*Catastrophic Tire Failure*
Notes From The Nurse
By: aricrn
09 May 2008

It is said with age comes wisdom. I'm living proof that this is not always the case. Mea Culpa. My good friend Smokey, a mechanic of many years, advised me that the strange vibration I felt at about 10-15 miles per hour was a sign of a steel belt separating. Times being lean, I was trying to wait to get another tire; big, big, mistake.

Surviving as a student with a family of 5 is not easy and often time requires unusual solutions. This day had me going to "the surplus guy's" warehouse to do some work "on the side". I was running a little late so I was pushing the speed limit a little. Halfway there I had an unpleasant surprise.

Blammo! The loud explosion barely registered before my senses were automatically drawn to the sudden loss of steering response in the front end. Like all accidents, nanoseconds seem like years as everything turns to slow motion.

27 years of driving everything from cars to strange military vehicles up to 18 tons finally paid off. I lived. The van received only minor damage and I didn't hit anyone or cause another accident. Here's what the tire looked like:

Now let me explain the circumstances. I was northbound on I-5 just before Federal Way on the way to Seattle. I was doing around 70 mph and in the center lane of six northbound lanes at about 0900. Rush hour traffic was moderate to heavy and I was boxed in on all sides. I did some things right and failed in other things.

The things I did properly included:

  1. Recognizing a front tire blow out I immediately took my foot off the gas and stayed off the brake entirely.

  2. I allowed to engine to slow the vehicle and edged carefully to the nearest place of safety which happened to be the inside median.

  3. I immediately put my flashers on, stayed in the van and called 911 to identify myself as a road hazard and to request immediate assistance.

  4. The very next thing I did was phone my nearest Rubie (Smokey) and apprised him of the situation and asked him to standby.

  5. I did have a full size spare.

  6. When my crescent wrench kept slipping off the odd sized lug nut I stopped before it stripped the nut.

It only took about 10 minutes before the State Vehicle showed up to provide assistance. During the ten minute wait, I used the opportunity to fuel up with a sandwich and some Gatorade I had on hand. Suddenly the bad started to rear its ugly head.

The things I did wrong or failed to do right:

  1. I failed to return the emergency flares to my vehicle after the last time I sorted my vehicle tools.

  2. I did not have a back-up signaling device i.e. hazard triangle.

  3. I had never checked the lug nuts on this vehicle so I had an odd sized lug nut on the tire that blew that my factory lug wrench did not fit.

  4. I failed to have my four-way lug wrench in my vehicle. Lucky for me the state highway guy did have one.

  5. My back-up spare was bulging on the sidewall.

  6. I did not have a standard size socket wrench in my tool kit so when my crescent wrench wouldn't get the odd sized lug nut off I had no other option.

In the end, it was the State Department of Roads vehicle that kept it from being a total disaster. They provided me with a shield in the form of his one ton pickup with emergency lights running and necessary tools. Now I'm off to fix the tool kit in my van. Next Notes From the Nurse will cover roadside tool kits.

All in all, life is a series of lessons. Hopefully they are learned without serious harm to the learner. Hey, Brother! Can you spare a lug wrench?

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