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Old 01-29-2021, 08:29 PM   #1
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Catastrophic tire blow-out in an Interstate

My husband and I are the LEAST-dramatic people you will ever meet, he a mechanical engineer and me with an MS degree in the geosciences. We are very clickety-clack objective and usually dispassionate.

Why, then, do so many dramatic Interstate events befall us?? I do not know.

My rear street side tire blew out spectacularly this evening.



This was a *BRAND NEW* Michelin Defender, just a few thousand miles on it. And it had been inspected in terms of condition and pressure just six hours before this occurred. Just look at all this thick tread in the photo below - that is (was) a gorgeous tire:


(Husband on the ground trying to wrestle the rim off)

When it ruptured, it took out my brake line.



So, I very suddenly found myself on the Eastex Freeway in greater Houston during Friday afternoon rush hour, in a life-threatening situation. I was in the “Y” between the main lanes and an off-ramp, so I couldn’t really move.

I have Good Sam coverage and they absolutely sucked. Left me sitting literally on the Eastex Freeway for 90 minutes. I gave up on them. A regular wrecker driver spotted me and made some phone calls on my behalf, and dispatched this:



After 2019’s towing debacle, this tow was a thing of beauty.



Tiny silver lining: I got to test out our skid wheels, which LB_3 welded onto our Interstate after 2019’s debacle.



Do you SEE how clean and polished our Interstate is in that photo above? You could EAT off of it. I had inspected it thoroughly less than 24 hours previous to this. I went over EVERY INCH. There was nothing wrong with any tire or any other part of it.

Anyway, one more of my nine lives is now consumed. Suddenly I found myself with neither a rear wheel OR brakes on the Eastex Freeway. I thought for a moment that I was going to lose the van, and possibly my life.

I don’t know what caused it. I’ll have more to say about that later. Right now, I’m bloody tired. I had the flatbed driver dump me in a truck stop parking lot, and my husband drove up to meet me and then went back to Houston to an auto parts store that is open until midnight because he thinks that he can replace the shredded brake line. We will tackle that in the morning.

And I already have a virgin Michelin Defender here with me. I bought one - had it shipped to me from Florida - when we were facing quarantine restrictions in Canada six months ago and realized that we would be breaking the law if we called for roadside assistance during that time - we had to be self-sufficient in every respect. So I have that Defender mounted on our spare rim. If we can establish a viable brake line, if we can re-mount the Defender onto the OEM rim, I can get out of this truck stop before this weekend is out.

Sigh...
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Old 01-29-2021, 08:47 PM   #2
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Thankful You Are Okay

This is just awful. So glad you are okay.
Hope you can get the brake line repaired and be able to drive on.

Yeah for the Tow Company that came to the rescue.
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Old 01-29-2021, 09:31 PM   #3
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Wow IB what an event. Thankful for your safe extraction out of this situation. We'll await a sitrep. (Situation report)
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Old 01-29-2021, 10:42 PM   #4
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Try XL Auto Parts, you might have some luck.
Glad you were uninjured. Being stuck on the interstate in San Antonio would not be on my top one million event list.

Your tire may have had a manufacturing defect even if it looked fine on the outside. We had a batch come through years ago that had a weakened side wall and only showed after being aired up and driven.

Good luck getting back on the road.
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Old 01-30-2021, 01:40 AM   #5
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Yikes!

Glad you are OK . . . thanks for the detailed report.
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Old 01-30-2021, 05:18 AM   #6
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Wow!

Glad no one was hurt.

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Old 01-30-2021, 05:40 AM   #7
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OK, the day dawns in the truck stop after a peaceful night surrounded by man camp fivers and utility trucks.

GOOD SAM AND ITS ILK:

Here is one thing I did not know about Good Sam until yesterday: They will not dispatch a tow until they have identified an acceptable place to tow you TO (acceptable to them, not to you).

My reaction to this was like, “Wait - what?” They wanted to find some place that would greet me with open arms after hours Friday evening in New Caney Texas? They might as well have been aspiring to book me one of the first consumer space flight seats to Mars.

Meanwhile, as this debate was transpiring, I was standing with my dog in a 15-foot wide strip of grass between a 70 mph freeway main lanes and a 70 mph off-ramp counting down the minutes until night fell. When my husband and I tried to convey the urgency of the situation, the response we got was, “If you feel like you are in danger, call 911.”

It’s not clear to me how this works out for them from a risk management perspective. We were not able to convey to them that we did not need nose-to-tail service in that context - I just needed to get OFF the FREEWAY. Once that immediate hazard was mitigated, we could worry about the rest.

Maybe they don’t comprehend the nature of freeways in the exurbs of a metro of 7 million people? I don’t know.

At any rate, I was glad that I went with the private-pay option. They did a great job and charged me a fair price which I paid in cash with tip.

Plus I tipped generously the regular wrecker driver who (1) found me the flatbed and (2) parked his own rig behind mine with his lights flashing to shield me from possible wayward vehicles while I waited for the flatbed.

Years ago, someone on this subforum recommended always carrying a number of nice new crisp one hundred dollar bills, just in case you ever need them, because nothing says “hello” quite as effectively. Good advice. I used them yesterday.

1/3
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Old 01-30-2021, 05:52 AM   #8
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Next topic:

WAS THERE ANY WARNING OF THIS BLOW-OUT?

Yes and no. The problem yesterday was that I had a rear cross-wind, which is the absolute worst kind. It was the kind that blows your tail out from under you. So in the few seconds prior to the tire disintegration, yes, I felt something. But I had been carefully watching the flags (literally the American and Texas flags on flagpoles along the freeway, because that’s how I always monitor wind conditions - I look at what every successive flag is doing as I proceed) and the flags told me that yes, I should expect my rear end to be shoved sideways.

Aside: For those of you with newer Interstates, our older first-gen Interstate models (2004 - 2007) do not have any lane assist feature. We are entirely dependent on our own brains for that.

What was different in yesterday’s case, though, was that in the few seconds before the disintegration, what I detected was more rhythmic than normal wind effects. There was a fish-tailing overprint to it, and I thought to myself, “That’s an extremely weird wind.” I dropped my speed down by about 10 mph in response to it, it was so weird (which may have saved my life).

If this had been a calm day and I had begun to detect those same effects, oh hell yes, I would have had a few seconds warning that something was profoundly wrong.

It could have been a tire defect that led to its deflation and then disintegration. Or I could have hit something that resulted in the same outcome. The freeway was clean, however. I did not see any debris that could have done that. I was only about 20 miles into my journey (I had left a client site after work) and I was well-rested, felt very good physically. I was paying strict attention and I did not see any debris.

2/3
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Old 01-30-2021, 06:04 AM   #9
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WHAT ABOUT TPMS?

Our rig doesn’t have any at this point. Both my husband and I have TPMSs on our daily drivers and I hate them. There are 99 false alarms for every true pressure issue - it is very easy to tune those things out mentally. On my Toyota, sometimes it starts flashing the warning symbol when there’s nothing wrong at all, and the only way I can make it go away is to OVER-pressure the tires by a few pounds and then bleed the air back out. That helps to free up the sensors or something. Anyway, bottom line, my experience with TPMS is that it’s a pain that has always caused me more work than it has ever helped illuminate the situation.

Our current Interstate TPMS system is brand-named “Interblog and LB_3”. I gauge my tires at least once every 2 weeks and each time prior to setting out on a trip of more than 50 miles. LB_3 checked the tires 7 hours before this occurred, and asked me as follows: “They are all uniformly a bit low - do you want me to top them off?” I replied, “No, they are just cold from the weather overnight. Once I start driving, they will be fine.”

After this incident, however, I think we will try a TPMS system in the Interstate context. Even 20 seconds warning of a catastrophic failure might be valuable enough to justify it, IF it works correctly, which I doubt that I will ever trust - I think I will always check them manually even if we do get a system.

It has been a few years since we’ve had a TPMS discussion on Sprinter and B Van Forum. If anyone else has retrofitted an older Interstate, please feel free to chime in with your experiences. Thanks.

3/3
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Old 01-30-2021, 06:22 AM   #10
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It is quite rare but possible for a new tire to have a defect resulting in belt degradation and separation like that. But excessive heat is by far more likely. Tell us about the precise tire (size etc.), the load range, the actual vehicle weight (how much gear was in the RV, particularly in the rear) and the inflation pressure (or what you think it was). In the first 1000 miles did you ever find it low on pressure? What was the lowest pressure you ever noted for the tire. A tire under inflated for the load that then experience additional sidewalk flex due to road and weather conditions can very well fail.

Out of goodwill, Michelin will almost certainly replace the tire without asking many questions.
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Old 01-30-2021, 06:24 AM   #11
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Thanks for today's posts -- will read later.

As experienced and prepared as you both are . . . no operator error IMO. FWIW the radar here is flashing "tire defect" -- so you might want to find Michelin etc. blogs, and pursue this angle IMO.

Do you still have enough of the tire left to ID the mfg. batch [or maybe the tire's individual serial number?]

Very cold and windy here -- gotta go check the trailer at storage for charging voltage etc..

Come on Spring!
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Old 01-30-2021, 06:26 AM   #12
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PS -- Good suggestions, Brian.
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Old 01-30-2021, 06:42 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by BayouBiker View Post
Tell us about the precise tire (size etc.), the load range, the actual vehicle weight (how much gear was in the RV, particularly in the rear) and the inflation pressure (or what you think it was). In the first 1000 miles did you ever find it low on pressure? What was the lowest pressure you ever noted for the tire. A tire under inflated for the load that then experience additional sidewalk flex due to road and weather conditions can very well fail.

Yeah, I'm just curious about the tire specs also.
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Old 01-30-2021, 06:47 AM   #14
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Tire engineer here.

That looks like a puncture that wasn't detected and it ran flat. The clue was the warning you got just before the failure. That sounded exactly like the noise and feel you'd get when a tire reaches a very low level of inflation.

So if you look the tire over very carefully, you might find the puncture.

Tire defect? Very, very unlikely. While the photos aren't good enough to do a good diagnosis, overall, that's what a run flat tire looks like after the vehicle comes to rest from high speed. Further, I have only seen a handful of cases where a defect caused a tire failure (out of ten of thousands of examinations).
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Old 01-30-2021, 06:50 AM   #15
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Goodyear had a major problem a few years back with blowing out RV tires. Reminds me of seeing some of the reports from that time. You never know, they could have had a bad compound or cure. Might be a good idea to report it to Michelin.

I had a tire shop put a set of new tires on my car and was having major issues with the ride. Like throwing me into the other lane almost. Ended up they had not checked the springs on my rear of my car. The shocks were fine but the springs were shot and the wheel well was hitting the tire creating flat spots on my tires. You’d think I would have noticed the ride being bad but I had not prior to discovering the problem that I had to diagnose myself. Not that I’m suggesting that happened, but it does come to mind with talking about the side winds. The huge amount of weight on a tire with a quick change in direction like that could probably cause a blowout of that magnitude also. Still just glad you made it out of that situation without major issues. I remember saying to my daughter that it would be beyond scary to have any car issues with the amount of traffic when we visited San Antonio.
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Old 01-30-2021, 06:56 AM   #16
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I will get to those details when I get a chance.

Meanwhile, before I forget —

T1N INTERSTATE OWNERS -

This is an excellent time for you to remind yourselves that the lug bolts needed to attach your full-sized spare are NOT THE SAME SIZE as the bolts that hold on your regular wheels.

The spare lug bolts should be in a plastic bag underneath your jack, which is located in the passenger footwell under the carpet (if you have carpet) in the T1N Sprinter.

Check to verify that those bolts are present, because if you have a flat or a blow-out like I have here, you are not going anywhere without them.

Also, you will notice in this pic that I locked the remains of my wheel to my rear hitch platform. I basically took the gas can cable lock and ran it through the rim. I am in a truck stop - these places can be harsh and unforgiving. Items left sitting freely on the ground might not remain there for very long. Someone might have decided that they would like to have that hunk of metal that I need to retain ownership of. Such notions must be discouraged.

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Old 01-30-2021, 07:39 AM   #17
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My experience with Michelin is summed up in the statement Ralph Nader used to describe the Chevrolet Corvair - "Unsafe at any speed". My own history with Michelin tires:

1 - on my 1994 AS Land Yacht Motorhome, in 2006 the youngest tire was a Michelin on the lefft inside rear and it blew taking out the side panel.

2 - on my 1987 Excella (curently my only AS), I had all the wheels replaced with 16" rims and new Michelin M+S tires (load range E) at JC, including the spare. They came with a 7 year Michelin warranty. At year 3, I had a tread separation on the right front tire. The tire never lost pressure, the tread just peeled off, but damaged the banana wrap in front of it. JC did the repair and Michelin, after months of communications, as a "goodwill" gesture (note: they did not admit to any liability), covered the cost of the repair and the cost of a new tire. I had read that Michelin's website listed recalled lot numbers. So I asked Michelin what about the remaining tires and was assured that their engineers had certified the lot as being fine. Six months later, I had my AS serviced at JC and all the runniung gear checked. I left JC on a Wednesday morning and on Friday afternoon I had another catastrophic failure - this time on the right rear tire which also bent a frame outrigger as well as damaging the banana wrap. I managed to get the spare on and continue towards my destination. The next day (Saturday afternoon) I had another catastrophic failure, this time the left rear tire tread separated and blew, taking out the roadside banana wrap and part of the waste plumbing (fortunately the Thetford valves kept the tanks from emptying). I was left roadside on I-10 near Deming NM and waited for Good Sam to send me 4 new tires. In total, damages were about $12,000 to my AS, part of which my insurers covered. I was $3,000 out of pocket. Michelin refused to cover any part of the damages or tires.

I had had Michelin tires on my TV. My TPMS showed me that at highway speeds the temperature of the Michelin tires rose almost 20 degrees above the ambient temperature. I changed to Cooper tires and I noticed that the tempertures at highway speed are not nearly as hot as when I used Michelin tires.

My conclusion is that Michelin and any tires that they manufacture are unsafe with a useless warranty. The WBCCI is now promoting deals on Michelin tires - It's a bad decision by our club that may have severe legal repercussions.
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Old 01-30-2021, 07:44 AM   #18
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FWIW- Good Sam Road Service will dispatch a tow or flatbed as you specify. Don't bother trying to negotiate with the person on the phone. Their commitment is to tow you to the nearest service provider on their approved list. This may not be the best solution for your needs. I broke down between Buena Vista and Denver CO. in the middle of nowhere and they wanted to tow me to a gas station service center in Frisco CO which was in the opposite direction of my Denver destination.


So I agreed to pay the tow driver the difference in mileage to take me to a dealer in Denver. Afterwords, I submitted a claim to Good Sam for the out-of-pocket expenses. My VW Touareg had a fuel pump/computer failure. My argument that the service station might be capable of making minor repairs, but that it was unlikely that they would be able to diagnose my issues and I would have to stay overnight for them to get parts delivered from the VW dealer in Denver. They accepted and reimbursed for my expenses. And my problem was resolved by the dealer the same day.
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Old 01-30-2021, 08:03 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InterBlog View Post
It has been a few years since we’ve had a TPMS discussion on Sprinter and B Van Forum. If anyone else has retrofitted an older Interstate, please feel free to chime in with your experiences. Thanks.

3/3
I just had steel valve stems installed then I installed the Tire Traker 600 system which is their latest, it is also priced lower than the others, has a lifetime warranty and comes with a repeater. It is exactly the same as the TST just re-branded. The setup was easy and I find the monitor to be easy to use and read. The reviews were mostly good just like the rest, there are always a few bad reviews but many of those can be attributed to user error. They also have English speaking US telephone support and they actually answer the phone. All that said I am installed and ready for the first trip with them.
As for the issues with most factory systems, yes overinflating and bleeding back down works most of the time. I wish they would go with the type VW uses that measures the diameter of the tire and watches for slight changes without using internal sensors (uses the ABS system to count revolutions). I guess most car makers assume the average driver is too inept to program the system when replacing tires or changing inflation pressure or doesn't want to be bothered. It's quite easy to do in the infotainment screen, only takes a couple of minutes. In 2.5 years I haven't had any issues on my TDI

PS it looks like you have a rubber valve stem on that failed tire/wheel, I would not rule out a damaged/leaking valve stem, I have read where that is not uncommon on the Sprinter wheels.
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Old 01-30-2021, 08:46 AM   #20
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The big advantage of a TPMS is the constant display of pressure and temp. In the event of a puncture as the pressure drops an alarm goes off. Hopefully so you can slow and get over. It looks like your rim survived, good, one less item to buy. IMO Michelin Defenders are as good as you can buy, I have them on my truck.
There's no guarantee that all the planning in the world will stop a catastrophic failure, but it seems you did as well as possible.
In my two blowouts (pre TPMS, on a utility trailer) I never saw anything or heard anything. The tire was two strips of bead, the rim gouged, and the fender somewhere in a farmer's field. Black streaks on the back of the tow vehicle. Adventure is not always positive.
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