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Can Underinflated Tires Cause a Car Accident?

Posted on: February 9, 2022

Owning a car comes with a fair amount of responsibility. You need to make the monthly car or lease payment, keep the insurance paid up, and be an extra-careful driver. One primary responsibility of owning a car sometimes gets overlooked: keeping the vehicle in excellent running condition.

No one likes to spend their Saturday afternoon at the quick shop getting an oil change. But regular maintenance can add years of life to your car, lessen the chance of a breakdown, and even decrease the risk of a car accident.

Any time a car part becomes old, worn down, or altogether faulty, the vehicle will not perform as well or safely as it should. That means that a severe car accident could occur, harming you and other motorists around you.

A major culprit in vehicle accidents is tires. Worn treads can mean a complete blowout and loss of control of the vehicle. Overinflated tires can also explode and can lessen the benefit of steering and braking assist systems.

Finally, underinflated tires are hazardous as well.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that nearly one-third of all passenger cars, light trucks, and SUVs on the road have at least one underinflated tire. Their studies also show there are, on average, 11,000 vehicle collisions each year from blown tires, resulting in 200 deaths annually. NHTSA reports that in 2017, there were 738 deaths from blown tires.

That makes for a lot of potential danger on the road. Following are several reasons why underinflated tires are hazardous.

Tire Blowouts

Underinflated tires and high temperatures simply do not mix. Underinflated tires can actually explode from heat. As the tire flattens on the road over and over, friction builds up to heat. Add in normal pressure on the tires, and the tire loses strength and begins to shred. When this happens, a blowout is almost inevitable.

Although tires are built to withstand a high amount of heat, they have an unsafe limit. Treads help blow cool air between the grooves, cooling the tires. But when the treads are hot, worn, or underinflated, they cannot perform as they should.

Blowing a tire can result in a complete loss of control of the vehicle. Steering becomes difficult, and braking is badly affected. You may swerve into another lane or onto the berm. Stopping may be more difficult as well. Your inability to control the vehicle could put other motorists in harm’s way.

Everyone has seen vehicle or truck tire shreds on the road. These pieces can become airborne, blinding, or harming other drivers and cars. Do not let your tires get so bad or underinflated that they leave mementos on the road and you in an accident.

Compromised Safety and Operation

Underinflated tires can cause your vehicle to perform unsafely in other ways. A softer tire sidewall will increase the vehicle’s sway on a curve or corner, potentially causing a rollover of top-heavy vehicles.

As noted, blowouts can cause horrible accidents when a driver loses control of the steering wheel or brakes as a result.

A car with an underinflated tire that hits a pothole could result in damage to the wheel’s rim, hub, and other parts, rendering the vehicle uncontrollable. Also, because underinflated tires wear excessively on the inner and outer shoulders, the center of the tread will bow in slightly, making the ride more uncomfortable and steering more difficult.

Vehicle Damage

An underinflated tire puts more pressure on the car’s chassis and suspension system. Over time, these parts can break or lose their capabilities from wear. In addition, brakes and rotors are affected by underinflated tires, leading to costly repairs and potential accidents.

Tire Wear and Tear

Underinflated tires put uneven pressure on the treads, making them wear out or bald more quickly in certain areas. These bald areas decrease traction and could cause the vehicle to slip and slide, leading to accidents. In addition, keeping the tires underinflated could void tire warranties. 

Traction Problems

Tires that are underinflated or worn can decrease traction. That means a greater chance of an accident on wet, snowy, or icy roads. Underinflation also affects the tire’s stability and locking, potentially reducing the effectiveness of automatic traction control and anti-lock braking systems.

Drivers of all-terrain and similar off-road vehicles depend immensely on traction, so they should regularly check the tire pressure.

How Can I Make Sure My Tires Are Inflated Correctly?

Keeping tires inflated is a matter of staying on it. Most tire manufacturers recommend checking your tires’ pressure once a month. This is easy to do with an at-home gauge or using the air pumps at most service stations. Today’s digital gauges are especially easy to use.

Most of the cars sold today also have warning systems that alert the driver when tires need air. Many systems will even indicate which tire. That makes it easy for you to know when you should add air. Do not ignore these warnings.

Also, never trust your eyes to determine whether air is low. For example, radial tires can lose air pressure but still appear to be fully inflated. Pressing on the tire is not reliable, either. Always use a gauge.

A note of caution: The air pressure listed on the tire itself is not the one to go by. That is the maximum pressure. Instead, use the tire pressure recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. This pressure is usually found in the car’s manual and on a placard on the driver’s side door or the glove compartment door.

Your car’s tires, when bought new, are specially matched to the vehicle. The manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure considers handling, tread wear, tire life, fuel economy, and comfort. It is best to keep all four tires, and the spare, at the manufacturer’s suggested pressure level.

Before embarking on a long road trip, be sure that your tires are in good working order. You need proper inflation and unworn treads; that includes the spare tire. No one wants to get stuck or in an accident away from home.

As stated, checking your tires’ air pressure once a month is the safest way to ensure your tires are inflated to the correct limit. Also, with extreme weather changes, from hot to cold, for example, many tires automatically lose pressure, so checking them then is essential.

In addition, make sure tire pressure is checked whenever you get an oil change. It also will not hurt to get the tires rotated consistently, such as when you bring them in for service at recommended mile intervals. Tire rotation helps with even wear.

Finally, keep track of the miles driven with each tire. Many tire manufacturers will offer warranties from 30,000 miles up to 80,000 miles. The real test is how badly worn the treads are. Be sure to check them regularly and replace tires when needed.

Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Advocate for Clients Injured by Negligent Drivers

If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, reach out to the Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. No one should suffer the physical and financial devastation an accident can cause. Our experienced legal team will investigate the cause of the accident and fight to get you the compensation for which you are entitled. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.

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