure regularly. Check them cold and make sure they match up with your vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. As the temperature rises, so will your tire pressure, so make sure you have an accurate read before they warm up. Under-inflated tires heat up faster and increase your risk of blow-outs because more rubber is meeting the road and causing more friction (thus heat), so traveling with under-inflated tires during a heat wave is asking for trouble. And remember: Your TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) won’t alert you that your pressure is low until the tire is about 25% under what it should be. That’s a lot. Better safe than sorry, folks.
If you have nitrogen fill in your tires, the heat isn’t as much of an issue, but monthly checks are still recommended. Nitrogen fill tends to run cooler and keep the pressure more uniform during temperature fluctuations, so switching your tires from your standard-air fill to nitrogen is worth checking into. Any of our RNR tire experts can tell you more about nitrogen and get you all set up and switched over–just ask!
2. Check for cracks, bulges and worn out treads. If your tire is already compromised, adding extreme heat to the equation is a bad idea. It’s not just the air temperature that’s a concern either, it’s the pavement, which sits all day in the hot sun. Add ambient temperature to pavement temperature to the friction of a tire going 65 mph or braking a lot and you can see how being on top of your tire’s health is important.
Now, what do you do if your best efforts fail and your tire blows out while you’re driving? First–don’t panic. This is so much easier said than done, but it’s THE MOST important thing you can do to help yourself in this situation. Say you’re cruising along the highway at 65, and a tire blows on the left side of your car (front or back). You’ll hear the noise, for sure, but you’ll also feel an immediate pull to the left. Your initial panicked reaction will probably be to slam on the brakes and steer right to straighten yourself out, but don’t! This action will more than likely turn you and your vehicle into a giant, uncontrolled projectile.
Keep your wits about you and don’t brake. Keep your foot on the gas and gently steer in the direction of the skid; effectively, drive through the blow out. Ease off the gas when the car has straightened out. Let your speed decrease slowly, don’t try to brake hard; and when you’ve slowed enough, pull over to the side of the road. You might be tempted to flip your hazards on during some of this, but fight the urge. More than likely, that action will cause you to take your eyes off the road, and that’s not a good idea at this point. When you’ve safely pulled over and stopped, go for those hazard lights.
Summer can be a tricky time to be on the road. Extreme heat is tough on a vehicle’s tires but on other parts as well. Check out this blog post from a few weeks ago for tips on getting your car summer ready. We know that lots of folks are hitting the road during the summer months for vacations, so take a few extra minutes to make sure your tires are safe and ready to go (as well as the rest of your vehicle). You’re not just doing yourself a favor; you’re doing a favor for everyone else on the road with you. Be safe!