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How to Avoid Collisions! Check Tire Air Pressure

Don Stec author badge, myoutdoorbuddy.com

ell winter has finally arrived in Northern California and the reports of tire failure resulting in a collision have already started; as they do every year when the cold weather returns.

Most often the driver reports a tire blow out first, causing the rear of the vehicle to fishtail (slide sideways back and forth rapidly) causing a loss of control, then a collision. Often we find that the tire had not blown out, but the tire sealing bead had separated from the wheel.

A tire separating from the wheel is a very unusual condition, yet we see this often in the winter months. The drivers all had similar stories about a blowout first, then fishtailing. Most often the tire failure was on the right rear but the tire when inspected often was not defective.

Something else was going on here that required us to put on our thinking cap. Too many coincidences and only during winter!

Look for the tire pressure label in the door jamb of your vehicle. Don Stec
Look for the tire pressure label in the door jamb of your vehicle.

We started by checking the tire air pressure on the other tires of each vehicle that came in when the driver told a similar story. Without fail all the tires had dangerously low air pressure…but they did not look low. This caused us to notice another similarity…all the vehicles were small light weight rear wheel drive. Because of the vehicles light weight, the tires did not look underinflated, even if they had approximately one half of the required pressure.

Because the drivers all reported a blowout first and fishtailing before the collision and it was the right rear tire that failed each time; it led us to consider another scenario. It appeared, what had actually happened was the vehicle started to fishtail first, because of the snow, ice or water on the roadway and the under inflated right rear tire slid sideways off the roads edge stressing the sidewall then the sealing bead to the wheel was broken loose, causing a sudden deflation.

When we suggested this scenario to the drivers they agreed it appeared possible, as most did not know about the tire failure until after the collision when they inspected their vehicles. They then assumed a blowout had occurred causing the vehicle to fishtail.

On small front wheel drive cars the scenario is similar only it is a front tire that may deflate. Accelerating on a slippery surface will cause the front end of the vehicle to go to one side or the other.

Accurate tire pressure gauges are an important glove box accessory.
Accurate tire pressure gauges are an important glove box accessory.

I believe most drivers know under-inflated tires cause rapid and uneven tire wear. They do not know about sudden deflation if the sidewall is stressed.

Ideally tires should be checked for air pressure before the vehicle is driven for the day. When the first cold days arrive I always check my tire air pressure because the pressure in the tire goes down when it is cold outside.

Modern vehicles have the manufactures tire pressure posted in the driver’s door jamb or on the door inner frame. This is the pressure you should use if your vehicle is stock. The pressure recommendations on the tire may not be for your specific vehicle since the tire may be used on many different weight and types of vehicles and should only be considered if your vehicle is modified from stock.

Tire pressure gauges are available at auto part stores and big box stores. I recommend the digital gauge or the pressure face gauge as the most accurate and they are now inexpensive. The pencil type gauge used in years past is not recommended as they tend to become less accurate if not kept in a sealed container.

Don Stec is the owner of Coachmaster of Redding. Coachmaster is a full service collision repair shop also specializing in the collision repair of RV’s. Coachmaster has a great reputation in the North State and works with all the major Insurance Companies. We can be reached at 530-243-1310 or at the business at 6851 Eastside Road, Redding, California.

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