Tag Archives: tires

10 Ways to Avoid and/or Prepare for Tire Disasters

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You probably read about how I started off 2018 with a tire disaster. (Even one flat can be a huge inconvenience, but I’m going to call three flats on two vans and no usable spare a disaster.)

Today I’m going to share what I learned from my tire woes in hopes of helping my readers possibly avoid and at least prepare for their next flat. I wish a true tire disaster on no one, but if it happens, you can be ready.

#1 Run on tires that are in good condition. It’s easy to ignore tires when they’re doing a good job rolling you down the road. It’s impossible to ignore a tire that’s gone flat and left you stranded. While purchasing good tires may seem like an extravagance (it often has to me), you’re less likely to have a flat if your tires are strong and in good condition. Make sure your tread depth is within acceptable limits. Check for cracks in the tread or sidewall. If you can see the metal wires in the tire, you are in imminent danger of a blowout. If you’re buying a used vehicle, determine the age of the tires even if they look new. According to Car and Driver,

most tires should be inspected, if not replaced, at about six years and should be absolutely be swapped out after 10 years, regardless of how much tread they have left.

#2 Don’t count on roadside assistance. It’s great to have roadside assistance, either through your insurance or AAA or the Good Sam Club. (Roadside assistance from my Progressive insurance has saved my butt on several occasions, as has AAA.) However, what roadside assistance offers may be limited. AAA can’t help you if you’re off the pavement. Roadside assistance is great if you’re on the road, but if you’re a few miles out boondocking on public land, you’re going to have to depend on yourself (or possibly the kindness of strangers).

#3 Know how to take off a flat tire and put on the spare and PRACTICE the procedure. This is a tip I need to take to heart. I know in theory how to change a tire, but theory will be mostly useless if I’m stuck somewhere without help. If you don’t have someone to teach you how to get the flat tire off and the spare tire on, watch a tutorial online, then get out there and put your knowledge to the test.

#4 Check your spare. Is it in good condition? Is it properly inflated? Can you remove it from its holder? A spare that’s flat or inaccessible is worthless.

#5 Have a jack that’s strong enough to lift your rig. The scissor jack that works to lift The Man’s minivan might not be able to handle the weight of my conversion van. Make sure your jack is what you need before you need it. Don’t have a jack? Get one.

Slime 40032 12-Volt Tire Inflator with Gauge and Light
#6 Invest in a portable air compressor that runs off your vehicle’s battery. I have a Slime brand portable air compressor and I’m quite happy with it. A hitchhiker The Man and I picked up warned me that the air compressor would drain a vehicle’s battery, but neither The Man nor I have had that experience. (That hitchhiker was a real naysayer on just about every topic.) If your tire has a slow leak, you can use the air compressor to pump it up enough to drive to a tire repair shop.

#7 Carry a can of tire sealant/aerosol tire inflator in your rig. This product (made by Fix-a-Flat and Slime, among others) costs under $10 (if you buy it in civilization and not at some rip-off gas station in the middle of nowhere), and will help get your rig to a shop where the tire can be repaired or replaced. I have a big van with big tires, so I carry a big can of Fix-a-Flat with me.

The DealNews website has a good article on the pros and cons of using tire sealant/aerosol tire inflator. I would not use my can of Fix-a-Flat before first trying to inflate the tire using my air compressor. If the tire wouldn’t hold air from the compressor, I would then take off the flat tire and put on my spare. I would only use the Fix-a-Flat if I had no other option. Also, tire sealant is not going to work on a gash, slash, or blowout, so its usefulness will depend on the type of damage the tire has suffered.

#8 Once you use sealant/aerosol inflator in the tire, get the tire to a repair shop as soon as possible. My understanding is that sealant/aerosol tire inflators (like Slime or Fix-a-Flat) are for temporary, emergency use only. You have to get to a tire shop as soon as you can to get a proper repair.

Fix-A-Flat S60269 Aerosol Tire Inflator with Eco-friendly Formula, 24 oz.

#9 Get the warranty when you buy new tires. I think I paid $20 per tire for my warranties, which felt like an extravagance at the time. However, the $20 I paid got a tire that cost over $100 replaced for free. The money I spent on the warranty seems like a bargain now.

#10 Choose your boondocking site carefully. If you’re boondocking on public land, think carefully about the spot you choose. Lots of folks like to be as far away from the main road and other campers as possible, but think about how far you’ll have to walk to get help if you have a flat or mechanical problem. If you can’t solve your own problems, you may want to park closer to the main road.

Also consider the road to the boondocking area. Can your tires handle ruts and pointy rocks that may be present? You don’t want to damage your tires while trying to get closer to nature. Get out and access the situation before you blissfully head out into the wild blue yonder.

Don’t let my story of tire disaster scare you. Use what I’ve learned so you can prepare for and hopefully avoid what I went through. However, please know that these tips are just suggestions. I am not responsible for your safety and wellbeing. Only YOU are responsible for your safety and wellbeing.

Also, feel free to share you stories of tire disasters in the comments section below.

Tires (A Cautionary Tale) Continued

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After crying for a couple of hours after arriving at my house sitting job, I calmed down a little. Actually, I calmed down after crying for a couple of hours, eating lunch, and communicating with my friend Mr. Prius through instant messaging and then an actual voice conversation. Mr. Prius helped me clarify my thoughts by asking questions and making suggestions, but never told me what he thought I should do.

The more I thought about the offer from the salesman at Discount Tire to give me a free tire if I bought three, the sketchier it seemed. I didn’t believe the tires I’d bought should be worn to the point of needing replacement after a year’s use.

As I told Mr. Prius, after the salesman saw the front tires, he acted surprised by how worn down they were. That’s when he told me I needed to get two new front tires too. I thought if the tires were wearing down faster than they should have been, it was Discount Tire’s responsibility to replace them. If the tires are supposed to last x number of miles and the tires were not going to last that long, I didn’t think that was my fault.

Once I was calm, I called the Discount Tire regional office. I explained the situation to the woman who answered the phone. She suggested I  talk to a store manager, but I said I wanted to talk to someone higher up. She said she would have a vice president call me back.

The VP called me back that afternoon. He was very nice to me, listened to me, and answered my questions. He said they could  give me $50 to $60 (depending on what replacement tires I bought) credit on each tire. That seemed like a better deal than getting one tire free, which is the “deal” the salesman was going to give me to “help me out.” Also, by giving me a credit on the prematurely worn tires, I felt as if Discount Tire were talking some responsibility, which made me feel better.

The next morning I paid a visit to the Discount Tire location closest to where I was house sitting. I talked to Larry, the manager. I felt good about what he told me.

First, despite what I understood the vice president to say, the manager said they could not give me a credit for the two tires damaged due to improper alignment. The manufacturer viewed that damage as due to my negligence and would not accept them as a return. While that decision didn’t make me happy, I understood it and thought it was fair. While I didn’t think it was my fault the tires were damaged (I didn’t even know the van was out of alignment and as soon as I did, I had it repaired as soon as possible), I could accept the damage to the tires as my responsibility.

The salesman I spoke to initially told me I needed bigger tires. The manager said it was not bigger tires I needed, but stronger tires. He said vans and big trucks are heavy and need really strong tires. Lesser tires simply wear out too fast.

The first four new tires I bought were a higher quality than what the manufacturer recommended for the van. When I went in to have the tires mounted, the recommended ones were out of stock, so they gave me a free upgrade to the next higher quality. But as far as I can remember, no one tried to tell me maybe I needed better tires. Of course, I would have probably just thought they were trying to upsell me and not bought the better quality tires anyway. Also, I was working with very little money then, so I don’t know if I would have been able to afford the better, more expensive tires.

Larry made two recommendations to me. He said Michelin tires are the best of the best. They were running about $109 per tire. He said second best, but still very good, are Yokohama tires. They were running about $10 less per tire than the Michelins. He told me he has Yokohamas on the Jeep his family uses for both driving on dirt roads and hauling around kids.

He also told me both companies were running rebate specials. He said Michelin would give a $70 rebate on the purchase of four tires, and Yokohama would give a $60 rebate on the purchase of four tires.

I had a really difficult time deciding which tires to buy. Was it woth $50 out the door to get Michelins? How much difference would having Michelins make? Would I be sorry if I bought Yokohamas in order to save a few bucks? I thought reading online reviews would help me make my decision, but my research only made making my decision more difficult. Plenty of people hate Yokohama tires, and plenty of people hate Michelin tires. What to do?

I’d decided to go with Michelin shortly before arriving for my installation appointment. However, when I told Larry I wanted the Michelins, he got a pained look on his face and said he didn’t have them in stock. He said he thought I’d decided on Yokohamas and had made sure he had those available for me. I’m not sure how he reached his conclusion, as I don’t recall a conversation when he said, so you want to go with the Yokohamas?  and I answered, yes, Yokohamas, please. As far as I was concerned, I’d only made a decision an hour before. But whatever. Larry offered to reschedule my appointment for Monday, at which time he’d have the Michelins, but I said no. I was ready to be done with the entire tire situations. The universe spoke, and the universe said Yokohama.

I got another surprise when it was time to pay. I told the worker running my debit card that I needed whatever I needed for the rebate. He said he thought the rebate hadn’t started yet. Larry was walking by, and when the worker asked him about the rebate, he said to give me an instant rebate. So the worker deducted $60 from the total, which was awesome.

This is the point in the post where I was going to give advice on buying tires. However, I realized the only advice I have about buying tires is to spend as much as you can afford to buy the best, strongest, tires you can get. Vans are heavy, especially when one is hauling around a bunch of stuff. I suspect when the manufacturer made their tire recommendations, the experts were thinking the van was going to be driven around town and/or on camping trips a few times a year. They were probably not thinking folks were going to be hauling around all the things people living in their vans are hauling around.

Invest in the best. I’ve been told the best are Michelin and Yokohama. Other people may have different opinions. That’s fine. But apparently, when it comes to tires, we get what we pay for.

 

 

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, which I will continue tomorrow.