Wednesday, May 9, 2018

An unexpected road hazard

While driving home from Amarillo yesterday, Miss D. and I passed an 18-wheeler parked on the side of the road.  Two of its rear tires had blown out, and strips and fragments of rubber and steel littered the road for several hundred yards.

Somewhere in that distance, without our being aware of it, a piece of tire rubber wrapped itself around the driver's side front wheel steering arm and drive shaft, on the inside of the wheel.  We didn't notice it at highway speeds, because it didn't affect the handling of the car in any way;  but when we turned off the highway and slowed to normal speeds, on the last leg of our journey home, it was obvious (from the sound) that something was rubbing against something else.  When we arrived home, we looked inside the wheel well, and found the problem.  The rubber strip may have damaged the lining of the wheel well, and we couldn't see anything else it might have done.

This morning we dropped off the car at our local mechanic, who will check it out and make sure everything's operating normally.  We may have to wait while he orders a new lining for the wheel well, but the car should be usable in the interim.

I just thought I'd mention it because this sort of incident is tricky.  We could have unwrapped the rubber strip ourselves, with a bit of bending and twisting, but there are brake lines and electrical connections in the area that one really doesn't want to damage.  If they let go in future, without warning, they could cause a nasty problem.  We'd rather pay someone now to check everything out and make sure that won't be an issue in future.



Paul said...

I was driving through New Mexico several years ago following a semi, a large group of motorcycles riding two abreast was passing me and the semi when he blew a tire and threw the tread. About 12 to 15 riders were instantly removed from their bikes and complete chaos ensued. Somehow by the grace of God I didn’t run over anyone or hit any bikes but wow what an unholy mess.

Roy said...

Around here, those strips of tire strewn about the highway are colloquially known as "alligators". Yes, they can be quite dangerous, especially to motorcyclists as Paul has pointed out. (Paul, I'm curious if there were any fatalities or major injuries among the motorcyclists.)They can also be very dangerous to someone driving a convertible or a car with an open sun roof.

Trucks blowing tires or shedding retreads is why I never dawdle next to or right behind big trucks. I had one lose an entire tread while I was in the process of passing and at about his seven o'clock position. The tread hit my windshield and shattered it. Fortunately, that was the only damage. (...except for me having to later pull the seat cushion out of my...) Also fortunately, the truck driver maintained control and didn't wipe me and several other drivers off the highway.

One of my pet peeves when driving is when some goof ahead of me starts to pass a truck, gets up next to the driving wheels and then just sits there. Truck drivers hate that too.

kurt9 said...

I have seen the shedding of retreads and, yes, it is quite dangerous if you are beside the truck when it occurs. That is why I avoid driving parallel to semi-rigs while at-speed on the freeways.

Any chemical engineer will tell you that the retreading process does NOT duplicate the vulcanization process by which tires are originally made by. Thus the retread layers is not bonded to the tire base by the same cross-links that the original tire material is comprised of. In terms of process chemistry, the retreading process is not a legitimate process and, thus, should be banned.

urbane legend said...

" I have seen the shedding of retreads . . . "

I very seriously doubt you have. What you have seen is a ( somewhat ) long piece of tread that was blown off when the sidewall blew out. Tire failures are generally the result of sidewall flexing of an underinflated tire. The heat build up in an underinflated tire adds to the potential for a failure.

If you pay attention next time you see one of those tread strips, you might notice that it is still attached to some section of sidewall that is shredded more or less vertically, like paper strips from a paper shredder. That shredding is the evidence of the blowout.

As for retreading, kurt9, you may not want to fly. My understanding is that most airline tires are retreads.

LindaG said...

Many years ago, oldest son had a truck brake pad or some such enter through an open window and out the rear window as he was in the process of passing it.

Glad to hear you all got home safely.
God bless.

Gorges Smythe said...

Once upon a time, the driver would have gone back and picked up the scrap, but those days are long gone.

Will said...


a perusal of traffic video cam recordings on u-tube will get you to add an admonishment to not sit next to a big rig's tires even while stationary. Rather exciting to see them explode to the side. Since most of the current videos are from Russia, it's not clear if they have tire and road conditions peculiar to them. Still, big tires have high pressures, in addition to the weight of the vehicle, so don't sit near them.

Mythbusters did several episodes on tire tread hazards. They concluded that they can create lethal situations when tossed.

Old NFO said...

Glad y'all are okay!