Let’s just say the life of a vagabond can be rather unpredictable…
I was heading south to Georgia, not even 20 miles from my previous campground, when my TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) went off on my left trailer tire. I had been stopped at a light and about two seconds after I stepped on the gas, the TPMS went nuts. I checked the number, which had been at 65 psi when I started the trip. Now, it was at 53 psi. By the time I turned off the main road a half block later, it was down to 45. By the time I went another half block to an empty church parking lot, the TPMS was at 33. And two minutes later, it was all the way down to 9. Wow, that was fast.
I looked at the tire and could see a chunk of shiny metal embedded in the rubber. Not good. I dialed up my Good Sam Roadside Assistance and after playing 20 questions with the representative (does the tow service/tire changer really need to know the color of my trailer when I am literally the ONLY trailer in a huge empty parking lot?!), I was assured a tow truck would be texting me within 15 minutes to let me know their ETA. Sure enough, text received, with an estimate of 45-90 minutes. I had time to do a bit of a walk, getting some exercise in and also trying to burn off the adreneline from the whole tire going flat thing. Then I dug out my torque wrench and my special deep-walled lug-nut socket, just in case they didn’t bring them. Last time I had a trailer flat, back in June of 2017 (also from road junk!), that tow truck had neither. This time I was prepared!
A bright-red tow truck showed up on the horizon (well, at the same stoplight where I got the flat tire), and Jason went to work. This dude came prepared. He had the right lug nut socket, a power drill to loosen and tighten the lug nuts and a torque wrench to check the pressure. He was also a good sport about getting the spare tire out of its difficult hiding place, screwed to the underside of the trailer tongue. In short order, he had the spare tire on. And then he was all like “peace out” because they don’t actually *fill* the spare tire if it needs air. Good thing my toolkit also includes an air compressor that runs off my 12v battery!
The fun wasn’t over yet, though, folks. That spare was 6.5 years old, the original one from when I picked up the trailer in May, 2016. I kept saying I was going to replace it but I kept forgetting that whenever I changed the two tires on the axle. My bad. Now it was my very bad because I didn’t want to drive on that thing any more than I had to, and certainly, I wasn’t going to drive another 150 miles to the campground where I had reservations for the night.
I called around to tire stores, looking for my very specific tire size (ST175/80R13). On the fifth try, I found a place that said they had five in stock. Whee! Google Maps told me it was 13 miles away. And that it would take me 45 minutes to get there. Google Maps was right. The traffic was a snarly mess because the last 3 miles or so was a hellacious landscape of strip malls; you name the store, I probably drove past it.
After arriving at the store, I learned a very critical fact about trailer tires. The five holes where it mounts onto the axle are not always the same distance apart. Who knew? The tire place had 5×4.5 inch holes, which is perfect for open trailers, like the ones all those landscaping companies use. *My* tire was 5×5 inches, so clearly not a fit. And just to make things even more annoying, it started to rain even though the morning’s forecast has not mentioned a drop of rain expected. Figures…
Two blocks away was a Discount Tire store, so I figured I’d go there and see if they could maybe salvage the tire with the big chunk of metal in it. I’d called them already and they didn’t have my tires in stock. Neither did anyone else, so I really didn’t know what I was going to do but I figured the next step was to see if that flat tire was even remotely fixable. Jason, the tow truck guy, thought it might be, but I was thinking it probably wasn’t.
I won that bet. I wish I’d lost. But, and here’s where my luck changed, this was actually *not* the Discount Tire I had talked to earlier. And this place had four trailer tires in stock, with the 5×5 configuration I needed. I was never so happy to spent 2.5 hours in the waiting room of a tire place in my entire life, after I’d backed my trailer into a spot near the dumpster because tow vehicle + trailer won’t fit into any bay at a tire store.
They had wifi, which meant I could cancel the night’s campground reservation and make a reservation at a hotel about an hour’s drive south for the night. Sure, there was a hotel from the same chain (I use points for rooms a lot) just down the street, but it was literally a mile of strip malls and I just wasn’t up for that nonsense.
By 3:30PM, my Alto had a shiny new set of trailer tires (Hartland brand) and I got to watch the tire technician do the torque wrenching to make sure the lug nuts were solid. And then, seriously, I drove the trailer exactly two blocks, parking behind a QuikTime gas station and store because I had a 4PM concall to make. My late lunch was a seriously OK steak and cheese taquito that I inhaled as I was setting up my laptop and hotspot for the call. After the call, I drove an hour to the hotel, thankfully in light traffic, and then spent the evening watching Terminator 2 on the room’s big screen because that required no thought at all and I had few brain cells left at that point in the day.
So, as with all incidents, let’s take a hot minute to review the lessons learned:
- Use TPMS on your trailer tires. My pickup truck came standard with them. My trailer did not. I have had a set on my trailer tires since I blew that first tire back in 2017. The TPMS did what it’s supposed to do: fire an alarm so I can slow down, pull over, and minimize damage to the rim and to the trailer. There was no damage to either one, whew.
- Roadside assistance that covers your trailer is really nice to have. Instead of me trying to get that spare off the tongue and jack up the Alto and so on, some really experienced person did it. I was happy to watch. Very happy to watch.
- Tire size matters and so does the bolt pattern. Although I hope to not need new tires any time soon, I now know exactly what to ask for when I’m calling around, desperate to both find a tire and avoid cross-town traffic.
- Have a good spare tire. After all was said and done yesterday, the old spare was recycled (thanks, Discount Tire!) and my new spare is the remaining tire of the Carlisle set I had been using. That tire has about 9K miles on it (yes, I track the mileage on my tires in a spreadsheet) so it’s still solid and I would trust it if I needed to drive on it more than an hour (which is about how long I drove on that crappy spare I had, and it was a nerve-wracking experience despite me never going about 35 mph).
- Consider a hotel room when changing plans on the fly. South Carolina state parks wanted a two-night minimum stay, which I didn’t need. I used my hotel reward points (IHG/Holiday Inn Express) to reserve a room for under $100 total cost. Sometimes, spending the money is worth it, especially after a long, stressful day.
Today, I drove on those shiny new tires for 250 miles. Was I checking the TPMS a lot? Yes, yes, I was. The tires did fine, though, and after the first hour, I relaxed and enjoyed the drive through the back roads of South Carolina and Georgia, admiring the colors of the fall foliage.
17 thoughts on “The best-laid plans…”
Whew!! You persevered…and took care of ALL your business! You officially rock!
(Well, you always do, but this was pedestal-worthy.)
Terminator 2 comment: true and funny.
Thanks Annie, wow you know how to work a misadventure. Gulp, Homer,(my 2016 f1743) will need new tires quite soon. I’m thinking I will invest in the tire pressure monitoring system as well. Thanks for your clear step-by-step explanation. In GA and on my way to FL also.
The one I have is about $100 on Amazon and uses solar charging (although it also has a USB port). Well worth the money. If you pass through Gainesville, give me a ping.
So glad to hear it all turned out fine, but I learned some valuable lessons here. I’m going to have Mike make sure we have everything we need in case that happens to us. Thanks for sharing, Annie!
Roadside Assistance… Really? They don’t FILL the tire? WTH? If I’m paying you money to come fix my problem and get me back on the road, then you need to come fix my problem and get me back on the road. Not do half the job.
The glossy brochures certainly give no indication that the customer will still be stuck doing part of the work. What would have happened if you didn’t have the compressor?
You should write a strongly worded letter complaining about that nonsense. I’ll write it for you if you want. Now I’m mad.
Yeah, I need to write them next week because the person relaying the address got it wrong despite me saying it 3 times and the driver had to call me – he was on the opposite side of town based on what she gave him. Not impressed by this service experience.
I do intend to write them, that seems quite mad to not make sure the spare tire is actually safe to use!
Wow. I don’t even know what a torque wrench is. I’m going to go google it now. I’m glad it all worked out and I’m glad you got to (finally) relax and mindlessly watch a huge TV…but I would have been sound asleep as soon as my head hit that pillow. Unless I was replaying the day over and over and over in my head. Nice job making the meeting on time too! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Thanks for sharing another re-tirement adventure Annie. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it)
I am confused as to why the bolt pattern was a problem, were they selling the tires only if you bought them on the rims too?
Good question! When I called the first Discount Tire, the one with none in stock, they said they could mount the tire/wheel but their policy was not to otherwise handle tires they didn’t sell. So if I found the correct size tire on the right rim, they would have done the mount.
The irony of “trailer tire” when speaking to 75% of the people that day is that they were picturing an open trailer with smaller wheels/load capacity despite me saying “travel trailer weighing 2500 pounds” in every conversation. Can’t tell if they were all not that bright or if they thought I just didn’t know what I needed because I was female.
How come your two vehicles always look so bright and shiny and clean!?
The trick is to buy light-colored vehicles, I guess! Both truck and trailer are really dirty and need a good bath, but not yet…
I love happy endings!
Good to hear you came up with a plan D to get the tire changed, then inflated, 2 new ones acquired, and a room for the night ALL WITHOUT MISSING YOUR CONCALL. You hot! Not surprised you were a little tired though.
When I lived in Georgia, I had an excellent friend, Susie. She and I both loved to stop at Quick Stop. It was the only place we could indulge our appetite for Diet Coke with a few ounces of Dr. Pepper. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I would still stop for this unhealthy mix if I were traveling through the South again.
Nothing to do with tires, I know. But the mention of Quick Stop makes me a wee bit nostalgic (which seldom happens when I think of Georgia.)