By Russ and Tiña De Maris
“Tire blowout: A rapid loss of inflation pressure of a pneumatic tire leading to an explosion.” – Wikipedia
Having a blowout while driving your car can be a nerve-racking experience. Now, in your mind, put yourself behind the wheel of a motorhome and the gut-wrenching imagery increases exponentially. Still, a blown tire on an RV, regardless of its size or type, is not a “game-ender.” Keeping a cool head and reacting properly can mean a safe — and stable — outcome. It’s a matter of understanding and applying some simple rules.
First, prepare yourself, and your motorhome. Blown tires on RVs are most likely to occur because either the tire was overloaded, or underinflated. It’s wise to weigh EACH tire on your rig to ensure it is not beyond its rated weight. On the road, it’s best to check your tire pressure daily, before you hit the road. Test your tire pressure COLD — that is, before you’ve driven on it that day.
Next, once in the driver seat, ALWAYS buckle your seat belt. This isn’t just to protect you in case of an accident, it could well PREVENT an accident. If you blow a tire, you’ll need to stay fixed firmly in the driver seat, not sloshing around. Properly adjusted, the seat belt will help keep you where you belong — behind the wheel and in control.
So when the awful thing happens, what’s to do? It’s probably counterintuitive. Most of us, on hearing a blown tire and feeling the reaction, want to stop, NOW! That’s the WRONG thing to do. Your RV has been moving forward happily, not giving you any trouble. Your control of the RV is partially due to the forward momentum. When a tire blows, the rig will naturally pull in the direction of the blown tire — off the road, or possibly into oncoming traffic.
Getting off the gas or stepping on the brake simply gives more “force” to the pull of the blown tire. The thing to do is to actually step on the accelerator. You’re not trying to speed up dramatically, but by increasing the forward momentum, you are actually helping to keep the rig stable. At the same time, you’ll want to steer to correct for the “pull” of the vehicle. This part you already know — when a side wind pushes against the rig and steering is affected, you automatically correct for it with the steering wheel. The same is true for the force of a blown tire — correct with the steering wheel.
Once you have the RV back in control (and it may take some effort with the steering), THEN you can start planning an out. Look for a safe place to pull the rig over and get off the road. You can moderate your speed, simply by moderating how much you’re mashing on the accelerator. Make a controlled pull off, and stop the rig.
These simple rules for handling a blowout apply in all situations. It doesn’t matter if the blown tire is up front on a “steering” wheel, or on a rear “drive wheel,” on a straight stretch, or in a curve. Apply these rules, and your chances of coming to a safe stop are greatly enhanced.