Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Mysterious Case of the Exploding Tire

This is my car.  She is a 1997 Camry.  She has 229,000 miles on her and she has served me well over these past few years.   Her name is the Dreymobile, because she is named after my older sister Audrey. 
Last week, while taking her home with me for a two hour drive on the interstate, we (the car and I) almost died.  You see, my tire exploded.  That's right, it literally exploded.  It was epic!  I was really tired, so at first I didn't even realize what was happening.  I thought that I had swerved onto the reflectors dividing the lanes.  It took me a little while to realize that it was my tire.  When I finally put two and two together, I put my emergency lights on and slowly pulled over to a nearby exit ramp.  I parked on the shoulder and tried to assess the damage.   At this point, it was 9:30 at night, my phone was dying, and I was alone.  My Aunt lives about thirty minutes from where I was, so I tried to call her.  She didn't answer, so I left a voicemail.  After that, I called my mom, who lives an hour away (at the home I was trying to get to), no answer, I left a voicemail.  Then I did what I should probably have done first, I called 911.  They forwarded me to the city police for the city I was nearest.  I told them where I was and they said that they would send help.

Here's the tire: 

Here's another shot:
 So, determined not to be the typical damsel in distress, I decided to change the tire myself.   Now before I go further, I would like to explain something.   Until the day that my tire exploded, I had never changed a tire.  That said, it occurred to me last January, that it is probably very important that I learn how.  Unfortunately, every time I asked someone to teach me I got a mocking, patronizing speech to this effect, "What's to know?  All you do is jack up the car, take off the bad tire, put on the spare, take the car down and you're done."  Being thus put off, my education in tire-changing was delayed.

Back to the story:  I opened my trunk, moved it's contents (all of my WH dishes and business supplies) up to the back seat of the car.  Then I dug out my spare tire, my lug wrench, and my jack.  First off, I jacked up the car (before you comment, keep reading.  I will explain all).  Then I painstakingly loosened one lug at a time.  It took forever, because the tire kept turning.  (I eventually discovered that you're supposed to loosen the lugs before you jack up the car.)  After some effort I managed to get four of five lugs off.  Then I made a terrible discovery; the last lug wasn't shaped like the rest and the lug wrench didn't fit it!

Here's the lug:

 At this point, about twenty minutes had passed and no help had come.  Sure a couple of cops, about eleven eighteen-wheelers, and a few other cars had passed by, but no one had stopped to help.  (I found out later that if you put your hood up, cops are legally required to stop.)  Now my phone had begun blinking rapidly to warn me that the battery was on it's last leg.  Finally, my phone rang.  It was my mom.  I told her where I was and that no help had come, then my phone died.

Now, to be quite honest, I was feeling more than a little bit scared at the point.  My phone was completely dead,  I was alone, I wasn't even sure if I had told my mom the right exit, and I was really tired.  I searched my trunk again, trying to find some other lug wrench or something to get that last lug off.  No success.  After that, it occurred to me to read the owners manual on changing tires.  (This is where I learned that you need to loosen the lugs before you jack up the car.)  But there wasn't a word about one of the lugs being different than the others or requiring a special piece.

Resigned to waiting, I tried to find ways to pass the time.  I also came up with a plan of action for if help never came.  I had my phone charger, but it wasn't a car charger.  So, if help didn't come, my plan was to tear an unimportant page from my owner's manual, write a note to whoever might come explaining where I was going, and walk down the exit ramp to the Motel 6 to charge my phone and see what could be done.  A third cop passed me, but he was pulling someone over for something, so they parked at the far end of the ramp.  As I waited, it began to really worry me that I had told Mom the wrong exit, so I started to walk back up the road to the sign before the exit.

I didn't get far when help finally came, so I ran back to my car to meet the cop who was pulling up.  (It was actually two cops in the car.)  They got out and examined my predicament.  They informed me that the troublesome lug is called a locking lug and the piece for it is kept in the glove compartment.  Stupid owner's manual.  But that was only half of my problem.

As it turns out, one must put the jack on pavement lest it max out and still not be high enough to put the spare on.  So the cops had to figure out another way to get the car up high enough to finish the job.  While they were trying to work it out, another police car arrived.  So now, me and three cops stood on the side of the exit ramp trying to figure out my problem.  Then the police officer who had pulled someone over, backed his car up to us and got out to join the party.   Between the four, very kind state police officers, they were finally able to get the spare on and send me on my way.

My school and my apartment are only about ten minutes away from where my tire blew out so I pulled over there to charge my phone and call home to let my mom know that everything was okay.   She told me that when she had called the state police, they had heard nothing of my trouble.  If she hadn't called, I could have been waiting all night.  It was 11:45 when I finally got to school and just about 1:00AM when I got home.  In the end it was quite an adventure and now I know how to change a tire.



Adolfo said...

4 cops???

Must've thought you were a black guy...

Therese said...

No, I believe they were just bored.

G said...

That must have been soo scary, T!!!! What a way to end a lovely evening we were having!! I am so glad that you were able to call your mom and the police. And, I am SO SO relieved that you weren't hurt!! Your guardian angels were definitely still looking out for you. This story has seriously inspired me to learn how to change a tire!

Therese said...

Do it, G! And don't be put off by sarcasm either! ;)

G said...