It’s easy to overlook an important item, such as tires, for those planning different bugout scenarios, getting home after an event, or just driving home from work. I was reminded of this during a recent trip moving my daughter to California. We rented a 5’ X 8’ U-Haul trailer, hooked it up to my Chevy Avalanche, drove it to her apartment, and loaded it for the move the next day. She had bagged up trash, and as I was taking it out I noticed some 8” zip ties. I pulled them out of the trash and threw them in the truck. The weather was hot and windy on the way from Arizona to California. The drive was long but uneventful. The next morning we ate breakfast, dropped the trailer (a long story), and headed home.
A Recent Event
Driving through the San Gorgonio Pass on I10, I felt a vibration and thought it was the center line reflectors. Then I heard flapping getting louder and louder and felt a shimmy in the front. I knew I had a flat tire. We were in a left lane, so I pulled to the left shoulder and turned on the flashers. I got out and saw that the flat was on the right front and knew there was no way I wanted to change a tire on the traffic side of a multi-lane highway on a downhill. I got back in the truck and waited about five minutes for a gap in traffic and slowly drove over to the other shoulder. (“This will be a piece of cake now,” I thought. My son was with me, and he could help. “It would be a good learning moment for him, too.”)
The Problems and Options
We could have called for roadside assistance, but I figured we could get it done before they arrived. I was glad this hadn’t happened 100 miles down the road in the middle of the desert. It wasn’t too hot. I had a cell phone signal. I had tools. We had water and snacks.
We got out to determine how bad it was. I checked the wheel well. The plastic fender liner was chewed up and ripped back on top of the tire. Some of the retaining screws were gone. I’m thinking and here’s my process.
How the Story Goes
I thought, “Even if I call roadside assistance, they’re not going to want me to drive back to AZ with that. Okay, what can I do?”
I could cut it out of the way. It was thick plastic, and I wasn’t sure I had something to cut it easily. Last year, I had tried to replace an interior door panel and found out they weren’t making them anymore. I didn’t want to damage it and not be able to find a replacement. I thought, “How about taking it off? Okay, no problem. Let’s get started. I have my tool box in the back.”
About 15 screws later, we realized there were two plastic retention pins we had to access from inside the engine wall. Oh, man! I didn’t want to try to get those out and hope we didn’t break them. I thought, “Wait, all I have to do is bend the liner back in place and refasten it. But I don’t have any spare fasteners to replace the ones that were lost. Wish I had some wire. What can I use?” I’m wondering, “What do I have in the truck?” I was thinking about duct tape or plastic bags. Then, I thought of other plastic. Hmm. Then, I remember that I have those zip ties. I could use them!
The fender support bracket had ripped off from an attachment point as well. I thought, “It may have even chewed up the tire. Or it may chew up the spare if I don’t remove it. I’ll just take it off.” I wondering, “How much can we do while the truck is still on the ground?” Then I realize I didn’t want the truck rolling off the jack. I said, “Oh yeah, we’re on a hill. We’d better block a couple of wheels and set the parking brake.” I walked down the shoulder and picked a couple of big rocks to use as tire chocks. I told my son, “Let’s do as much as we can and then jack it up.”
I pulled out the two pneumatic jacks and two 2×4’s I had stashed in the side box. Why have two jacks? The one that came with the truck didn’t work very well when I first used it. I bought an inexpensive jack, and it didn’t provide enough clearance. Another one had to use the 2×4’s as spacers after the first one tops out. (I measured the clearance this time, so a new jack is on my shopping list.)
While I was jacking up the truck, my son lowered the spare and unhooked it. (Do you have a full size spare and has it been checked recently? Mine was in good shape, but when I had the tire replaced, it turned out the spare was original, which meant it was 16 years old!) He finished loosening the bolts, and I dug out the gloves that I keep in the toolbox. The tire had shredded and the steel wires would have cut up our hands while we were maneuvering the tire off the bolts.
He took off the blown tire, set it aside, unbolted the fender support since the attachment point had torn, and threw it in the truck bed. I folded the fender liner back in place, put the screws in, and zip tied where we had lost screws. I had to jack the truck up a bit more to mount the spare, but we had no other problems. We drove a couple hundred miles home and replaced the spare and tire a week later.
What Was Learned?
What can I share from this experience? I think the tire was weakened by the sun. I had just replaced a five year old tire for bad sidewall crazing. This one still had plenty of tread and was only four years old but had some crazing on the sidewall. The heat and sidewall flexing from the wind and trailer must have weakened the tire to the point of failure. I thought I could get another year out of the tire, but it turned out to not be true under load. If the plan is to bug out/GOOD, then:
- Be conservative and inspect tires each time the car is used. There may be a nail or screw in a tire.
- Check air pressure each gas stop.
- Know how old the tires are and have a replacement plan. Typically manufacturers recommend replacement after six years and recommend at least a weekly drive to help the rubber “self-heal”. Environment or use also affects the lifetime. The manufacturing date is listed at the end of a DOT string on the tires and lists workweek and year. For example 2312 at the end means it was manufactured the 23rd week of 2012. Sometimes the information is on the inside of the tire, and it’s easier for a mechanic to read the date. I will be more conservative on tire condition now.
- Next, practice changing the tire or at least jacking the car up. Does the jack work easily? Are there tools in the car? An inexpensive socket set is better than nothing. I bought mine at an auto parts store, and it has served me well. It’s in a plastic case and includes a socket set, pliers, screwdrivers, and also allen wrenches. I’ve made minor repairs and changed out the battery several times.
Other things to remember:
- My truck burns oil, so I keep a couple of quarts of oil in my side tool box.
- I also have jumper cables, flares, a foldable shovel, crescent wrenches, vise grips, flashlight, duct tape, and a first aid kit. (And now I also carry zip ties.) It’s not a complete set, but it’s better than nothing.
- I want to add some wire, tire chocks, and reflective triangles. A patch or plug kit and one of those portable air compressors that run off the car battery are worth considering, if expecting bad conditions. If the plan is to do some off-road driving, then there are a lot more tools to consider.
- If using the vehicle to Get Out Of Dodge, it may be worthwhile to consider puncture resistant, run flat, or even the new puncture proof tires. I have no experience with these tires, but it makes sense to research them if planning to use a vehicle when the SHTF. I didn’t get far when my tire blew, and I would have been a sitting duck if stop sticks had been part of a roadblock. Back in my hometown in the 80’s, there was a strike, and they tacked together nails to form a ball and threw them in management’s driveway to keep them from getting to work. Tires are a weak link for vehicles and an often overlooked consumable. Learn about them and monitor them to drive more safely.
Check Kids’ Tires Too
Also, check the kids’ tires. A couple of weeks after this happened, the same son called me to come help him change his tire that went flat on the way to work. The steel belts were exposed on the flat and on his other rear tire. His spare was low on air but got him to the tire store. I feel bad I didn’t check them.
Check all the kids’ tires. We visited my daughter last week, and I got a call. She had just arrived at work and got out of the car and heard a hissing noise. She had a flat tire. I told her I could take care of it, drove over, and changed it. While using the lug wrench, I told her she was lucky that I was there, because the nuts were hard to loosen with her short wrench. She said, “No, what I do is put the wrench like this (parallel to the ground on the left side), and step on it.” There’s another good tip if the lug nuts seem tight.
I put on the spare. It was one of the compact doughnut ones. It seemed a little low on air, but it’s hard to tell on those tires. I was hoping it would get me the couple miles down the road to the tire shop. When I got in the car and started backing out I heard a flapping kind of “thunking” noise. I pulled back in the spot and got out to look at the tire. The sidewall was powdery and the rim had bottomed. The spare was flat. I thought how lucky we’d been on that drive to California and all those other times she has been driving far from home.
I threw the original flat tire in the back of my truck and drove it to the tire shop. It turned out to be a nail that they fixed for free. I put that tire back on the car and took the spare to the shop. It was original and seven years old so I decided to replace it. The problem is they don’t stock compact spares. It took a week for them to get one.
I feel really lucky that nothing happened to my daughter since I don’t know how long she was driving without a spare tire. She never traveled alone, but it would not have been a fun trip to be stuck somewhere with a flat and no spare. I was glad to be there to help since she had a business trip the next day, and I could take a bit of the load for her. I also feel bad I didn’t have her check the spare after my first flat on her move.
Moral of the Story
Check all the tires periodically on all vehicles and be aware of their shelf life. And, it’s easier written than done.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 72 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
- Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value), and
Round 72 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.