Friday, October 30, 2009

Lessons Learned

Ever since we bought the Airstream this Fall, I've been concerned about tire failures -- mainly because of the stories I've read on blogs and the damage to the wheel well on our A/S from an incident several years ago. The tires were about six years old and in spite of their good tread, there were a few small cracks in the sidewalls. I replaced all four, learning how to hoist the trailer (using 2 x 6 planks) and getting ready for trouble on the road. Little did I know that my tow vehicle tires would cause me grief first.

The truck is a 2007 and there are only 16,000 miles on it and the tires so I've been pretty confident of having good rubber for the winter and for our upcoming trip. Well, not so fast. Last week, I was driving down to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center for a routine appointment with my cardiologist. It is about a 1 + 20 trip and about 45 minutes into the trip down I-89, the tire warning light came on in the truck. I noticed it right away -- but because my previous Honda had many false warnings of the tire light, kept going. I passed the Bethel rest stop which is closed for budget reasons (thanks Gov. Douglas) and one exit where I knew there was no service stations. I was hoping to make it to a rest area in New Hampshire and the truck felt fine.

Just as I crossed the Connecticut River and approached busy Exit 20 for West Lebanon, a tire blew. I was in the left lane and managed to veer through the stream of traffic to the right breakdown lane and hobbled to a stop just before the exit. The traffic streaming by shook the truck and I had to wait to even open the door and get out to check the damage. I was so close to the guard rail that I couldn't fully open the right door.

The right rear tire had shredded after blowing. I looked underneath at the spare tire hanging there, as the traffic zipped by -- and realized I had no idea how to extract the tire or even find the jack. (I had the truck about five months but figured I was good for a while tire-wise.)

Fortunately, I had good cell coverage and called the doc and cancelled and then called AAA. They said about 30 minutes and that's about what it took. I remembered that I had some road flares so after fiddling with the instructions, got them going up the breakdown lane as a warning.

My dog, who was in the jump seat, needed a walk and I needed to get us away from the truck and traffic so I extricated her, got her underneath the guardrail, and we walked back and forth on the steep embankment until the wrecker arrived. Tieing her to convenient post, I watched the young man use the long rod to lower the spare tire down and then change the tire. The spare, fortunately, was a full-size tire and brand-new. In ten minutes we were all set, and after thanks and a tip, he found a break in traffic and ran interference with his well-lit truck while I got going and off at the exit.

Of course, the spare tire has no sensor so the tire light was on the whole way home. It was a good lesson to me to believe the warning light and stop and inspect things right away. It also showed me how to use the spare tire system so if I need to in some remote area out west, I can do it. And the final lesson is to keep renewing our AAA membership - you never know.

1 comment:

Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak said...

Amazing that they go so quickly. Our 5th wheel tires lost their tread but they had sat without moving for quite a few months. That, at least on the Goodyear tires, forms a bulge and weakens them. Glad you were able to pull over and get help quickly.

Jaimie Hall Bruzenak