Heat Causes Tire Explosions

Heat Causes Tire Explosions

July 20, 2011

I did something yesterday that we all have thought about and rarely had opportunity to do: I stopped to aid a woman alongside an Interstate. What struck me about this situation, and caused me to stop, were three things: It was HOT; she had a baby carriage alongside the car; and traffic had slowed enough so I could actually pull over in a reasonable amount of time and distance.

After confirming that there was no child in the car, I looked at her tire. What I saw scared me. The tire had ballooned unevenly around one side. I had intended to change her tire, now I backed away.

Those of you who manage heavy-equipment fleets know why I was worried. An overheated tire assembly can explode with such force that bystanders can be seriously injured or even killed. Editor Walt Moore has just completed work on an article on tire safety, much of which focuses on the effects of heat. This video shows how devastating heat applied to an assembly can be.


After the driver of the car had called her husband, who was now on his way, I told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to stay away from that tire. I warned her of the danger if it exploded and advised her to tell her husband not the change it.

As I left, I prayed she’d follow my advice. Maybe, I thought, the tire would have cooled down enough for the pressure to decrease. Even in the ambient air (my car thermometer registered 100), the pressure surely would diminish.

I don’t know if she followed my advice. I do know that anyone working on or near heavy-duty tires better. Yesterday’s incident and Walt’s timely article calls to attention the need for tire safety.

And in the current heat wave, it’s a timely reminder.