How to Prevent Your Tires From Exploding While Filling Them With Air

Inside Edition spoke to experts about how to help prevent your tires from exploding while filling them up. Although rare, tire explosions can lead to devastating consequences.

The next time your tire goes flat, you might want to think twice before filling it with air. It's a rare occurrence, but under certain circumstances, a damaged car tire can suddenly explode, leading to devastating consequences.

Every year, dozens of people are seriously injured or even killed while filling their tires with air. Adam Sproul, 28, suffered a traumatic brain injury and his friend was killed when they were filling a tire at a repair shop in New Hampshire

“It was like a grenade going off,” Sproul told Inside Edition.

So what should you do if your tires are running low and you think you need air? AAA’s Doug Shupe told Inside Edition's Lisa Guerrero that the No. 1 rule is to never drive on a tire that is flat or low on air, because the rim of the tire can rip apart the inner lining of the tire.

“If you're driving on under-inflated tires or damaged tires, it's a recipe for disaster. Because if you have been driving on an under-inflated tire and then you over inflate it, that could lead to an explosion,” Shupe said.

Shupe says it’s critical to routinely inspect your tires before filling them with air, look for wear and tear and run your hands across the tread. Keep a close eye out for any nails, which can also damage the rubber lining.

Most injuries from explosions happen at repair shops, when mechanics are filling a damaged tire with air. But there’s a simple solution to prevent injuries — it’s called a tire cage and it’s designed to absorb the blast and prevent the tire from shooting through the air. 

To demonstrate how a tire cage works, we set one up inside a concrete pit at Branick Industries, one of the leading tire cage manufacturers, in Fargo, North Dakota, and positioned a mannequin next to the cage. Then, the technicians turned on the air. 

Forty-eight seconds after intentionally over-inflating the tire, it exploded, and the cage contained the blast. The mannequin was knocked over, but a human would have likely survived.

"A tire under pressure is almost like a bomb. There's a lot of pressure there, and when it’s released, it can be a big explosion,” Branick CEO Tom Bolgrean said.

According to the Tire Industry Association (TIA), motorists should follow these tire safety tips:

  • If the yellow tire light, or TPMS, is illuminated on the dashboard, then one or more of your tires is under-inflated by at least 25%. The vehicle should be taken to a tire service professional for inspection as soon as possible.
  • The best practice is to check tire inflation pressure once a month, but motorists should always have a tire service professional check the air pressure and tread depth in their tires before long trips.
  • If you are inflating your tires at a service station, always stand away from the sidewall during inflation.
  • Always use the inflation pressure listed on the tire placard at the driver’s door instead of the maximum inflation pressure molded on the sidewall.
  • Run-flat tires cannot operate without air pressure indefinitely and must be replaced in many instances after operating without air.
  • Never plug a tire on the rim, you can’t see if there is additional damage on the inside of the tire. 

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