Death Valley, California, USA currently holds the record for the hottest air temperature, with highs of 56.7 degrees in the summer of 1913. Closer home, the hottest summer recorded in the GCC was a scorching 54ºC in Kuwait, in July 2016!
One of the casualties of blistering summers, are car tyres. Given the intense summers in the region, it is very important to ensure that the heat does not knock the wind out of your tyres – quite literally, and cause your vehicle to lose control.
The tyres aren’t what support the weight of your car, it’s the air in the tyres, and it’s usually kept at a temperature of around 32 pounds per square inch (PSI).
It is the rule of thumb that for every 10°C change in ambient temperature, tyre pressure increases by 0.1 bar, even when not driven. While this doesn’t sound like much, remember that there is only 30-35 PSI in the tyres of passenger vehicles. A few extra bars of air pressure can make a big difference to a tyre, and cause it to pop. Even in the event of that not happening, over-inflation can interfere with braking and cause premature wear and tear.
There are three factors operating here:
Friction– While driving, your tyres rub against the asphalt, generating a fair amount of friction. This, in turn, creates heat that makes your tyres hot (and in summer, even hotter).
Hot Molecules– The body of tyres contains a quantity of compressed air. All material, like air-filled tyres, is made up of atoms and molecules. When molecules get heated, they begin to vibrate intensely and consequently expand.
Rubber–The rubber in tyres is engineered for high resistance to low heat build-up, abrasion and cracking. But everything has a breaking point. Take a rubber balloon, for example. It can only hold up to a certain amount of air, beyond which, it bursts. The same is true of a tyre.
Watch out for these signs to prevent a blowout. If you spot any of them, pull over and let your tyres cool down.
Hot to the touch – Tyres that are hot to the touch is the most obvious indicator of overheating.
Excessive air pressure – Check for over-inflation of tyres using a tyre pressure gauge.
Don’t rely on tyre pressure monitoring system alerts – The purpose of the tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) in your vehicle is to warn you that at least one or more tyres are significantly under-inflated. It won’t alert you if the pressure is too high.
If you live in Kuwait, KSA, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain or UAE, very little can be done about the summer heat. In the case of your tyres however, here are some steps that can help you prevent a tyre blowout while driving in summer, especially when covering long distances.
Have your tyres inflated to the recommended level – The proper amount of air pressure for safe driving varies depending on the car you drive. The vehicle manufacturer recommendation is the one to go for. It should be mentioned on the inside of the driver door and in the owner’s manual.
Note: Do not confuse the “recommended” amount with the “maximum” amount listed on the tyre itself.
Keep a check on tyre air pressure – Before you set out, measure the air pressure with a gauge. To be doubly safe, check it again every two hours or 160 kilometers.
Pull over until your tyres cool down – Waiting it out until the tyres cool off is the best thing to do in case of overheating. If you think that letting a little air out of the tyres is a quick solution, you could be driving on tyres that are under inflated, which is just as hazardous.
Replace worn tyres – Tyres that are already worn thin are more likely to leak air. Consider getting ‘all-season tyres’ or ‘summer tyres’ that are designed to handle better in high temperatures.
Clean and treat tyres– To keep your tyres from drying out, treat them with a wax-based product.
Keep to the speed limit – The faster you go, the greater the friction, and consequently, the greater the heat. Which in turn increases the chances of a blowout.
Be aware of the load weight – The more you load your vehicle, the greater the weight on the tyres, increasing the likelihood of a blowout.