Be sure to sign up for the weekly RV Travel Newsletter, published continuously every Saturday since 2001. Click here.
Huge RV parts & accessories store!
You have never seen so many RV parts and accessories in one place! And, Wow! Check out those low prices! Click to shop or browse!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Surviving a tire "blowout"

I have many posts on the technology and terminology of tire failure but no matter what the cause or what you call it, a tire failure is not fun. Here is some information on what to do.

Over the past few months there have been a couple items in the news and on the Internet about tire failures on RVs and buses. The videos are pretty dramatic:

Many on this forum are in motorhomes. Many also pull a toad, but others own or have friends with trailers or may even find themselves pulling a trailer. I will also include some information for those times too.

First, for tire failure on a toad or trailer or the rear duals or tag of a motorhome it is critical that the driver is notified as soon as possible that there has been a failure or that one is about to occur. The only way I know of gaining this knowledge is with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that can alert the driver of air loss. Some TPMSs can even alert the driver in the first few seconds when the inflation has dropped just a few psi from the hot running pressure.

If you do not run a TPMS then you will not learn of the pressure loss before damage has been done, as you will be depending on passing motorists to get your attention. By this time, damage has been done, but hopefully the toad or trailer hasn't rolled over or separated from the motorhome, which could raise the level of severity of consequences dramatically.

For motorhome or bus drivers the failure of a front tire can mean a significantly different outcome, as there is the real potential of a complete loss of control if the wrong response is taken. Here we know that a warning of initial air loss may provide enough time for a thoughtful response from the driver, but even having a TPMS is not a 100% guarantee as there are failures that do not involve air loss. So the question then is what actions need to be taken in the first fraction of a second after a front tire comes apart?

Thankfully there is a good instructional video from Michelin of what a driver needs to do. Here is another instructional video.

Yes, the advice is not intuitive to the average driver but it can work. It has been demonstrated numerous times that there is both proper and improper driver response to a tire failure. Sadly, many drivers have ended up turning an inconvenience into a tragedy.

A driver needs to stop and think about what to do and to take a moment — frequently — to help implant the correct response so it can become an automatic response. You do have plenty of time to think about this as you drive down the highway. I would suggest that if you spent as little as 10 seconds once an hour every hour when driving, thinking about the correct response of maintaining control first then slowing down second — rather than just stomping on the brakes — the action may become automatic. We all know that practice and repetition can make athletes better at their "game." Well, in this case, practice, at least in thought, can make you a safer driver in the "job" of getting yourself and family safely to your destination a reality.

Subscribe to the weekly newsletter or one of our other newsletters about RVing. Great information and advice. Now in our 16th year. Learn more or subscribe.  


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"I inspected my tires but still had a failure"

Read this on an RV trailer forum:

"Checked the air in all 4 tires and inspected them before we pulled out. We made it 20 miles from the house when the first tire let go. The tire service center and I both checked the remaining 3 and the spare. They had the correct air pressure and no signs of any issues. We made about 15 miles down the road and the second 1 blew out -- 2 roadside assistance calls and 2 insurance claims. I am not happy with dynamic tire or (RV trailer company name) at the moment."

I offered the following comment:

Sounds like the "inspections" being done are not sufficiently detailed. A "proper and complete" inspection doesn't consist of checking the outside sidewall and most of the tread for % tread wear. A LOT more is required if you want to improve your chances of finding the early signs and indications of impending tire failure.

In this blog, I have previously covered what I would consider a thorough inspection with example of what a failing tire looks like externally, and then I did an autopsy to show the actual condition of the subject tire. Note that the person making the video felt the tire had failed and cut the tire looking for the belt separation but even though he has an engineering and mechanical background, he failed to properly identify the location of the failure. IMO this was because he simply had not had enough experience in tire forensics, as you probably have to do a minimum of a few dozen autopsies before you can easily and quickly know where to do the cutting -- and that would be what is needed to find a large separation as seen in the subject tire. Smaller issues are harder to find and take a more experienced eye.

The free spin can be sufficient to establish that the subject tire is in the process of failing and should not be driven on.

Today it is popular in politics to complain about "the elite" and to disdain experience, but I believe that there are many fields where actual experience is necessary if you want competent results.

Very few tire service people have been given the opportunity to do investigative-level tire inspection, as their job normally doesn't require issuing a detailed report that identified the root cause of a tire failure. This not the tire tech's fault nor is it the fault of the tire store owner. You might liken this to the store clerk at a CVS or Walgreen pharmacy. They are simply not fully knowledgeable in the interaction of medications, which is why a Pharmacist is the person responsible to fill prescriptions, but I would not trust a Pharmacist to do surgery.

Sometimes competence only comes with experience.

Subscribe to the weekly newsletter or one of our other newsletters about RVing. Great information and advice. Now in our 16th year. Learn more or subscribe.