Tires (A Cautionary Tale)

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In April 2015, I went to Discount Tire and bought four new tires for my van. I was so excited. I’d never had four new tires before. Heck, I’d never even had one new tire before. Any time I’d replaced a tire on any vehicle in the past, I’d bought a used one.

The four new tires cost around $400 out the door (which is tire sales speak for including installation, balancing, and tax). My host family paid for a warranty for each tire. The Discount Tire website says,

This warranty, called the Certificate for Repair, Refund or Replacement…cover[s] the tire problems that really frustrate people-road hazards and defects-from the moment they bought the tires to the final mile of legal tread depth (3/32″).

In October, I proudly took my four new tires in for their first rotation. My good mood was shattered when I was told the front tires were wearing unevenly because the van needed a front end alignment. When I took the van in for the alignment, I was further disappointed to find out the van needed $300+ dollars worth of work on the front end before it even made sense to do an alignment. I worked, worked, worked, saved my pennies, and within a week had enough money to pay for the repairs and the alignment.

Fast forward to April 2016. I stopped at a Wal-Mart and noticed a Discount Tire location across the street. I’d been meaning to find out if I were due for a rotation, so I decided to pull in. I thought if I did need a rotation, maybe the shop could take care of it right then and there.

I told the guy working the counter what was up. We walked out to my van to look at the tires. The salesman showed me the silver metal threads showing on the back passenger side tire. WHAT!?!?!?!?! I told him the tires weren’t even a year old. He said the tire (and the one on the back driver’s side too) were prematurely worn because of the time they’d spent on the front when the van was out of alignment. (Yes, I told him about the alignment problem and the uneven wear. I figured it was in my permanent Discount Tire record anyway.) He said driving the tire in the condition it was in was REALLY dangerous. He said I needed two new tires back there.

I asked about the certificate on the tire. He told me it didn’t cover wear, only road hazards and defects.

I asked him if it would be ok if I only bought new tires for the back wheels and kept the two that were on the front. Well, as a matter of fact, he told me, the tires on the front were worn way more than they should be, dangerously worn, and if I were going to buy two new tires, I really needed to buy four new tires.

By this point, my head was spinning. I thought I was just going to deal with a tire rotation, but suddenly I needed to replace four tires that were barely a year old.

He’d do me a favor, the salesman said, because he wanted me to be safe. If I bought three new tires, he would throw in the fourth one for free. I explained to him that I didn’t currently have the money to buy four new tires. He tried to tell me about the Discount Tire credit plan. I shook my head while laughing ruefully. Discount Tire was not going to approve me for any credit, I told him. Perhaps I could get a co-signer, he countered. When I told him that wasn’t going to happen either, he said I should at the very least let them (free of charge, thankfully) replace the badly worn tire on the back passenger’s side with the spare. I thanked him for the offer and handed him my keys.

While waiting, I called a couple of friends and ranted and cried. While I was ranting and crying, the service technician came out and asked me what tire needed to be changed. I probably sounded like an asshole when I told him he should change the tire the service order he was holding in his hand specified. He told me the salesman had written two different things on the service order. So I stopped ranting and crying long enough to walk over to the van with the guy and show him which tire was in the worst shape. After the guy got the van into the repair bay, he walked back over to where I was sitting on the sidewalk (once again ranting and crying) to ask me if he could get me into four new tires today. It took all of my self-restraint not to yell, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I explained (while trying to refrain from laughing maniacally) that I didn’t have money for four new tires. Then he tried to suggest I use the Discount Tire credit plan. So I explained I had already told the other guy that wasn’t going to happen, and he finally left me alone.

I cried all the way to my house sitting job. Just when I thought I’d have a couple of hundred dollars (the extent of my savings left after paying for transmission work in February and a new fuel pump in March) to live on until my temp job scoring standardized tests started, I needed more money than I had for tires. I’m tired of being a burden, I thought. My life is not sustainable.

But also, I was really mad. What’s the point of buying new tires if they’re just going to wear out in a year?

Once again, what I thought was a short story has turned into a saga, so it is to be continued.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

9 Responses »

  1. I have to say that $400.00 for 4 tires is very cheap so my first thought is about tire quality. Discount Tire up here in Canada doesn’t have a good name at all. I know money is an issue for you but my way of thinking is that for the sake of your and the van’s safety, money spent on quality is money well spent. A year on a new tire is ridiculous. I would take the van to someone who isn’t vested in selling tires and get their opinion.

    I spent $1,000 on 4 tires for my van last year, ouch, but I feel safe and that is the most important thing. Can you put photos up of your tires?

    • Thanks for your comments, Lynn.

      Did you want to see photos of the old tires and their damage? I don’t have them any more. Or did you want to see photos of the new tires?

  2. P.S. I was also going to mention that because you are living in your van, do you carry more weight in your back end, that could cause the wearing also. I know when I first got my van I had van tires on it and I went to a tire place that I trust and he told me that I needed a heavier tire to match the weight of the van. That is why my tires are so expensive. Also I have air bags on the back end so carry the weight. Weight distribution is so important. Excuse me, if I am telling you things you already know. Good luck!

    • The tires with the metal showing were on the back, but the uneven wear was due to the van being out of alignment when they were on the front. The front tires that were worn down were wearing evenly.

      I have weight in the back and only the side walls. My bed is made of two pieces of plywood (one that broke in two) sitting on top of 9 inch plastic tubs. I don’t have a bed made with a lot of heavy wood back there. In one of the tubs is hemp and beads for making jewelry. In one tub is paperwork. In three tubs I keep extra food (including some canned goods). In one tub I have maybe a dozen books.I know everything weighs something and it all adds up, but I feel like I don’t have the bunker in the back that I’ve seen in a lot of vans.

      More information about the new tires I got will be included in tomorrow’s post.

  3. From being married to a motorhead for the last half century or so, I can tell you he spends the most time and money on oil changes and tires, as those are the two most important things in his opinion, to keep the engine and vehicle in general moving well. But even cheap tires should last longer than a year. Has anyone asked how many miles you drove in that year? That is important too. So is getting the stinking alignments when they are needed. I hate dealing with car stuff–one time husband said “have them give you the parts they replaced” and they gave me stuff he KNOWS didn’t come off my car. Finding a reliable dealer/car repair/service station is hard but important. Cannot wait to hear the rest of your story. My husband has done most of our car work for years and years but at 74, he’s paying for more than he’s doing lately. His hobby is restoring old cars. I refuse to drive old ones myself any more but we understand when a 1968 has problems!!! That’s his most recent show car, and last summer we did have an unexpected problem and have to rent a car, have our trip, then rent a truck to haul the broken own car home. But we budget for that, because it’s part of the “hobby” of old cars.

    • I drove under 10,000 miles since I got the first set of new tires in April of 2015. Yes, that’s not nearly as many miles as those tires should have gotten. Part two of this saga will go up tomorrow. That post will detail what I was told by the management of Discount Tires and what I decided to do.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. Pingback: 10 Ways to Avoid and/or Prepare for Tire Disasters | Rubber Tramp Artist

  5. Pingback: Tires (A Cautionary Tale) Continued | Rubber Tramp Artist

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