Not-So-Free Wheelin’

Cleveland: I can't believe how terrible the fishing was.
Peter: Yeah, all we caught was a tire, a boot, a tin can, and this book of clichés.

Family Guy, “Fore, Father” (8/1/2000)


A few days ago that light on my dashboard popped on, the one that tells you that there’s something not quite right with your tires. As it happened, I was close to the BJ’s (Free Air!) so I went into their gas station and topped off my tires. One of my tires didn’t look it, but the pressure inside was much lower than the other three.

Incidentally, according to my father, that’s how the tire pressure sensors work. They don’t know if a tire is “low” specifically, they just determine that one is much different from the others. So even though all four could have used a little air, it’s the fact that the driver’s-side-rear was so much lower than the other three that triggered the light.

I did a quick look at the tire but didn’t see anything. I figured, OK, I’ve picked up a nail or something and it’s in a place I can’t see. No biggie; I’ll keep an eye on it and take it in for patching when I get a chance.

A few days later (day before yesterday), the light popped on again. All right, already, I’ll get it fixed. I took the car home and jacked it up in the driveway, then took off the old tire and put on the “donut” spare. A quick look at the old tire and Oh! there’s the nail I’d picked up. Well, these things happen. I threw the tire in the back seat and headed up to my local tire guy. He took a look at the tire and told me that he couldn’t fix it.

It turns out that I hadn’t picked up a nail, I’d picked up an entire Home Depot. There were FOUR nails, plus a spot where the belt was actually poking through the tread. This was not a bald tire, by any means. It was worn a little, but still had life in it. All those nails stunned me: first, how the hell did I pick them all up? It’s not as though I go driving through construction sites all the time (or ever, really). The other thing was, how did that tire manage to hold any air at all, given all those holes? All of this damage could conceivably be fixed, but not by this guy, because the belt-poking needed a plug and they didn’t do that. Plus, there were just too many patches to be done to make the lawyers at his company comfortable. Guess I’m buying me a couple of tires!

So we go back inside and I pick out a reasonably-priced tire that’s rated for my car, and so on. Now comes the bad news: there’s only one guy in the shop, so it’s going to be awhile. Like, two hours at least. I have to call Wife and get her to pick me up. For some reason this took her over a half-hour to do, so it was forty-five minutes after I’d ordered my tires that I made it back home and started to make dinner.

Twenty minutes after I got home, the phone rang, and my car was ready. So, total elapsed time: 65 minutes. Not that I’m complaining, but Go figure. We ate dinner and Wife took me back to the shop.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but when you go into a tire store—or even the tire section at BJs or Sam’s Club—you’re immediately knocked back by the smell, a combination of rubber and whatever other compounds they put into tires. I always get the feeling that if I stay around very long, I’m not going to be able to operate a motor vehicle safely. So when I returned to the shop, I actually asked the guy, “How do you wind up not being a little stoned all day from the tire fumes?”

He told me, “Because I get really, really, really stoned before I come to work.”*

Hey, I feel safer already!


*Obviously he was joking, and he and I traded a few bits back and forth about it being late in the day and stuff. Also, he doesn’t really notice the smell unless the tires in the display change.

One thought on “Not-So-Free Wheelin’”

  1. 65 minutes is a long time to wait for a tire to get repaired. Though the time spent waiting is worth it considering you don’t have to worry about the threat of nails and such. As for the fumes coming from the tires, those who work there should have a mask to avoid inhalation of such. After all, such can be detrimental to one’s health.
    As I noted, there was only one guy on duty and he was slammed, so he actually got it done in half the estimated time. And by that point it was TWO tires being replaced, not a repair on a single tire. I don’t think masks are required in Maryland; certainly not at the front desk, anyway. –C.

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