Every second counts while on the road. Every millisecond is essential in determining a driver’s ability to react during an emergency driving situation. Imagine when your tire falls off due to a nut, bolt, or clamp failure; you lose control and crash into another vehicle. But what causes a tire to fall off while driving?
The odds are astronomical for this scenario to play out, but it does happen more often than it should. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), many factors are the leading causes of blowouts and accidents. Below are some;
What Causes a Tire to Fall Off While Driving?
1. Improper Installation
The most common cause of an XL tire falling off while driving is improper installation. This can be caused by wheel assembly not being installed properly or the vehicle manufacturer failing to provide adequate instructions for proper installation.
A variety of factors can contribute to improper installation;
- Improper Tire Balance
Improperly balanced tires will cause vibrations in the steering wheel and make the car feel rough when driving on rough roads. You may notice that your vehicle pulls to one side when you drive over bumps or turns. This is caused by a lack of balance between the front and rear wheels.
It can also cause excessive wear on one side of the tire while leaving other parts of the tire underutilized. When this occurs, it can lead to premature tire failure as well as poor fuel economy
- Improper Pressure
This is one of the most common problems encountered in a vehicle due to incorrect tire installation. When you inflate your tires with too much pressure, they tend to deform and become brittle over time. The excess pressure also results in poor fuel economy and poor handling capabilities.
- Improper Alignment
Improper alignment can be caused by the improper rotation or balancing of wheels by an installer who is not well trained or experienced enough. This may result in uneven wear on your tires, leading to needing replacement sooner than expected.
2. Improper Tire Maintenance
Improper tire maintenance is one of the common causes of tire failure. And the most common form of impaired maintenance is underinflation. Underinflated tires have less contact with the road surface and do not have full traction potential. As a result, they heat up more quickly and wear out faster than properly inflated tires.
Underinflation also causes uneven wear patterns, leading to blowouts or sidewall cuts, posing risks of tire failure.
3. Lug Nut Failure
Lug nuts can come loose or even fall off due to vibration, corrosion, and even age. The lug nuts are torqued to the specified value when a wheel is properly installed. The torque range can vary by vehicle make, model, and even year of manufacture.
If the lug nuts are loose, they may not be able to withstand the high stresses placed on them during driving. The wheel will come off when it experiences enough centrifugal force to overcome the friction between the wheel and hub flange.
4. Wheel Stud Failure
Stud failure is another common cause of wheel separation. It usually happens when the wheel studs strip off while driving. And there are several reasons why a wheel stud may fail:
- Stress on the wheel and axle assembly.
The most common cause of wheel stud failure is stress on the wheel and axle assembly caused by improper weight distribution (heavy load in the rear), improper tire inflation pressure, or excessive wheel rotation due to damaged drive train components such as worn-out CV axles or universal joints.
- Improper torque on the lug nuts.
When you have your wheels balanced and aligned at a repair shop, ensure they torque your lug nuts back to manufacturer specifications. Improper torquing will often cause premature wear on your studs which could eventually lead to one breaking off in the long run.
5. Bent Hub or Rims
If the hub is bent or damaged, it will not be able to hold the wheel correctly. The wheel may also become loose and fall off when you hit a bump in the road or drive over a pothole. Bent wheel rims can also cause the wheel to come loose while driving.
6. Wheel Seizure
Wheel seizure occurs when bolts that hold the wheel onto the axle become loose or break off entirely. This prevents the wheel from turning freely and can cause your car to shake violently while driving at high speeds.
It also makes it difficult for drivers to control their vehicles due to a lack of traction on slippery roads.
7. Damaged Wheel Bearings
Another common cause of tires falling off while driving is damaged wheel bearings. The wheel bearings are what hold your tires onto your car. If they are damaged, they will not be able to support the car’s weight, allowing the tire to fall off. Fortunately, this problem is easy to fix with new bearings or even lubrication.
8. Tire Pressure Issues
Driving with low tire pressure increases your risk of experiencing a blowout. The tires on your vehicle were designed to work best at a specific air pressure level. So, if you drive with underinflated or overinflated tires, you can consequently reduce the fuel economy and increase the tire wear.
Underinflation increases tire flexing (bouncing) while driving, which can cause heat buildup and damage to the tire’s structure. Overinflation causes excessive rolling resistance, which reduces fuel economy and can also damage the tire’s structure.
9. Incomplete Tire Service
If you want to drive safely, you need to ensure that your tires are good. Your tires need to be checked regularly for cracks and bulges before they reach a point where they can no longer support your vehicle’s weight when you are on the road.
If you fail to do this, then there is a possibility that your tire could come off while driving at high speeds or even when negotiating corners.
There is not a specific cause for the tires falling off. This can happen if there is a problem with the application, during installation, or after. In some cases, there are issues with the design of the wheels and rims that prevent them fitting very tightly over the axle of the vehicle. These are some common causes and what you can do to prevent them from happening in your car.