A New Diagnosis from Dr. Tom and Dr. Ray

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 28, 2013

Dear Tom and Ray:

Yesterday I went out to put air in my tires, and I had the same problem I always do -- I'm very afraid that the tire will explode while I'm filling it, probably ripping the skin off my face. I end up filling the tire only one or two PSI at a time while looking away, then rechecking the pressure, and so on. Can you give me any advice? Has a tire ever exploded on you? Do you still have your faces? Thanks.

-- Ashley

TOM: Unfortunately, for those living near us, we DO still have our faces.

RAY: You have tireophobia, Ashley. But you can stop worrying. We've never seen it happen in all the years we've been fixing cars.

TOM: It's virtually impossible to explode a tire while filling it up with air. Even though your tire is designed to run on, say, 30-35 pounds of pressure per square inch (psi), it would take something like 250 psi to cause the rubber to break apart.

RAY: The air compressors in gas stations and tire shops don't produce anywhere near that much air pressure. So even if you grossly overinflated your tire, it wouldn't explode.

TOM: We occasionally hear about a tire exploding, but it's almost always a truck tire. And it's usually what we think of as a "blow out," when the tire is on the road, traveling at high speed and generating a lot of heat.

RAY: Or it's while the truck tire is being mounted, and the bead fails. But even those instances are rare.

TOM: So you can stop worrying, Ashley; it's not going to happen. But we know that phobias are not entirely rational. So if it really ruins your day to inflate a tire, find a full-service gas station or a friendly repair shop, and tip some guy to do it for you. Find some guy like my brother, who'll be more than happy to risk his face for a couple of bucks. After all, how much worse could it get?

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