2018-10-03 My Ford Explorer Blown Tire

Driving north on I-25 from the Denver Tech Center my left rear tire gave out! I started hearing something flap. My door handles do that in the wind, and it was windy, so initially I didn't think anything about it. But then it started to make a different kind of flapping noise like something hanging out through a door and flapping in the wind. I checked the left rear mirror and didn't see anything. I slowed down though while I was doing this.

And then it was suddenly very bumpy. Bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump. I was in the center lane and immediately started working my way over to the right lane. And out of the left side I saw a ring of tire tread roll past my left side! It looked completely intact. It rolled past me and stopped in the lane. Tread separation. At least I knew exactly what had happened. I kept moving right to get off the road.

No breakdown lane here! Just a high concrete right side barrier before rising to higher ground! I slowed down to about 15 mph but kept moving in the right lane with my flashers on. All of the while cars on I-25 were zooming by my left mirror at 75mph! I knew it would not be safe to stop there. I was worried someone might slam into my rear end right there while driving at 15mph. I kept moving regardless of the bump, bump, bump, coming from the rear end. I wanted to crawl slower but was worried someone would slam into me. If the rim got destroyed that was just the way it was going to need to be and I would deal with it later because it was not a safe place to stop. I kept moving. Bump, bump, bump, bump.

Eventually I got to the next off ramp. It went downhill to a traffic light. It was a better place to stop. Drivers would be slowing for the traffic light. Hopefully. As soon as I got to a wide part of the road where it fanned out to left turn lanes and right turn lanes I pulled over where the lane went to the turn pocket but there was still space for cars to move around me. I stopped and got out to inspect the damage.

my tire is shredded

Looked like my rim survived. As far as I could tell at that time. The sidewalls stayed on the rim bead. My spare had air in it and looked good. Time to change the tire. I walked around the corner looking to see if there would be a better spot there but it wasn't any better there. The wide spot I was at looked to be the best.

I pulled out all of my gear from my hazard box. And luckily I had my overalls in the back too. I didn't initially put them on but pretty quickly decided that would be a good thing to do. So out went the hazard triangle up the road far enough for people to see it while decelerating down the off ramp to the traffic light. On went the overalls. On went the fluorescent safety vest. On went the work gloves. Weather was pleasant. I was pretty well equipped!

me with safety vest

I moved the car so that it was cocked a little bit so that the front end poked out further than the rear so that drivers would try to avoid the left front blinking lights and give me just a little more room to breath. Drivers never seem to realize that people are walking around and there is always that one driver that zooms by at high speed. But my main problem was that one driver that freaks out and loses control and wrecks into you. I kept an eye peeled and was ready to jump at all times. Except for those times when I had no choice but to crawl under the car and trust to luck.

Out came all of the jack hardware. On the Explorer the jack handle is stored under the engine hood latch. The first attempt at jacking up didn't go very well. I had the parking brake on but didn't have anything to chock the wheels. It rolled off the jack and downhill! And jammed the jack and jack handle up tight under the car. I couldn't get it free. The "L" of the jack and handle was sprung jammed under the rear very tight. I was a little worried it would snap the handle which was pretty tightly sprung.

So then I went walking around looking for a big rock to chock the wheels. The close building had nice landscaping. But only small river rocks. No large rocks. I couldn't find anything reasonable to chock the tires. Couldn't see anything around the area that could be used. I started scrounging through the car hazard box and pulled out the coiled up tow strap. It has some bulk. I logged it under the front wheel. Then found the catalytic converter shield that had fallen off some time back and I haven't welded back into place yet. It was pretty tough. I logged it under the other front wheel. I think that catalytic converter shield was the main wheel chock, worked very well, and I was glad I had kept it!

Then tried again to the jack free. That took twenty minutes of swearing and hammering but finally got it dislodged. I almost decided to flag down one of the cars going by. I just needed the car pushed uphill just a little bit. But eventually got it free before coming to that point. I'm all about the self-rescue!

One of the things I learned was that for the last few feet before stopping that I should have put the car into 4x4 mode with the front hubs locked in. For one that would have meant that the parking brake would have also locked the front wheels. Then it would not have rolled downhill and off the jack. And also that I could have backed up using the front wheels to push in order to clear the jammed up jack. But being in rear only mode I could not back uphill, I tried, and couldn't free up the jack. Next time I will remember to lock in the front hubs just before I stop.

Eventually I freed up the jammed up jack and got it positioned again and jacked up the left rear by the axle. Jacked up the wheel. The rim looks to have survived so far. On the Explorer the spare is hung under the rear and needs the tire iron jammed into the rear below the hatch to lower the winch holding the spare. Fortunate it all worked just fine and down came the tire. The hook was jammed into the center pretty tight. I needed my hammer from the toolbox to bang it free. But it was full of air, 34psi by the gauge, and in good shape.

The Explorer hub cap is this tiny little axle cover that is held on with three flat head screws. Good thing I had a screw driver. It needs to come off so that the lug wrench can fit over the lug nuts. Hub cap off, I loosened the lug nuts while the jack was still low just in case it rocked off the jack. Then jacked it up the full height needed to get the spare onto it. Off came the old wheel and on went the spare. Whew! Down came the jack. Then put tools and jack and jack handle and tire irons and 4-way wrench and everything. Pack up the make-shift wheel chocks. Last thing was the hazard triangle.

All of the while that I was changing the tire cars kept moving past me. This entire process took a good hour from start to finish when all added up. But not a single car ever stopped to help nor even slowed down and asked if help was needed. The big city is definitely a different place from the smaller towns. I am confident that if this was not downtown Denver but downtown Fort Collins that I would have had multiple offers of help and people asking if I needed help.

And then I decided I would try to recover the ring of tire tread that had rolled by and was still out on I-25. Good idea? Bad idea? A bad idea I am sure but I decided to do it anyway. Justifying that it wouldn't be good to leave it out in the road. I drove around to the previous on-ramp and then drove down I-25 and slowed trying to wait for a pause in traffic. It was getting late and traffic was definitely lighter than before. Definitely not going to get out the left driver door regardless. I stopped with the flashers on and crawled out the right side passenger door. Ran around as quickly as I could to recover the ring of tire tread, threw it into the back in a rush, and then back in the right side passenger door. And off and driving again having done that as quickly as I could.

the tire and tread separation tread ring

For all of the infamy Ford Explorers have achieved with all of those blown tire rollovers from past years I must say that my 1991 Ford Explorer was perfectly well behaved. I didn't have any control problems at all at 70mph when this tire blew. I didn't hit the brakes. I let it coast down in speed as I moved to the right lane. I felt no tendency for control problems. It was as well behaved of a vehicle with a blown rear tire as anyone could hope for. I think the rollovers are caused by people using brakes and getting turned sideways due to three wheels braking and one wheel not. Letting the car coast down to a slower speed I had no control problems. Good car.