Which came first, the blown tire or the broken strut?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 2005

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am a woman who had a serious accident on the freeway this morning when I had a blown tire, lost control of my car ('94 Camry four-door sedan), hit the concrete divider, spun out of control and finally came to a rest without hitting another car! Our body shop told my husband that in addition to the body damage on my car, I have a broken strut. Is it possible that the strut could have broken and contributed to blowing out my tire? What are all of the possible causes of this, besides something on the road puncturing my tire? I'm calm now but was shaken up a lot, even though I was uninjured in spite of the fact that I was going about 70 mph when this happened. I would be most grateful if you could reply to this message. Thank you. -- Fran

RAY: Well, first of all, we're very happy to hear that you not only survived, but survived unhurt. That's really wonderful. Although clearly you took some kind of blow to the head. Why else would you be writing to us now?

TOM: To answer your question, there are several possible accident scenarios here, Fran. One is that the tire blew out first.

RAY: Tires can blow out for a number of reasons. A tire can simply be old and worn out. It can have a bubble in the sidewall, or some other previous damage that finally gives out. It could have been underinflated, which can cause tires to heat up and explode. Or a tire could blow out because you ran over a road hazard, like a discarded 12-speed blender.

TOM: If the blowout came first, then hitting the concrete barrier could have broken the strut. A strut is a 3-foot-long shock absorber and spring assembly. There's one at each wheel. And often, we see struts get bent in accidents. So, depending on the angle and how hard you hit it, you certainly could break a strut by banging against a concrete barrier at high speed.

RAY: The other scenario is that you were on your cell phone or were spreading cream cheese on your bagel, and you hit the concrete barrier first, which then caused the blowout AND the broken strut. That happens more often than you think these days.

TOM: But don't worry, Fran. Only 11 million people read this column, and it's unlikely that your insurance adjuster is one of them. So your secret is safe with us.

RAY: In all seriousness, Fran, it's unlikely that the strut broke first and caused the blowout and collision. The strut almost certainly broke when you hit the barrier.

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