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Pop The Tires
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:

Anime & Manga
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Golgo 13. In the anime episode "The Masterpiece Assault Rifle" Duke is hired to burst the tire of the Japanese contestant in a car rally, to make it crash so that model of vehicle will be discredited and not compete with European manufacturers. Turns out it's a ruse by a Mad Scientist who wants to test his new assault rifle against the world's top assassin — he suffers a Karmic Death when (after inevitably defeating the two mercenaries armed with the new rifle) Duke shoots out his tire as he flees, sending his van off a cliff.

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 Oceans 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.
    • While driving another Q Car across a frozen lake in The Living Daylights, an exploding rifle grenade bursts his tire. Bond uses the rim as an improvised cutter to cut a large hole in the ice, sinking the vehicle chasing him, then presses a button to deploy some skis and Spiked Wheels.
    • Played straight and subverted in Tomorrow Never Dies. Bond drives over his own caltrops (to be fair, he didn't have much choice) and promptly activates a mechanism that seals up the holes and reinflates the tires in seconds flat!
  • 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 (the tires are popped at 90mph), it sends the police car flying, and it crashes into a series of other cars.
  • Terminator 2. During the scene where the T-1000 (driving a truck) is trying to run over John Connor (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 Reloaded. 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 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, and has multiple wheels, it doesn't accomplish much. The truck keeps on going despite the flattened tires.
  • Double Subversion in the American remake of Taxi where the cop shoots out the tires of the thieves' car and it doesn't affect the car at all. Queen Latifah's character, however, realizes not only how this is possible (the wheels use a special gel to temporarily plug the hole and give the wheels some mileage before this trope is played straight) but manages to track the thieves to the only part in New York where you could get these tires.
  • In Heat
    • In the armored car robbery, Neil and his crew have timed the police response to three minutes. They are driving away from the scene just as the first police cruisers hit a spike strip laid down in the middle of the street by Trejo and screech to a halt, with two of them fishtailing.
    • In the bank robbery shootout, Sgt. Drucker shoots the left rear tire of the getaway car. Donald Breedan struggles to control the car, until he is shot in the head by a police round and killed, and the car crashes into the back of an abandoned vehicle.
  • The Transporter. In the second movie Frank is in a Car Chase with a Ukrainian hit team who try to stop him by shooting out the tires. Frank slams on the brakes and breaks the arm of the mook leaning out the car window with an assault rifle.

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.
  • In The Pushcart War pushcarters get revenge on trucks by using pea-shooters to shoot pins at their tires. Although they aim at parked/stuck-in-traffic trucks to keep them stopped; they avoid shooting at people or deliberately causing an accident.

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 tire spikes 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. At the end of the episode they're trying to drive out before nightfall with a captured ecoterrorist to escape the Monster of the Week, only to be stopped by another caltrop. "Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!"
  • 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.
  • Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor does this in "Gault's Brain" (one of the more impressive things he managed to do without Wonder Woman's help).
  • In the short-lived series Drive, Wendy is tasked with killing Ivy. She decides to keep Ivy's team from going anywhere by shooting out one of their tires. After they discover the tire was shot out, Wendy tries to make her move. However, Ivy manages to disarm her. After learning the reason Wendy's in the race, Ivy decides to team up with her. As a parting gift, she shoots out the other tires on her former team's vehicle.
  • Arrow: Oliver does this to Dodger's car in "Dodger"; shooting the tyre with an arrow and causing it to crash.

Newspaper Comics

Role-Playing Games
  • In Dino Attack RPG, during her Outside Ride scene, Silencia Venomosa was climbing all over Montoya's car to slash the tires with her knife, and neither Montoya nor Schiess caught on until it was too late. By the time they managed to shake her off, the tires were all slashed and subsequently popped, sending the car crashing into a ditch.

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 Grand Theft Auto: 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. Another common tactic is getting a 3-star wanted level, wherein the cops will start laying spike strips on the street, then the rest is obvious: as long as you can get your opponent to run over them, and avoid them yourself, you'll be fine. Another benefit to popping the tires is that tires are always vulnerable to gunfire, while cars during missions can at times be unrealistically tough to keep the player from an easy win.
  • 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.
  • The Saints Row series also has this tactic just like Grand theft Auto. 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 LA.
  • 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 not only pops the tires, but also makes the entire vehicle blow up.
  • Popping the tires on vehicles in Crysis won't immobilize them. It'll slow them down, though.
  • Shooting an enemy vehicle's tires in Sleeping Dogs will cause it to violently flip up in the air and then explode.
  • Just Cause allows most vehicles' tires to be shot out. For the player it's a mild annoyance at best, while anyone the player does this to typically spins out of control.
  • This is the weakness of Nitro Man (a robot who transforms into a motorbike) in Mega Man 10. A direct Chill Spike shot freezes him but deals little damage. However, if you shoot it at the ground to form an icy spike strip and let Nitro Man run over it, he suffers a lot of damage.
  • At the end of Time Crisis 4's stage 1 area 2, you have to stop a truck by sniping two of its tires out.
  • The James Bond games use this as a Bond Move—shooting out the tires counts as a non-lethal disable.

Web Comics
  • 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, and are often accompanied by the iconic "SEVERE TIRE DAMAGE" warning.
  • The prevalence of "run-flat tires", however, is forcing police and military engineers to treat this trope as a Dead Horse Trope. One of the most promising innovations is the "X-net", which is less about popping tires and more about locking them in place.

Outside RideChase SceneThe Precarious Ledge
Pit GirlsMotor Vehicle TropesRice Burner
Vehicular SabotageVehicle IndexWacky Racing
No Sense of DirectionJustForFun/Tropes Examined by the Myth BustersBurn Notice

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