LET’S TALK: A tire-less hunt after a blowout

I’m still stereotypically girly enough to be less than enthusiastic when it comes to buying

I’m still stereotypically girly enough to be less than enthusiastic when it comes to buying tires.

I’m definitely stereotypically girly enough to be more willing to pay a three-figure price for a nice evening gown, a pair of cute shoes or a complete hair/skin-care routine than a tire … despite the fact that tires should definitely be at the top of a priority list of such things.

I shared these sentiments in a 2010 Let’s Talk column in which I stated that I “tend to ride around on tires until they’re balder’n Patrick Stewart.”

I’ve gained enough sense not to do that anymore. But with the exception of an occasional glance at the fancy rims some car owners sport, I still find tires to be pretty boring until they go bad. Or worse, blow — as my circa-3-year-old tire, which saw almost no road action in 2020, did the other Friday.

I’ve had several blowouts in my driving career; only one other had occurred on the freeway, and it was a blessing that it was nighttime and there were no other cars around as I fought to control my vehicle. A blowout that should have happened in 2018, on a return from Houston, didn’t happen; the car just wobbled all the way (the tire “looked” like nothing was wrong).

Back to the freeway. I have developed a healthy dislike of driving on it, period. Maybe I’m getting old. Or maybe there really are too many amateur/wannabe action-movie stunt drivers dominating it.

It’s definitely no fun to be freewaying it when a tire tries to do a Dying Swan act.

First came a rather mild thwack. Ah. Something hit the car or I ran over a little something. Then the light I have come to hate came on: The low-pressure tire warning light, which usually pesters me in the fall and winter when the temperature drops and leads to a hunt for a working, convenience-store tire air machine. For this light to come on in the summer and so suddenly, indicating an issue with the left rear tire, spelled real trouble.

A few seconds later, the ride got rough.

Nearing an exit, I wondered if I should get off there or try to push on. The car decided for me: The ride became super rough. I knew that the tire had done a strip-tease and was down to the rim. I slowed down, hit the flashers, navigated through traffic to wobble off the exit and managed to make it to a nearby strip mall. Got out and looked. Sure enough, there was more burning-rubber smell left of the tire than rubber.

The iPhone got a workout, with several calls (including one to a concerned, non-driving husband who tried to rally a friend of ours to come help, and a rude hang-up from the insurance company’s roadside-service hotline voicemail system) and messages via Slack to coworkers who revealed that they — unlike myself — had AAA for such emergencies and/or know how to change a tire. (I responded that even if I knew how to put on my own spare, I wouldn’t do it in fafillion-degree weather while wearing a skirt and dealing with a sometime-y back and knees.) In the midst of that, a couple of fellow Democrat-Gazetters did let me know that I was actually just around the strip-mall corner from … a tire shop.

Suddenly, that tire shop was all my past and current favorite department stores, hobby shops, home decor destinations and plant-buying haunts, all rolled into one. No, no, it was — it was Amazon!

A mere phone call summoned a young man with the tire shop who came around the corner, put the doughnut spare on, put some air in the doughnut at the shop and wasn’t going to charge anything. Seeing that it was an independent shop, part of a small Central Arkansas faith-based chain, I suddenly had the desire to “shop local.” It helped that I didn’t feel like driving the considerable distance on a doughnut spare to the Talkmobile dealership to get a new replacement tire that matched the other three. Indolence came with a reward: The replacement tire at this shop was about $30 cheaper than I’d paid for the dealership tires.

Thanks, Macuil Auto-Tire & Service Center. Not a bad ending to a Friday that could have gone way south due to a freak accident with a tire that was nowhere near Patrick Stewart status.

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In that 2010 column I’d also discussed how puzzling tire sizing was, and still is.

Sizing that comes in codes, such as 275/70R18, 295/75R16, 275/80R17, P225/45R17 91V … reminiscent of codes written over and over by crazy-obsessed characters in science fiction horror flicks.

They need to simplify by changing tire sizes to imitate clothing sizes. You drive a Mini Cooper, you need a size 2. A Hyundai Sonata, a size 10. A Dodge Ram, Size 18. All trucks, sport utility vehicles and recreational vehicles would be plus sizes. And so forth.

Hey, maybe I’ll suggest that to Amazon — purveyor of fancy evening gowns, cute shoes, skin care and hair-care products, plants … and yep, those oh-so-important tires.

Hope you’re not too tire-d to email: [email protected]