Blow Out – Near Disaster

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I was driving out to Colorado yesterday and had a blowout in the front tire in my diesel van.  It was pretty scary.

Let me go back to the beginning.  On Tuesday, I had finished putting the window back in the van and noticed that the left front tire was a little low in pressure.  I put on a pressure gage and it was at 30psi, which is about 25psi low.  I got out a floor jack and jacked it up and looked at the tire to see if there was anything sticking in it or I could see where it might be leaking.  I didn’t find anything.  I filled it back up and drove it.

Then Wednesday, before the ride, I took the pressure and it was low again.  I didn’t have time to get it patched, so I thought I’d try Fix-a-Flat.  I had a can in my garage for some reason.  I’d never really used it in a car tire, but couldn’t see why it would be any different than using latex in a MTB or road tire.  So I put the can in, took the van out for a couple mile drive and then got back in time to ride.

Yesterday morning, when we were leaving, the tire had full pressure, so I thought it was good.  I was still planning on taking it off in Colorado and having someone patch it.  I stopped for coffee after an hour and checked it again.  Full pressure, so I thought I was good to go.

A couple hours later, I was driving in Western Kansas and it seemed like the tires were making a bunch of road noise.  Then a second later, boom and the tire was on the rim.

I was going 85, which is 10mph over the speed limit, which is just about the speed I’m always going.  It was pretty scary for a few seconds.  I swerved a little to the left and then back to the right.  I didn’t jam on the brakes, just let the van coast down to a controllable speed.  For an instant I thought I was going to crash, sort of like when you initially have a flat on a bike going pretty quick.

I got to the shoulder and pulled way over so my right tires were nearly in the grass.  I’ve seen too many of those horrible videos where people get destroyed while doing something on the side of the road, so I wanted a lot of room to change the tire.   Even then, I wasn’t that into cars coming by me at 80 mph.

So I went to the back and unpacked the jack, etc.  The spare is hanging from underneath the van and you have to lower it down with a cable.  It was the original spare, pretty much never used.  I was wondering if it was still good?  The inside of the rim was full or stones.

So I jacked up the cars as the trucks were blowing by and causing a ton of wind.  I’d already loosened the lug nuts when the wheel was still on the ground.  So I changed the wheel and lowered the car.  I was going to tighten the lug nuts when the wheel was back on the ground, so it didn’t spin.

I pulled the jack out and was looking down and a semi didn’t change lanes and came by me super close to the white line.  It scared the shit out of me.  I don’t know if the guy was texting or what, but I don’t think he even saw me.  I dropped the jack and flipped him off with both hands.

So I took the destroyed tire and put it back under the car and started driving.  When I got back up to speed, I thought the spare was lumpy.  I was thinking that I was going to have to stop and buy and new tire at the next town.  Then I remembered I didn’t tighten the lug nuts.  How dumb.

I pulled over again and sure enough, all 8 lug nuts were backed off just a few threads.  So I got the lug wrench and started tightening.  Just when I was about done, a sheriff pulled up behind me and asked if I needed any help.  I told him I was just finishing up, embarrassed to say I had changed the tire a few miles earlier and had forgotten to tighten the nuts.

He noticed that there was a new brake rotor on the wheel, which was observant.  Then he took off.

Anyway, needless to say. the van drove way, way better with the lug nuts tight.

I’m wondering if the Fix-a-Flat stuff had something to do with the tire going bad so quickly?  I’ve really never had a blowout in a car tire.  I’ve never used the stuff before, but know that guys that mess with patching tires hate the stuff.

I’m trying decide about whether I should get a new tire or just cross my fingers I don’t flat again. Since flatting in a car is such a rare occurrence, I’ll probably just risk it.  I have more wheels and tires at home that fit this van, so I really don’t want to buy one odd tire.


Tire when I got out of the van.

Tire when I got out of the van.

Rim of the spare from being under the car for so long.

Rim of the spare from being under the car for so long.

TIre pretty much destroyed.

TIre pretty much destroyed.


Tucker was super glad to see Nichola.  They are like peas and carrots.

Tucker was super glad to see Nichola. They are like peas and carrots.


40 thoughts on “Blow Out – Near Disaster

  1. Tripod Ron

    You had 2 moments within the matter of 30 minutes where your life flashed before your eyes. Please buy a new tire(s). I assume you have tucker with as well, what if he jumped out the back as you are trying to change the tire? There are just too many high percentage what ifs when stopped along on highway.

  2. mks

    Your tire blew out because it was overheated. Your tire overheated because it was low on pressure. Driving across Kansas in the summertime then through the mountains of Colorado on a suspect tire? Seriously? That’s a judgmental error in my book. Glad you’re OK. Risking getting home with no spare? Also a judgmental error in my book.

  3. Wildcat

    Dude, no kidding – I agree it sucks having one odd tire. What you need to do is buy THREE. One to replace the aging spare and two for the front which can be rotated around for years with the back two.

  4. The Cyclist

    Well, this was pretty funny. Did the same some 30 yrs ago in my Beetle I had back then. Left front wheel fell off on the highway going 50 mph. It hit the roof and then disappeared into the ditch on the right side of the road. Great fireworks when the front drum hit the ground. Strangely enuf 4 out 5 nuts were still in the hubcap so could put the wheel back on and make it home.

    A few months later was driving through a storm in the middle of the night when a huge truck wheel decided to let go off the truck in front of me. Luckily I started to overtake the truck just a moment earlier and could see the truck wheel disappearing into the night on my right side as I was passing it.

    Had I stayed behind that truck I’m pretty sure that wheel would have went straight through my windshield I seriously doubt I would be writing this…

    Visibility that night was basically zero and it was pretty dangerous to try to pass that truck but sometimes aggressive reckless driving can apparently save your life.

  5. Mike

    Just FYI- can’t patch a tire that fix-a-flat has been used in. Plug yes, patch now. Also, always tell the tire guys it’s in there, it sucks if you take the valve core out and that crap starts blowing all over you.

  6. Steve Tilford Post author

    mks – I agree with your assessment, but the tire was only losing around 10 psi every couple days and then when I “sealed” it with fix-a-flat, it didn’t lose any pressure in a day. I stopped and checked it after an hour driving at speed and it was still full pressure, so I thought I was good to go. I’m not sure why it would start leaking later? I didn’t feel any spongeyness in the steering or anything to give me a heads up the tire was low.

    I’m not sure about the spare deal. I’ve driven tons in my lifetime. way over a million miles. And I’ve maybe flatted 3 or 4 times and have driven on some pretty questionable tires in my early days. These tires are around $300 each and I have at least 8 at home that fit my van. Right now I’m thinking I can “risk it”, driving a few hundred miles without a spare. But, that thought process might change the next couple days.

  7. James

    Why would you want to spend $100 on a new tire (heaven forbid buying 2 tires)…that’s crazy talk. What’s the worst that could happen with some old clapped out tires? Just a horrific crash that might take the life of some poor innocent folks.

  8. Tom Kluth

    Hi Steve,

    Find a used tire shop in Denver. There are many reputable shops. I have used several across the country faith very good results. At the very least, you will have a spare that will get you to the next town.

  9. Bill K

    Sometimes “stuff” just happens. Once I had a rear wheel fly off because the lug nuts decided that their lifespan was over. The drum also flew off, so I had no brakes. To make matters worse, I was towing a pop up camper at the time. The car dropped on to the trailer hitch, as I was fishtailing down the interstate, slowly moving towards the shoulder. Like you, having quick reaction time, and not panicking, saved the day…..I found the wheel and drum, so I was able to be on my way, in an hour, for $60, including a tow, new lug nuts, and labor.

  10. Spartacus OCONUS

    Diesel Van,…. That’s your problem right there. That and the lack of PMCS on you gear.

  11. Demi

    Do your aluminum rims have a tapered seat for those lug nuts? Hard to tell from the pic but make sure you don’t need shouldered lug nuts…..

  12. Mike crum

    Steve, you ‘re lucky the truck driver wasn’t having a bad day and seen you flip him off . He was on his dude of the white line, so what was he doing wrong? You better be careful out there on deserted highways. U ain’t the biggest guy around.

  13. James

    Boy you’ve said a lot of stupid shit, but this tops ’em all. When there is a car stranded on the shoulder, you are supposed to move out of the right lane!

  14. James

    Lug nuts don’t fail due to being at the end of some “life span”. They are not a wear item. Somewhere along the way someone screwed up putting them on…jeez.

  15. RGT

    “He was on his side of the white line, so what was he doing wrong?”… keep repeating that to yourself the next time you get buzzed while you’re out riding.

  16. Mike crum

    Hey dumb fuck James, it’s ok to drive 10 mph over the limit all the time , But it’s the truckers fault for being in the wrong lane? Get ur head out if Steve’s ass.. Both are wrong here..the trucker and Steve. Both broke the law, at different times.. I still wouldn’t flip off a trucker. Some visit the bar I work at and most ain’t little guys. Ex cons and just hard living tough big men.. Like I said , Steve’s lucky the driver didn’t see him or if he did decided to let it slide. Steve’s lucky..and for you, please visit my bar and act up. I’ll throw you as far as your next interval .. Lol..

  17. James

    Nothing to do w S. Common sense or read the handbook. Vehicle on shoulder you move over. If this is not possible, you slow down. Its idiots like you why I’d probably have drove the flat to the exit.

  18. Tony

    Going 10 over on speed limit may or may not be risky depends on the traffic. But driving by real close to someone who is having car problems is just plain dumb.

  19. James

    It’s called ‘crum equivalency’. Who knew he had a trucker fetish. Cool, just don’t kill someone on the interstate mc.

  20. Krakatoa East of Java

    Good article on the (flawed) USA Olympic team selection process:

    My note to Derek:

    Hi Derek,

    I just read the CN article on the Olympic selection controversy.

    The current Olympic road selection process is entirely flawed and in need to overhaul. It shouldn’t involve selection committee members pouring through power meter data and looking at results from last October. Nor should it involve throwing bones to established super-stars of the sport. It should be based on how one is measuring-up against one’s peers (and in a reasonable time proximity to the date of the games). The question is: “How fit are you compared to your fellow Americans?”. Not how likely you are (in some Excel-sheet stats game) to beat so-and-so. This isn’t “money-ball”. This is real.

    I can understand putting the team pursuit lineup as a coach’s selection, but wherever (and whenever) possible, we should do the best we can to give everyone a fair, unbiased opportunity to make the team. Even amateurs (imagine that)!

    The way things are right now, someone well known to the coaching staff can train in virtual solitude, never subject themselves to a competitive atmosphere (IE, actual races), and simply because that staff (and USA Cycling) is familiar with them, they can further isolate themselves and just drop-in to their waiting position in Rio. That rubs me the wrong way. Because it excluded the actual racing community from being intimately involved.

    Try this exercise. Go out to a local Colorado race and ask any 19-20 year-old American Cat 2 cyclist if they dream about being an Olympian. Unlike 32 years ago, they wouldn’t DARE to dream like that. Because they now know that the process is so convoluted and rigged, that it’s a VERY unlikely possibility. But when I was 19, I actually did dare to dream that way (and so did most of my peers). Because it most certainly was something that could be achieved. Ask Inga Thompson about that. She made the team in her FIRST YEAR of racing. She was fit enough and DID outshine her American peers at the Oly trials.

    I think we absolutely DO need to return to an Olympic Trials method of selection. I’m blown away that we ever let Thom (and his cronies) to tweak it to such levels of distortion in the first place.

    Thanks for your time,

    Krakatoa East of Java

  21. dave

    Steve, I don’t think 85 mph on those tires, in that van, in that heat, for that distance, is a very good idea. Now I know you know that the faster wheels are spun, the hotter those tires will get. Add to that you said you checked the psi at about 30psi, that it was 25psi low. Wtf? I don’t think you want your van tires at 55 psi ! It’s not a bike ! And I know you’re a multi-million miler, but why 85mph ? What’s your hurry ? You’ve got the time.????????

  22. dave

    1984 was 12 years before the “pros” took over. Back then, amateurs knew they had a much better chance. The Olympics should be the ultimate point for AMATEURS. Out with the pros !

  23. Ben

    Glad you’re OK, Steve. Hope there are no more close calls on this trip!

    Also, I’m impressed that your diesel van does 85mph.

  24. Ian Bennett

    I’m sure you guys heard of/saw the pictures of the BMC truck 2 years ago, when Sherburne had the front blow-out on the way to Nationals. Super scary in any vehicle at speed, but glad you’re alright (and the ‘new’ breed of truckers aren’t nearly as safe as the old generation were). I’m sure Trudi had a mini heart attack after hearing about this…

  25. barb

    Wow. So glad you escaped from that experience unscathed. Not only the blowout, but drive by traffic too. I’ve been advised by others when trying to “milk” more miles out of my “original spare” that if the rubber sidewalls show cracking, no matter how fine the cracks, the tire can have an epic fail at any time; the more cracked they are, the more likely the sidewalls can separate from the rest of the tire, especially on hot summer asphalt. Just try not to buy the only tire within 200 miles that costs $300. ;o)

  26. barb

    Oh yea. …Always good not to aggravate someone bigger than yourself. LOL Unless you’re Bruce Lee or know Krav Maga.

  27. Paul Boudreaux

    Glad you came out okay Steve. I will say I’m a bit surprised that someone who’s made a living from racing on wheels would be even a bit cavalier about the reliability of the rubber your riding or driving on. I’m the cheapest bastard on earth, but the one thing I won’t do is drive/ride on tires I don’t have 100% confidence in.

  28. dave

    You’re miss-reading those psi’s Steve. Maybe metric ? That’s way too high. And time to block ignorant rick.

  29. Ti-Raleigh

    I follow your blog on a daily basis and also drive a 18 wheeler. I drove across Kansas today from Greensburg thru KC up the 35.
    A front blowout is serious Steve. As many miles as you drive , tires need to be a priority. I too have drove over a million miles and have few flats. But a front tire blowout one night in Wyoming coming down on mountain with my weight over 75,000 changed my perspective on tires. I look them over a few times a day.
    I survived a crazy ride because I knew not to hit the brakes. You did the right thing too…
    But …. For Tuckers sake get good tires. ( I met Tucker in Clear Lake ) A blowout in Colorado coming into Denver on the 70 from the west would not be pretty.

  30. daveeckstrom

    First a bashed in window, then a mysterious failed tire.

    Thorfinn Sasquatch is starting to take his revenge.

    Connect the dots, man.

  31. BIll Stevenson

    Jim, this is a worthless link and demonstrates that you have no clue what you are talking about. But if you found it online it must be true.

  32. Larry T

    Reminds me of an LA friend who drove me to lunch one afternoon. His car made an awful thumping noise on the way. I got out and looked to see a tire tread flapping around like Donald Trump’s combover! I asked how long that thumping had been going on? He replied “It started on my way up to Mammoth Mountain on the weekend!. That’s like a 1000 mile round trip!!!! Needless to say I put the spare on before we left the restaurant, mumbling that if I tried something dumb like that, the tire would have exploded and gawd knows what else might have happened. Remember the old saying “Because so much is riding on your tires”? It wasn’t just advertising hype!


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