You’ll Need Air, by Pat Cascio

How many times have you found that a tire on your vehicle was flat or halfway flat, sitting in your driveway or garage? Yeah, me too – too many times over my lifetime. I hate to change a tire, especially on our SUV or pickup truck. On these rigs, the spare tire is stowed underneath the body, and a royal pain-in-the-rump to get out to put it on your vehicle. I have the tire store check the air pressure in my spare tires, every time I go in for a rotation If you neglect to have that done, then you’ll find your spare tire might just be flat – ugh! Plus, I’m just getting too old to crawl under the back of one of our vehicles to check the air pressure. Don’t let anyone tell you that your “Golden Years” are the best to come – its simply not true. In my case, my body is racked with osteoarthritis and laying down on the ground, trying to get a spare tire off your rig isn’t any fun at all.

For as long as I can remember, we have carried cans of “Fix-A-Flat” in our vehicles, and this stuff works pretty well – most of the time. If you drive a big pickup truck like I do, you’ll need to get one of the bigger cans of this stuff, on passenger cars and smaller sport-utility vehicles (SUVs), the regular-sized can will suffice. One thing you have to keep in mind is that if you get a flat tire, once you put this flat repair in a can into your tire, you need to drive immediately. If you don’t, then it won’t be able to spread around the inside of your tire – and it will go flat again. Of course, get to a tire repair shop as soon as possible, to have the tire properly repaired. This might not be as easy as your surmise, since most tire stores are closed on a Sunday.

We each keep one of those small portable air compressors in our vehicles, as well. They don’t perform as advertised, but then again, what does? It can take a good long time to fill up a flat tire with one of these little vibro compressors that operate off your cigarette lighter jack. Or you can hook it up to your car’s battery. The one pictured was made by Interdynamics. Sooner or later – usually much later – your tire will get filled up and hopefully, you can make it to a tire repair shop, or to a safe place to put your spare tire on. I don’t know what these things costs these days, but as I recall, we paid about $30 each for them. Of course, if you experience a blowout, you have no choice but to put your spare tire on.

Some years back, I used to do a lot of off-roading, and it was fun, but sure enough, tires were always going flat for one reason or another. This is why you want to put the best tires on these rigs that you can afford. In the case of my Dodge Ram pickup, my last set of four tires set me back $1,600. Yeah, a lot of money, and they are three years old now, and have more than 20,000 miles on them – but they still look almost brand-new – lots of wear left on them. I like no less than a 10-ply tire on my truck, in the event that I have to do some towing. I believe on my wife’s SUV, we have 6-ply tires.

This all brings me to living in a rural area. We live 10 miles from one small town, and six miles from another. If I had to, I could call for road service to have them come out and change a flat tire. However, this can be expensive. My oldest daughter who lives next to us in our small guest cabin, had a recent breakdown on the highway – about 25 miles from where we live – I couldn’t diagnose the problem over the phone and told her to call for a tow truck. It was more than three hours later that one showed up – not good service. And, it cost her $95 to have her vehicle hooked-up and her insurance only paid $100 for towing – and she ended up paying another $200 out of pocket to get her SUV towed to the repair shop – where it sat for a week and a half before they could get to repairing it.

Living on our small rural piece of land is where I really love living. We only have a little less than four acres, but we love it here. We can’t see any of our neighbors’ houses from our house – we speak only to one neighbor down the road once or twice a year – everyone minds their own business – I like that.

A Larger Compressor

Some years ago, I purchased a used, but like-new DeWalt brand professional air compressor at the local gun/pawn shop I haunt. I looked at some of the cheaper compressors at big box stores, but none were to my liking, and if you see one for a really low price, then pass on it – it will be junk! The compressor I have is a small dual storage tank – it was designed for roofers to supply air for their nail guns. It works great – it doesn’t store a lot of air. But then again, it has done everything I’ve asked of it over the years. If the air tanks run out of air, while filling a big tire, it only takes a minute or two for it to refill those tanks. This compressor has a 25-foot electrical cord as well as a 25-foot air hose – so I can reach out there to fill a flat tire.

I also have a portable air tank, and instead of moving my very heavy air compressor around to another electrical outlet, I’ll fill the air storage tank. Once a year, I need to pump up the tires on my 22-foot travel trailer – they get low from sitting all year. So, I just fill up the little red air storage tank, and use that to top off the low tires — a piece of cake. I bought this little tank from a big box store and it was on sale for only $10. That was a steal of a deal – I believe I’ve had it for 20 years or longer. If it sits too long, some air will leak out and I just use the air compressor to top it off and then add air to whatever tire I have that needs air.

On more than a few occasions, I’ve had friends stop by to borrow that little air tank – no problem at all. I wish I would have purchased more than one. Once in a great while, a friend will ask to borrow the air compressor to pump up a tire on a tractor – it works great – just takes a little longer to accomplish this job.

My air storage tank requires no maintenance at all. The air compressor – it only requires some lubrication – I think I paid a couple bucks for a small bottle of this stuff, and I’ve only used about half of it – if you have to keep the air compressor lubed – if you don’t it will burn out on you in short order. I also invested $10 in an accessory kit – this has several different attachments for filling up things like basketballs and balloons – another great investment.

As an aside, I keep a tire repair kit in our vehicles – if I can see where a tire has been punctured, I can plug up that leak, before filling it with air or adding some of that flat fixer. This is another inexpensive investment you should have in your vehicles. I believe that this little tire repair kit cost under $5 and is easy enough to use – at least when you can fix the tire with only a plug.