Created By: ElodieHiras on June 24, 2012 Last Edited By: Antigone3 on March 28, 2013
Troped

Pop The Tires

Deflating the tires of a vehicle to hinder its maneuvrability

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Trope
The classic action movie tactic of shooting tires, or deflating them in any numbers of other ways, to hinder the maneuverability of a vehicle.

The outcome of the tire damage depends to some extent on the special effects budget. The car might crawl to a stop, or become impossible to steer, or spectacularly crash.

The tactic is Truth in Television, police have "spike strips" available for when a high-speed chase isn't the best option. This is a subtrope of Vehicular Sabotage. Spiked Wheels commonly have this effect. Compare to Anti-Cavalry, which takes out a different form of ground transport.

Examples:

Card Games
  • In Mille Bornes you can give an opponent a "Flat Tire," which stops him until he can play a "Spare Tire" or "Puncture Proof" card.

Film
  • In the Russian comedy Shirli Myrli, the main character steals a vehicle to escape cops. The cops decide to shoot his wheels. Unfortunately for them, the vehicle was a tram, and had no tires.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Judge Doom takes out a toon car's tires by pouring toon-dissolving Dip on the road.
  • The Wizard: The bounty hunter after the kids takes out the dad's tires to disable his truck.
  • In Road House Dalton keeps multiple spare tires in the trunk of his car. He is used to having disgruntled bar patrons put holes in his tires and prepares accordingly.
  • In Ocean's Eleven the fake getaway van is brought down by shooting the tires.
  • This happens to the main characters' car in Rebel Without a Cause, and is done with a knife.
  • ''Goldfinger. While driving alongside Tilly Masterson's car, Bond uses one of the Q gadgets in his car to rip open and flatten the tires of Tilly's car, forcing her to stop.
  • Dick Tracy. While Big Boy's thugs are trying to escape the police cordon around his nightclub, Dick Tracy fires his Tommy gun at the tires of one of their cars, causing it to crash.
  • In the 90s Charlie Sheen movie The Chase, Sheen's character, (an escaped inmate) manages to shoot the tires out on a police car chasing his stolen car by sheer accident as it pulls up alongside him. As this happens at high speed, it sends the police car flying.
  • Terminator 2. During the scene where the T-1000 (driving a truck) is trying to run over John Conner (on his motorcycle), the T-800 shoots out the left front tire of the truck. The T-1000 loses control and rams the truck into an overpass, causing the truck to explode.
  • The Matrix Revolutions. While the Agents are pursuing Trinity and Morpheus on the freeway, an Agent shoots out the left rear tire on Trinity's car, which eventually forces her to stop.
  • In The Chase, the tires are popped at 90mph causing the car to fly into the air and crash into a series of other cars.
  • In [[Mad Max The Road Warrior'', Wez shoots his wrist-mounted crossbow at the tires of the Mack truck supposedly carrying the precious fuel. Since it's such a huge and powerful vehicle, it doesn't accomplish much, and the truck keeps on going despite the flattened tires.

Literature
  • Discussed in the car chase scene in Bride of the Rat God. They conclude that the tires are too hard targets considering none of them have any firearm experience, and they should go for the radiator instead. Then it turns out to be moot, since there isn't a gun in their car anyway.
  • In Battle Royale the Grand Finale has the heroes facing off against Kiriyama in a car chase. They use guns to pop his tires and cause his car to get destroyed.
  • Happens by freak accident in one Ciaphas Cain novel: a frag grenade goes off near one of his tank's treads, jamming it completely.

Live Action Television
  • The X-Files: In the episode "Bad Blood," Mulder originally says that he does this to an RV which was stuck going around in circles. However, after Scully notices how dirty his coat is (and how late he was), Mulder sheepishly admits that shooting out the tires was more difficult than he thought it would be. After he ran out of bullets in the attempt, and after trying to grab onto the RV (subsequently getting dragged around, explaining the dirt) he finally just had to wait for it to run out of gas.
    Mulder: Okay, here's something that you may not know: shooting out the tires on a runaway RV is a LOT harder than it looks.
    • "Darkness Falls": Ecoterrorists set up a tire spike on a road in the woods. Mulder, Scully and two guys from Federal Forest Service are screwed up because they have only one spare tire and must hike to the place they were heading.
  • Michael from Burn Notice does this on a multitude of occasions, albeit usually on cars that are not currently in use, in order to stop someone from being able to chase him in that car after he pulls whatever mayhem he's up to.
    • One time, Michael built a homemade spike strip to stop a car so he could talk to the driver.
    • Defied on one occasion. He tried shooting out the tires of a pursuing vehicle and couldn't, so he began using another tactic: shooting down at the road, causing the bullets to ricochet upwards through the unarmored bottom of the pursuing car. Understandably, this freaked the driver in the other car out.
  • Tested twice on MythBusters.
    • When they tested the above scene from Burn Notice, they found that there's too much stuff on the underside of a car to count on a bullet finding its way through ... and that shooting the tires gave them a flat within half a mile.
    • When they looked at various spy-movie gadgets, tires that drove over caltrops deflated very slowly. (Granted, they were using solid caltrops; if the police deploy these instead of a spike strip they use hollow ones to let the air out.) Jamie's tire-slashing rig worked better, but Adam was still able to maintain control of the target car.
  • Subverted on an episode of Thunderbirds: Lady Penelope attempts to shoot out the tyres of a car, only for it to fail because they've been reinforced to protect against such things.
  • In the opening of the first episode of The Walking Dead, they stop the high speed pursuit with a spike strip taking out the wheels of the escaping car.
  • Happens in an episode of Midsomer Murders to Troy. Troy repays the favor at the end of the episode, preventing the murderer from escaping.
  • At the end of the pilot of Vegas2012, Sheriff Lamb uses his rifle to shoot out the front tires of the Killer of the Week's getaway car. Helps that it was coming right at him.

Manga and Anime
  • This happens in Death Note when they are trying to stop Higuchi from driving away with the Death Note.
  • Speed Racer attempted to do this to the Mammoth car. It has so many tires that it didn't have any effect.
  • Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro: In the opening chase scene, Jigen attempts to shoot out the tires of the henchmens' vehicle. The first time, it's subverted; he hits the tires, but they are a special kind that are impervious to regular bullets. Jigen upgrades his ammo and tries again, this time hitting them and causing the car to immediately spin out and crash into the side of the mountain.
  • Psycho-Pass: Akane shoots the tires of a big truck that the culprit Makashima is trying to make his get away in, while clinging to its' side. This works really well, especially since trucks are hard to turn, and he couldn't shake her off.

Newspaper Comics
  • Garfield, in one strip, slashed the tires on a donut truck in order to eat its contents.

Tabletop Games
  • Defied in the d20 Modern setting Urban Arcana with two vehicular magic items, the Reinflating Tires, reinflating once and only once when they get punctured, and the Impervious Tires, which are tires possessing a hardness of 20 (In Layman's Terms, they can resist .44 Magnum bullets.)
  • Car Wars. Some dueling arenas have rules against shooting at other cars' tires because it's too easy to disable them that way.

Video Games
  • A possible tactic in the Grand Theft Auto series since GTA Vice City. In fact, Crazy-Prepared players might just preemptively take out the tires of stationary vehicles near the mission to prevent their opponents to escape by driving them.
  • In the car chase sequences in L.A. Noire your partner can do this if you drive into position and give him a clear shot. At the climax of one arson case you end up chasing a tram where this isn't an option.
  • In Saints Row: The Third you have to shoot out the wheels on a semi-trailer truck to stop it during one mission. Also, it's possible to shoot out the wheels of any car in the game, which greatly lowers its handling but still leaves it able to be driven.
  • This is a gameplay mechanic in True Crime: Streets of L.A..
  • In many Need for Speed games that have police, if your heat level gets high enough, cops will start deploying spike strips with their roadblocks. Even losing one tire to one will cause your vehicle to be very difficult to control, and is usually followed by the cops arresting you.
  • In Plants vs. Zombies, you can pop the tires of the vehicle based Zomboni and the Catapult Zombie by planting a Spikeweed/Spikerock in its track. For some reason, this does not only pop the tires, but also make the entire vehicle blow up.
  • Popping the tires on vehicles in Crysis won't immobilize them. It'll slow them down, though.

Webcomics
  • Done accidentally in Halo: A Fistful of Arrows. Jun shoots out the tire of a car carrying a terrorist leader he's trying to capture. The car spins out of control and goes off a bridge.

Western Animation

Real Life
  • The CIA is said to have distributed caltrops to saboteurs. These caltrops could easily be disassembled/reassembled, and were designed to slash, not puncture, a target's tires.
  • In addition to the police use of spike strips mentioned above, some parking garages use spike beds designed to only puncture tires from one direction. They're used both to enforce one-way lanes and to interfere with people trying to leave without paying.
Community Feedback Replies: 70
  • June 24, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    Webcomic
    • Done accidentally in Halo A Fistful Of Arrows. Jun shoots out the tire of a car carrying a terrorist leader he's trying to capture. The car spins out of control and goes off a bridge.
  • June 24, 2012
    Tiiba
    In the Russian comedy called Shirli Myrli, the main character steals a vehicle to escape cops. The cops decide to shoot his wheels. Unfortunately for them, the vehicle was a tram, and had no tires.
  • June 26, 2012
    nitrokitty
    • Tested in various ways in Mythbusters. The short of it is that it is much harder to drive a car with the tires out, but it does not necessarily disable the car immediately, or result in the dramatic spin-out often seen in the movies.
  • June 26, 2012
    randomsurfer
  • June 26, 2012
    TonyG
    • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Judge Doom takes out a toon car's tires by pouring toon-dissolving Dip on the road.
    • On the Goofy short "How to Be a Detective", the thug Goof is pursuing pours tacks on the road. Goofy quickly uses a broom to sweep them out of the way.
  • June 26, 2012
    surgoshan
    • The Wizard: The bounty hunter after the kids takes out the dad's tires to disable his truck.
  • June 26, 2012
    nielas
    • In Road House Dalton keeps multiple spare tires in the trunk of his car. He is used to having disgruntled bar patrons put holes in his tires and prepares accordingly.
  • June 26, 2012
    Bisected8
    • In Real Life spike strips ("stingers") and certain types of Caltrops (they tend to be hollow and have holes near the middle to ensure they let air out if they get stuck in the tyre) are designed to do this in order to stop a vehicle (the former's prefered by law enforcment, since it's a lot easier to deploy and tidy up afterwards).
  • June 27, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Car Wars. Some dueling arenas have rules against shooting at other cars' tires because it's too easy to disable them that way.
  • July 10, 2012
    Bisected8
    • In the car chase sequences in LA Noire your partner can do this if you drive into position and give him a clear shot. At the climax of one arson case you end up chasing a tram where this isn't an option.
  • July 10, 2012
    Cider
    • Jame's bond(would go under film) has had at least one car that could repair and inflate its tires without stopping if they got punctured.
  • July 10, 2012
    Generality
    You might want to mention caltrops in the description as a common way to do this. Another real-life example: The spike beds in parking garages and some other places, designed to puncture from only one direction, used to enforce one-way traffic and prevent people leaving without paying.
  • July 10, 2012
    NimmerStill
    In OceansEleven the fake getaway van is brought down by shooting the tires.
  • July 10, 2012
    Xtifr
    • In Mythbusters, after testing and disproving a much more complicated TV shooting trick, they decided to compare it to the much simpler technique of shooting out the tires, and confirmed that it was both simple and effective as a means of deterring pursuit.
  • July 10, 2012
    Cider
    That example was already suggested. But speaking of James Bond, this is referenced in Bad Company by Chris Tucker's character as something James Bond would do in a car chase. Unfortunately, his partner isn't as good of a shot.
  • July 10, 2012
    amiavamp
    In Saints Row The Third you have to shoot out the wheels on a semi-trailer truck to stop it during one mission. Also, it's possible to shoot out the wheels of any car in the game, which greatly lowers its handling but still leaves it able to be driven.
  • July 10, 2012
    giggles
    This happens to the main characters' car in Rebel Without A Cause, and is done with a knife.
  • July 10, 2012
    captainsandwich
    This happens in Death Note when they are trying to stop Higuchi from driving away with the Death Note
  • July 10, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Card Game: In Mille Bornes you can give an opponent a "Flat Tire," which stops him until he can play a "Spare Tire" or "Puncture Proof" card.
  • July 11, 2012
    NightNymph
    Not sure what type this falls under: played with, subverted, inverted etc., but...
    • X Files: In the episode "Bad Blood," Mulder originally says that he does this to an RV which was stuck going around in circles. However, after Scully notices how dirty his coat is (and how late he was), Mulder sheepishly admits that shooting out the tires was more difficult than he thought it would be. After he ran out of bullets in the attempt and after trying to grab onto the RV (subsequently getting dragged around, explaining the dirt) he finally just had to wait for it to run out of gas.
      Mulder: Okay, here's something that you may not know: shooting out the tires on a runaway RV is a LOT harder than it looks.

    (This can be edited any way you wish if you use it as an example. I also like that above quote. heh.)
  • July 11, 2012
    ShiningArmor87
    • Garfield, in one strip, slashed the tires on a donut truck in order to eat its contents.
  • July 11, 2012
    Antigone3
    The two Myth Busters examples in the comments are from two different episodes, I think we can count both of them.
  • July 11, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Spiked Wheels is a subtrope.
  • July 11, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
  • July 12, 2012
    TheWanderer
    • Michael from Burn Notice does this on a multitude of occasions, albeit usually on cars that are not currently in use, in order to stop someone from being able to chase him in that car after he pulls whatever mayhem he's up to. On at least on occasion he tried shooting out the tires of a pursuing vehicle and couldn't, (it's a rather tough target in real life) so he began using another tactic: shooting down at the road, causing the bullets to ricochet upwards through the unarmored bottom of the pursuing car. Understandably, this freaked the driver in the other car out.

    Here's a quote from another occasion:
    Michael: (narrating) Chasing a car with a motorcycle is a tricky thing to pull off. The obvious thing to do is to shoot out the car's tires. Problem is, it's a very difficult shot unless you're alongside the car.
  • July 12, 2012
    Blubble
    Shouldn't we mold this into a trope concerning vehicle sabotage in general? Snapping the brakes, blocking the exhaust pipe, sugar in the motor... etc.
  • July 12, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^We already have Vehicular Sabotage.
  • July 13, 2012
    triassicranger
    • An episode of Thunderbirds has Lady Penelope attempt to shoot out the tyres of a car, only for it to fail because they've be reinforced to protect against such things. (Sidenote: is this a subversion?)
      • In the first episode, some of the tyres of the vehicles used to land Fireflash on explode due to the friction from braking. Toward the end of this scene, Virgil's vehicle slides off from underneath Fireflash, off the runway and into a ditch.
    • Please Sir (the movie) has an instance where someone puts glass underneath the wheels of the bus, causing the tyre to burst, the bus to be halted and their journey to the adventure camp to be further delayed.
    • In Carry On Cabby, there is a scene where someone puts a spike underneath one of the wheels of a cab to puncture the tyre to prevent it from being driven.
  • July 13, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    "We already have Vehicular Sabotage."

    So this would be a Sub Trope?
  • July 13, 2012
    ManicPolymath
    I'm of the opinion that these are sister tropes, the key difference being motion. If the tires are slashed before the car starts moving, it is Vehicular Sabotage, while if the tires are shot while the car is in motion, you have this trope. YMMV on how slight this difference is, though.

    I guess my point is that it is pretty hard to cut the brake lines while the vehicle is going 75mph. (Just ask Keanu Reeves.)
  • July 16, 2012
    PaulA
    • Discussed in the car chase scene in Bride Of The Rat God. They conclude that the tires are too hard targets considering none of them have any firearm experience, and they should go for the radiator instead. Then it turns out to be moot, since there isn't a gun in their car anyway.
  • August 13, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • Goldfinger. While driving alongside Tilly Masterson's car, Bond uses one of the Q gadgets in his car to rip open and flatten the tires of Tilly's car, forcing her to stop.
    • Dick Tracy. While Big Boy's thugs are trying to escape the police cordon around his nightclub, Dick Tracy fires his Tommy gun at the tires of one of their cars, causing it to crash.
  • August 13, 2012
    surgoshan
    • In the opening of the first episode of The Walking Dead, they stop the high speed pursuit with a spike strip taking out the wheels of the escaping car.
  • August 13, 2012
    TheWanderer
    • In the 90s Charlie Sheen movie The Chase, Sheen's character, (an escaped inmate) manages to shoot the tires out on a police car chasing his stolen car by sheer accident as it pulls up alongside him. As this happens at high speed, it sends the police car flying.
  • August 18, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • Terminator 2. During the scene where the T-1000 (driving a truck) is trying to run over John Conner (on his motorcycle), the T-800 shoots out the left front tire of the truck. The T-1000 loses control and rams the truck into an overpass, causing it to explode (the truck, not the overpass).
  • August 19, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Maybe we can just call it Pop The Tires.
  • August 19, 2012
    Heffenfeffer
    Maybe Early Retireless? Poppin' Hubcaps?

    Also, some examples: Movie:
    • Breaking Away has a scene where a rival racer jams a stick into Dave's bike mid-race, causing him to crash.
    Television:
    • In Frasier, after Frasier deals with a jerk at the radio station, Roz suggests going to the parking lot and letting the air out of the jerk's car tires.
    Web Comic:
    • Dr Mc Ninja has a scene where when in a showdown with motorcycle ninjas, he throws a katana into the fork of another ninja's bike, causing the unfortunate ninja to flip and crash.
  • August 27, 2012
    captainsandwich
    I think we should loosen the trope description to just damaging tires. so things like slashing and other instances would match the text. (otherwise one of three examples up doesn't belong).
  • August 27, 2012
    Folamh3
    This is a gameplay mechanic in True Crime Streets Of LA.
  • August 28, 2012
    KarjamP
    Speed Racer attempted to do this to the Mammoth car in the anime. It has so many tires that it didn't have any affects.
  • September 12, 2012
    Acebrock
    • In many Need For Speed games that have police, if your heat level gets high enough, cops will start deploying spike strips with their roadblocks. even losing one tire to one will casue your vehicle to be very difficult to control, and is usually followed by the cops arresting you.
  • September 26, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Matrix Revolutions. While the Agents are pursuing Trinity and Morpheus on the freeway, an Agent shoots out the left rear tire on Trinity's car, which eventually forces her to stop.
  • September 26, 2012
    captainsandwich
    I think there are plenty of examples (in a way), they just need to be rolled.
  • September 26, 2012
    KZN02
    Compare Anti Cavalry?
  • September 27, 2012
    johnnye
    Wow, How Did We Miss This One?

    Just to add to the Burn Notice example above; it's also been done with incendiary shells and with a small explosive charge dangled underneath a pursuing car on a length of rope.
  • October 3, 2012
    Omeganian
    Poison Ivy did that in Batman The Animated Series at least once with her wrist crossbow. At the end of the episode, her own tire is shot.
  • October 3, 2012
    captainsandwich
    I don't think the Burn Notice bullet ricocheting under the car is this trope, besides myth-busters busted it (Not that tropes have to a heavy connection to reality, or that myth-busters are anything more than glorified amateurs with clout and a budget, infact I believe in that episode they said that loosing half your speed means loosing half your kinetic energy :P, although I do admit the original duo are probably much more qualified than the typical amateurs in testing movie myths).
  • October 3, 2012
    Chabal2
    Happens in an episode of Midsomer Murders to Troy. Troy repays the favor at the end of the episode, preventing the murderer from escaping.
  • October 3, 2012
    acrobox
    Leonardo does this to Snake's van in the first episode of the Nickelodeon Ninja Turtles series by throwing a shuriken on a curve in midair from the rooftops to hit a speeding vehicle directly in its front tire.
  • October 3, 2012
    DracMonster
    Shoot The Tires? This is almost always done with a gun.
  • October 3, 2012
    Xelloss08
    An episode of The X Files has Mulder and Scully comment that this is more difficult than it looks, then shows a flashback of them spending a considerable amount of time and bullets trying and failing to shoot out the tires of an RV.
  • October 4, 2012
    NightNymph
    ^ Actually only Mulder was present for the RV incident (See my entry for this - with quote - about halfway down this thread), because Scully had to do an autopsy. Mulder had help - or lack thereof as the case may be - from the local Sheriff instead. Ironically later in that same episode, Scully did actually shoot a tire of the suspect's vehicle - which was the reason the suspect had to run away - but I think the vehicle was sitting in the paring lot rather than moving.
  • December 4, 2012
    johnnye
    ^^^^^^ That first Burn Notice example would be a Defied Trope -- he decides it's too hard to shoot the tires so he does something else. That show has discussed this particular trope several times, I added a few more in an earlier post.

    So, is this ready to launch?
  • December 4, 2012
    StarSword
    I got another example for you, and you should run through the comments and grab anything you're missing. Otherwise, I'd say it's ready.

    TV:
    • At the end of the pilot of Vegas, Sheriff Lamb uses his rifle to shoot out the front tires of the Killer of the Week's getaway car. Helps that it was coming right at him.

    And another one for Burn Notice:
    • Michael once builds a homemade spike strip to stop a car so he can speak to its occupant.
  • December 4, 2012
    Chernoskill
    Semi-Inversion: In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israel Defense Force found that partly deflating tires increased vehicle mobility in the desert.
  • December 4, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I bet we could go shorter with the names. Pop The Tires?
  • March 25, 2013
    giggles
    bump
  • March 25, 2013
    StarSword
    It's been sitting idle long enough to be Up For Grabs if anyone's interested.
  • March 25, 2013
    Antigone3
    I'll take it on. I'll finish moving examples tonight or tomorrow.
  • March 26, 2013
    Antigone3
    OK, did I miss anything? Or are we ready to launch?

    (Also renamed to Pop The Tires)
  • March 26, 2013
    Doryna
    Lupin III: The Castle Of Cagliostro: In the opening chase scene, Jigen attempts to shoot out the tires of the henchmens' vehicle. The first time, it's subverted; he hits the tires, but they are a special kind that are impervious to regular bullets. Jigen upgrades his ammo and tries again, this time hitting them and causing the car to immediately spin out and crash into the side of the mountain.
  • March 26, 2013
    chicagomel
    AdamTwelve-the officers get their squad car's tires cut by a troubled kid while they're doing community relations at a school.
  • March 26, 2013
    xanderiskander
    Anime And Manga
    • Psycho Pass: Akane shoots the tires of a big truck that the culprit Makashima is trying to make his get away in, while clinging to it's side. This works really well, especially since trucks are hard to turn, and he couldn't shake her off.

    Looks ready to me.
  • March 27, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    • In Plants Vs Zombies, you can pop the tires of the vehicle based Zomboni and the Catapult Zombie by planting a Spikeweed/Spikerock in its track. For some reason, this does not only pop the tires, but also make the entire vehicle blow up.
  • March 27, 2013
    MokonaZero
    In Battle Royale the Grand Finale has the heroes facing off against Kiriyama in a car chase. They use guns to pop his tires and cause his car to get destroyed.
  • March 27, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Happens by freak accident in Ciaphas Cain: a frag grenade goes off near one of his tank's treads, jamming it completely.
  • March 27, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    • In The Chase, the tires are popped at 90mph causing the car to fly into the air and crash into a series of other cars.
  • March 27, 2013
    Chernoskill
    • In The Road Warrior, Wez shoots his wrist-mounted crossbow at the tires of the Mack truck supposedly carrying the precious fuel, but since it's such a huge and powerful vehicle, it doesn't accomplish much, and the truck keeps on going despite the flattened tires.
  • March 27, 2013
    XFllo
    • The X Files:
      • "Bad Blood": ...
      • "Darkness Falls": Ecoterrorists set up a tire spike on a road in the woods. Mulder and Scully and two guys from Federal Forest Service are screwed up because they have only one spare tire and must hike to the place they were heading.
  • March 27, 2013
    StarSword
    Video Games:
    • Popping the tires on vehicles in Crysis won't immobilize them. It'll slow them down, though.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=oa7wrzvmzqg8t0o0bjbcphrh&trope=PopTheTires