Seems like I have been changing a number of tires in the past couple of months. Most of them have been bicycle tires. Tuesday was the first (and hopefully last) car tire. Not only was the tire flat, it was on a car more than 500 miles from home and in a “foreign” country.
The setting: After spending the afternoon with my aunt on Grand Island, and taking almost 500 pictures of Niagara Falls from both sides (side-note: for best pictures, make sure to make it to the Canadian side. Best pictures of both the Canadian and American falls), we started our drive back to home (Kansas City) by heading west through southern Ontario toward Detroit.
It was while taking one of the exit ramps from one highway that became an entrance ramp to the next highway, that I was suddenly confronted with two blocks of wood in the roadway before me. The blocks were L-shaped, each made of two squares of wood about 12-inches by 12-inches fastened together perpendicularly. Though there were two lanes, and I was in the right lane, I couldn’t swerve left because of another car approaching from behind in that lane, and there wasn’t much of a shoulder to the right either. So I aimed toward the right, trying to avoid both blocks. I managed to avoid the one to the left, but hit the other with the right front tire. It made a significant thud, but the car kept on rolling without any other apparent impact.
We had time to drive to the first service area, get gas, pick up food, and drive on to the next service area. It wasn’t until we started to drive out of the next rest area that we noticed the thumping sound coming from the tire, and stepped out to find the tire flat. We had over 100 miles on the odometer from fueling up at that point. Betsy had mentioned a tendency to pull a little bit while she was driving in the right lane, but none when driving in the left — that was the only indication that anything was wrong with the tire during that 100 miles. Amazing how far we could go as long as the speed was good. (I should note it didn’t thump at all while we were pulling in to the service area, either.)
So I got to pull out the compact donut spare tire, and the jack, and show the kids how to change a tire. First thing I noticed was that the pressure on the spare seemed to be low. Fortunately, we were at a service stop that had an air pump, so after a bit of fiddling we were able to inflate it up to pressure before putting it on. It took two of us — one to hold the nozzle against the tire stem, and the other to squeeze the valve that opened the air up to run through the hose. Nathan was a good help there.
I showed both kids the special jack that came with the car, the special ridge on it, and the corresponding ridge of metal underneath the car that it was to slide into to properly support the weight of the car. I then took off the hub cap and loosened the screws on the tire (took them off all the way, and put them in the hub cap for safe keeping, actually), before starting to jack the car off the ground. I explained that if you didn’t loosen them first, the tire would spin and not loosen them when you tried to turn it with the tire allowed to spin freely in the air.
Once the car was in the air we removed the tire, put the donut spare on, added the nuts, tightened, lowered, and tightened again. Then we drove to our night’s stay in the U.S. The hotel attendant, at our request, mentioned the local Belle Tire shop as a good place to get a new tire. I Googled their hours, and was there when they opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Belle Tire proved everything the clerk had mentioned and more. Their sign out front mentioned their low price guarantee, and they met it. Took them less than 90 minutes to get me in and out, and they came in just under their estimate — including taxes and fees. Anyone in the Detroit area I would definitely recommend Belle Tire.
I also was impressed with the Canadian service centers along their highway. I usually expect “rest areas” with gas stations and eateries only along limited-access toll roads. But these centers were on non-toll roads, and that gas station with the air for our tire enabled us to get along to our night’s destination.