Driving in the dark and pouring rain, Ed Bekker felt something hit his car and thought he'd hit a person.

But it turned out to be a rogue tyre that had come loose from a trailer attached to an oncoming car - and he's now on the hunt for the driver.

Bekker was driving his 2013 Skoda home to Whakatane from Rotorua where he works as an engineer, and was on State Highway 30 at Tikitere near the Tikitere Gardens about 6pm when the drama unfolded on August 9.

"It was dark and raining. Within a split second there was something coming towards me," Bekker said.

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"When I got out, I couldn't see what I'd hit. I could have hit a person."

He found a ruptured wheel about 50m up the road.

He believes the wheel was from a tandem-axle trailer that has two wheels on each side - so the motorist would have been able to keep driving with the trailer attached.

"I was in shock. I thought I'd hit a body," Bekker said.

"Lucky it didn't go through the windscreen or I wouldn't be talking to you now. It's quite unnerving."

A few minutes later, a motorist stopped and asked him what had happened. Bekker believes it was the driver coming back to survey the damage because he left without saying anything after checking if he was hurt.

The motorist did not have a trailer attached to his car.

Bekker didn't get the man's registration but says he was an older man and another person was in the car.

Bekker had to call a colleague who came with ropes to "tie everything together" so he could drive home.

The damage has cost his insurance company $10,000.

Bekker is keen to speak to the driver.

"I'm sure my insurance company would like to speak to them, too," he said.

"They should know how dangerous their behaviour was."

He reported it to police.

Rotorua police area prevention manager Inspector Stu Nightingale said police were investigating the incident and urged motorists to check their vehicles.

"This is why we stop and inspect trailers. It's a big safety issue."

He said the impact had been significant and Mr Bekker was fortunate "to have been able to walk away unscathed".

"I am aware of a similar recent incident in another city where a manufacturing fault has been identified as the cause of the trailer vehicle failure.

"We would like to speak to the trailer owner to establish whether this was also a manufacturing fault.

"It is quite possible that a particular brand of trailer may be at risk of further failures and we need to be proactive in keeping our road users safe."

Remko Schipper, who lives near the crash scene, was cooking dinner when he heard "a really big bang".

"A couple of minutes later there was a whole lot of light. I asked the neighbour if he was expecting people. There was a lot of noise, people talking."

He went to investigate with his neighbour and saw the damage.

"A third of the car was smashed up. The driver said, 'I could have died'.

"Luckily it didn't go through the windscreen as the man would have been dead on impact.

"The car has half of its front in bits so it's not just a scratch or a bumper, but serious stuff and big money. He and his family will suffer big through this."

Schipper took Bekker's number and put a shout-out on social media in hope of finding the driver from August 9 but has not yet had any luck.

Any information from the public can be provided to either Rotorua police (07) 349 9400 or Crime Stoppers 0800 555 111.