Tire safety: Why tires fail

When you're driving, one of the last things you want to see happen is a problem with your tires. Tires hold your vehicle steady, and if you lose even one, it could result in a crash.

For the most part, tires are safe as long as people follow their requirements, like filling them with a safe amount of air or using them only until the tread gets too low. Some tires fail for other reasons, though.

According to the Tire Industry Association, there are numerous reasons why you might see tires on the side of the road. Most reasons come down to heat, though.

Why does heat matter for tires?

Heat plays a few roles in tire safety. For one thing, heat causes the air inside tires to expand. When it's cooler, you might fill your tire to 40 psi, its limit, thinking that it's safe. However, when you drive, that amount of air expands, so the tire has to be rated to handle a higher pressure. If it's not, then it could burst, blowing out the tire completely.

Keep in mind that having a lower tire will actually generate more heat and a higher risk of a blow out. Why? It's because the air inside doesn't take up as much room, so the sidewalls move more. This creates a greater amount of friction and eventually results in a tire bursting.

What are common causes of blowouts?

Beyond heat, there are other causes of tire blowouts including hitting debris, curbs and potholes. After hitting anything with a tire, it's important to look at the sidewall and make sure it does not have a bulge. If it does, then the tire needs to be replaced, because the bulge will continue to grow, become weak and burst.

Anyone who drives, particularly those behind the wheel of commercial vehicles, needs to understand air pressure and other factors that could lead to tire failure. While some problems with tires come down to poor construction or assembly, the majority are a result of drivers who are not paying attention or who are not clear on how to best take care of their vehicles.

If a crash is a result of a tire blowing out because of weak sidewalls due to manufacturer defects, for example, then that's a situation where the manufacturer and distributors might be able to be held responsible for any accidents and injuries that occur.

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