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How Do High Temperatures Affect Tires?

tire of a car in a parking lot

We enjoy more than 200 days of sunshine every year in Dallas, TX. With hot summers, relatively mild winters, and plenty to do around town, it’s easy to see why more than 1.3 million people call our beautiful city home.

However, as residents of Dallas, we also need to be prepared to handle potential heat-related driving hazards. With temperatures peaking around 96°F in July, our hot summers can put extra strain on vehicle tires. Buckingham & Vega Law Firm knows how important it is to understand how high temperatures affect tires as well as your safety. Poorly maintained tires are much more likely to cause a car accident than tires that have been well cared for, even in the heat.

How High Temperatures Impact Tires

During the hot summer months, you should always prioritize your health and safety when you have to spend time outside. This means drinking plenty of water, wearing sunscreen, and limiting the time you spend in direct sunlight. You should also put the same care and attention into your vehicle.

Just like you can overheat, your tires can also get overheated when the outside temperature is high. Tires are often the first thing on your vehicle to overheat, and there are three factors as to why:

  • Hot Molecules. Have you ever noticed that your tires seem to expand or even become overinflated during the summer months? Molecules—including those that air are made of—vibrate and expand when they get hot. The summer heat will cause the air inside your tires to heat up and expand, increasing the pressure in your tires. For every 10°F the temperature rises, your tire pressure will go up by one pound per square inch (PSI). The average passenger vehicle tire can only handle 30 to 35 PSI, so an increase of even just 10°F could be devastating.
  • Friction. Friction is an essential component of driving safely. Traction is what we call the friction that is created between vehicle tires and the road. It is traction that keeps us from sliding around on the road and allows us to travel in marked lanes as intended. Unfortunately, as a form of friction, traction also creates a lot of heat. As we already know, heat causes molecules to expand. During the hot summer months, the heat created by the friction between the tires and road can be a dangerous combination with the outside temperatures.
  • Rubber. Rubber is an excellent material choice for motor vehicle tires. It grips the road more easily and is better at navigating wet roads than other materials. It does have a downfall, though. Rubber molecules are made up of polymers, which are long, twisting chains that contract when they vibrate. The rubber that is used for car tires is produced so that these polymers do not collapse inward, keeping the tires firm and in the correct shape. However, as hot air expands inside, this lack of flexibility can ultimately lead to a blowout.

The ways in which overheated tires can cause an accident can be complicated. When proving liability for an accident during a personal injury claim, it is often worthwhile to have an attorney help you review the facts of your case and gather necessary evidence that definitively proves the other driver was at fault.

Signs That Your Tires Might Be Ready to Blowout

A tire blowout is an instantaneous and explosive loss of tire pressure, typically accompanied by a loud “bang” or “pop.” When this happens, your vehicle will tilt and pull to whatever side the blowout occurred on. You might also notice a flapping sound or vibration as your deflated tire continues to rotate and hit the road. Most drivers lose control during a blowout.

With summer months and higher temperatures rapidly on the way, you should learn how to identify early signs of a blowout.

  • Perform the touch test. Touch your fingers or your hand to your tires. While it is normal for tires to feel a little warm after driving, they should not feel excessively hot to the touch. If your tires feel hot, they are overheated and potentially close to causing a blowout. Wait until they cool down before you start driving again.
  • Check your air pressure. Most new vehicles have built-in Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems, or TPMS. These systems alert drivers when air pressure in tires is too low, but they usually do not tell drivers when pressure is too high. Instead, use a tire pressure gauge to manually check your tire pressure. If pressure is too high, your tires could be overinflated because of heat. If overinflation is an issue, experts advise pulling over to check your tire pressure every 75 miles when you’re traveling through a hot area.
  • Check your treads. Thin tires are much more likely to experience a blowout compared to well-cared-for tires that have not yet worn down. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that all drivers check their treads once a month and replace their tires when the tread wears down to less than 2/32 of an inch. When examining your tire, look for its treadwear indicator. These raised sections can be found in between the tread of the tire, and it will be apparent when the tread is worn down to the indicator. If you are still unsure of your tire’s tread, take a penny and flip it upside down. Place it between the tire’s treads, and you’ll know it’s time for a replacement if the top of Lincoln’s head is not covered.

The ways in which high temperatures affect tires can all lead up to a blowout. A preventative measure like regularly checking your tires is a small action you can take to minimize your risk for causing a more serious car accident.

Did Another Driver’s Negligence Cause Your Accident?

Being a responsible driver is about more than just following the rules of the road. You must also keep your vehicle in good working order to avoid causing an accident. While you may have taken this responsibility to heart by scheduling regular maintenance, monitoring the air pressure in your tire, and replacing your tires when necessary, other drivers aren’t necessarily as cautious.

Buckingham & Vega Law Firm can help you prove that another driver’s negligent maintenance caused your car accident. Proving liability is a key component of a successful personal injury claim, which can help you secure financial compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages related to your accident.

You only have two years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury claim, so do not delay. When you contact us for your free consultation, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss the details and potential merits of your case with an experienced car accident lawyer.

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