Tire Blowout Fun!

Recently we took our first round-trip road trip together, from Woodinville, Washington to Rosamond, California, to be with Jeni’s family during Christmas. Our trip began on Saturday, December 21st. We packed up our car for the week-long journey, and set out to downtown Seattle, to watch The Two Towers at the Cinerama with a group of our friends. Not a bad way to start a road trip, if you ask me. After the movie, we drove as far as Vancouver, and stayed the night with my (Tim’s) parents.

sweet blowoutOn Sunday, just as we were about to hit the road, my dad (Norm) did a last minute check over the car to make sure it was in good order. Not that he doesn’t trust his son, but he just likes to watch out for him. Good thing, too, because as it turns out, they had run over a nail that morning, and the back-left tire was leaking fast. Ah hah, no big deal, we’ll just have it repaired. WRONG! As it turns out, tire places aren’t open on Sundays. So… what to do… Again with the good idea, Norm came up with a scheme whereby Matthew (my brother) and I would switch tires, since Matthew’s car was the same model as ours and only one year different. Perfect. Half an hour later, as we are heading out for real, Norm asked “Do you want to check the spare tire, to make sure it has air in it?” Considering that the trunk was full of Christmas gifts for Jeni’s family, and the presents we had just received from my family, we weren’t too keen on that idea. Besides, we had fixed our tire problem. Clear sailing from here on out. I’m sure the spare tire is fine. So off we went.

So, um… what’s with the blowout, then? Didn’t we fix the tire? Right. The back-left tire was fine. But when we stopped for gas in Grant’s Pass, just 42 miles from our destination, the front-right tire sprung a leak. In fact, we didn’t even notice the leak. The attendant (for those of you who don’t know, you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon, so all stations have attendants) came running over to us and told us about it. It was leaking so badly that he could hear it 30 feet away. As it turns out, we pulled the car just a tad bit too close to the curb while pulling away from the pump, and the wheel was turned just wrong such that the nozzle was pinched between the tire and the curb, and something gave (hint: it wasn’t the curb).

matches?!?This is where the story gets somewhat embarrassing. A sensible person would have stopped right there, at the gas station, put on the spare tire, and had the leak repaired the next day. But, I’m not a sensible person, I’m an engineer. Only a week before had I poured scalding hot Wassail from a Crock Pot into a jug without spilling a drop, using only a thin paper plate. So, when the attendant found out that the audible hissing from the tire could be stopped by pushing the nozzle to one side, I came up with a brilliant plan. Running inside, I grabbed a book of matches, which I then proceeded to smash in between the nozzle and the hubcap, thereby stopping the noise. No noise, no leak, right? Perfect. That will hold for a few more miles to Ashland.

Obviously, it didn’t. Although we did maintain a relatively low speed, about 4 miles down the road, the matchbook must have come loose, because the tire pretty much exploded. Fortunately we were near an exit, so, after cutting in front of a semi truck going 10mph faster than me, we exited the freeway and came to rest off the side of the road on a paved area.

Uh, where did the wheel go?You may think that at this point, we were pretty distraught. Think about it. We were sitting there, in the dark, on the side of a rarely-used exit, somewhere in southern Oregon (as in, endless fields and hills with very few people), with a smoldering, blown-out tire, and oh yeah, remember that spare that my dad wanted us to check??? For some reason, though, we were actually in quite good moods. Although it had been raining when we left Vancouver, it was completely dry here, we had a powerful flashlight, and, as it turns out, the spare tire was indeed in just dandy condition. Look, you can even see a smile on my face as I prepare to put the spare tire on.

So, I think I’ve just about rambled on enough now about a silly flat tire. We got the spare put on, and made it to Ashland okay, and the rest of the trip was just super.

I’m sure there’s a moral to this story somewhere… Lemme think… Okay, how about this: “Matches don’t fix tires.” Yeah. I like that.

– Tim

Matches don't fix tires.
Matches don’t fix tires.