What Is Tire Debris

What Is Tire Debris

Tire debris, also called road gators, refers to tire treads that are left on the road due to blowouts and shredding. It can cause dangerous accidents, so you need to make sure you don’t leave tire pieces on the road. Also, inspect and replace your tires when they’re worn.

But, how can you prevent it, and what do you do if you leave some debris of your own?

We’ve created a guide so you can avoid road debris and know what to do when you have a blowout.

Here’s a quick guide to preventing road debris:

  • Inspect and replace your tires when needed.
  • Limit retreads to avoid driving with unsafe tires.
  • Avoid over- or underinflating the tires.
  • Rotate your tires regularly for even wear.
  • Always keep your eyes on the road.

What Is Tire Debris

What Are Road Gators?

Road gators are truck tire tread pieces that are left on the pavement due to tire blowouts. They’re bigger than the pieces of debris left by your car and more dangerous because of their size.

Gators commonly occur on highways because high speeds make it more likely to get a blowout. High temperatures also increase the risk of gators, and you should keep an eye out for pieces of tire treads in zones that have a lot of truck traffic. Moments when drivers move heavy cargo, like during the day, are also a higher risk.

Why Is Tire Debris Dangerous?

Road debris, either at the moment of the blowout or later if left on the road, can cause dangerous accidents.

A piece of debris can fly out of a tire with force when the tire blows out and hit the windshield of another vehicle. Highway speeds will make this even more dangerous.

Even if a tire blowout doesn’t immediately cause a dangerous situation, tire debris is still hazardous when left on the side of the road. If a car passes over debris, it can attach to one of the car’s tires and fly off, impacting other vehicles, pedestrians or animals.

Another reason why road debris is dangerous is that it makes drivers swerve or brake to avoid hitting it. Clearly, the result can be a horrific car crash for that car and others.

Road debris is also bad for your tires. You may get a blowout of your own if you hit a big road gator or smaller debris and your treads aren’t in good condition.

Why Do Truck Tires Shred?

Truck tires mostly shred because they’re worn, but some conditions cause them to shred more often:

  • Location: Back wheels carry more weight, so they’re more likely to wear out faster.
  • Weight: Heavy cargo will put more pressure on your wheels and make the rubber wear faster. If your air pressure is too low or high, it can then cause the tire to blow.
  • Speed: High speed increases friction and heat. This affects the rubber’s structure and increases your blowout risk and roadside debris.
  • Weather: High temperatures cause more wear to your tires, so summer is a more likely time for shredding.
  • Retreading: Retreaded rubber is slightly more likely to blow up and leave debris behind. In a study, about 60% or debris was from retreads.

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How Can We Prevent Road Debris?

Here are some tips for tire maintenance to prevent road debris:

Inspect and Replace Your Tires

Make sure to check your tires regularly and replace them when they’re worn. If the tire tread is too worn or you see bulging on the sidewall, it may be time to get new tires.

Limit Retreads

It’s common to retread in the trucking industry to make the rubber last longer. However, more than two or three retreads is a sign your tires may be getting old and worn, making them more hazardous. Make sure you don’t use them when they’re no longer safe.

Don’t Overinflate

Too much tire pressure can cause a blowout. Make sure you inflate to the recommended pressure and never over the maximum advised by the manufacturer.

Don’t Underinflate

Too little air pressure can also cause a blowout. When you don’t have enough air, any obstacle on the road can turn dangerous. Remember that when you’re carrying more cargo, you’ll need some more air in your tires, too.

Rotate Your Tires

Your wheels carry an uneven amount of weight, so you’ll need to rotate them now and then to reduce the risk of one of them wearing out. You can check your owner’s manual to know how often you need to do this or rotate them every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.

Keep Your Eyes on the Road

Some common road hazards can be a cause of a blowout, so make sure you’re focused.

How To Prevent Blowouts

You can also prevent some blowouts by paying close attention to these road hazards.


A sudden pothole can cause a blowout, especially if you’re driving fast. If you see a pothole coming, try to reduce your chances of accidents and punctures. Take your foot off the gas, keep your hands on the steering wheel and drive around it if you can.


Big branches can have an impact on your tires, and you may even find a tree on the highway. Keep an eye out for problems, slow down and switch lanes if the branch is big and it’s safe to do so.

Metal and Glass

Accidents can leave behind metal and glass that causes further problems. Shards of glass or metal debris can easily puncture a tire.

Close Contact

You can also reduce your likelihood of accidents by staying at a safe distance from other vehicles. Truck tires are especially prone to dangerous blowouts because of their size, so if you drive a car or motorcycle, it’s best to stay as far as possible from them.

Brake Lights and Swerving

Stay alert for any braking or moving lights on the road. They might indicate someone ahead of you is dodging debris.

What To Do if You Have a Blowout

Remember that in case of a tire blowout, the driver/trucking company is responsible for any accidents that third parties incur due to debris.

You need to take care of any debris you leave on the road as soon as possible, but still safely:

Keep Your Hands Firmly on the Steering Wheel

Your car might be harder to steer when you’ve lost air, so make sure you keep the wheel steady with both hands. It may even swerve to one side of the other, so just focus and keep calm.

Don’t Brake or Turn the Wheel Abruptly

You’ll lose some of your vehicle’s maneuverability on an empty tire, so it’s especially important to keep it steady.

Take Your Foot off the Gas

Don’t hit the brakes or make fast movements that might cause other cars to hit you, but rather let your car slow down gradually.

Pull up on the Side of the Road

Use your blinkers to those behind you and steer the vehicle to the curb as soon as it’s safely possible.

Use Emergency Flashes or Triangles

Ensure you alert others you’re on the side of the road so you don’t cause accidents. Always use your emergency flashers, and if you have a safety triangle, place it at a safe distance from your vehicle.

Change the Tire or Call for Roadside Assistance

If you have a spare, you can change your tire. If not, call for assistance.

Take Care of Debris

Don’t collect the road debris on your own on the highway—it’s not safe. In case of a big truck blowout, you may need to call the authorities to alert them of the gators you’ve left behind. They’ll mobilize to collect the debris to avoid crashes.

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The Bottom Line

Remember that your tire debris is your responsibility, so you’ll need to make sure your tires are in good condition. If you suffer a blowout and cause another vehicle to have an accident, you’re responsible.

Proper tire maintenance is key. It’s best to check your treads regularly and limit retreads to a maximum of three. Also, rotate your tires now and then to prevent uneven wear.

You should also make sure to stay alert to any problems you may see. This will help you avoid driving over dangerous road debris.