Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Blow Out (Off Topic)

 "OK, Wilson, only 40 miles to go and we can get out of this car."

I know he can't understand a word I say but it made me feel better.  We were on the last leg of our first day of the two day trip returning home after visiting Mom in NC.  We were both tired and hot and ready to be OUT OF THE CAR.

"What the H was THAT?" (If you believe for a minute I said "H" I have a very nice piece of real estate I would love to sell you)

I heard a loud bang as a semi was passing me.  My first thought was "backfire." My second thought was "Blow out" when I had trouble steering.

I pulled over, ran around the car and started screaming.  Of course, no one could hear me.  We were on the side of the road on I-81 at about mm 309.  Just outside of Winchester Virginia.  Traffic was fast, heavy and LOUD

I had a blow out.

Yes, I screamed.  I was UPSET for pity's sake.  I had NEVER had a flat tired.  NEVER.  This, clearly was a goner.

Lucky for me, a very nice passer by stopped on the side of the road, backed up and came to help.  He helped me unload the crap from the Sewing Machine Chariot, and we found the spare (a REAL tire I might add) and the jack. What a wonderful young man.    Then the Service Truck pulled up.  HUGE RELIEF.  With his bright flashing lights, drivers had some idea we were in trouble.  The WYM was then able to be on his way after making sure I was OK.

But let me tell you that it was scarey.  The traffic was heavy and no one slowed down or pulled over into the left lane.  The gentleman who helped me admitted that his job is dangerous.  Just the same he was an ANGEL.   I don't use that term lightly.  He was very sincere.   And he was very efficient.  In less than 30 minutes I was on my way again.

"No, you probably shouldn't drive without a spare," Steven said when I told him.  I stopped at an Auto parts store to ask if anyone there knew of a tire center.

"Exit 5 in Hagerstown at Valley Mall.  There's a Sears at the front of the Mall and a Firestone at the back."  said the very nice woman who clearly knew the area.

At 0600 this morning I was up and unpacking the blown out tire from its compartment.  I wanted to be waiting and ready on Firestone's doorstep when they opened.

"Are you coming or going" asked a very nice gentleman out for his morning walk and smoke.

"Going home. Had a blow out on I-81 yesterday, gotta get me a spare."

He looked at the tire, declared it a goner, and agreed that it was unusual for a tire to blow the side wall out.

"I gotta take a picture of this and send it to my husband."

"What, so you can worry him?"

"He's not a worrier. Really."  I assured the very nice Canadian gentleman.  By then we had conversed enough for me to hear that distinctive accent.

He gave me a look that told me he WAS a worrier.   I took the photo anyway. 

 At 0700 I was at the Firestone store; two hour wait.

"How can I help you?" said a very nice woman at the Sears Auto Center.

They opened at 0730 and I was there promptly.  I told her I just wanted one tire mounted on the rim I had in the car.  She recommended that I buy two tires (DUH) but I agreed.  It made sense.  Why try to drive 300 miles with one brand new tire on one wheel and a worn out tire on the other?    So I did.  I bought two new tires and put the spare back in the car.  They were really wonderful at Sears.  If you ever need a tire in Hagerstown, Maryland, go to Sears.  They are efficient, courteous and kind.  Friendly too.   You can sit in the waiting area and, through a large window, watch the mechanics work.

In just over an hour my car was ready.

I wanted to stash the spare in its storage compartment for the trip. One more time (third time's a charm) I unpacked and re-packed the back of the car, as Wilson watched from the back seat. Ever wonder what dogs are thinking?

While I was waiting, I googled  "Tire Side Wall Blow out." and learned that when you have a blow out at high speeds DO NOT jam on the brakes. This is counter intuitive.  It is recommended that you actually accelerate a bit to maintain forward momentum of the car.  Grasp the steering wheel with both hands and gently slow down and steer off the road.  None of us are going to be able to process all of that in the moment of panic after hearing a very loud bang.  But I was lucky in that I didn't realize at first what was going on and I actually did not jam on the brakes.  I doubt I accelerated but I always drive with two hands on the wheel (10 and 2).   I was lucky I didn't end up in the ditch.  Dang Lucky.

Another counter intuitive point about tire side wall blow outs: they occur not due to OVER inflation but due to under inflation.  Under inflation allows too much flex in the wall of the tire which causes   the layers to separate and become weakened.  Keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure and check them before a long trip.  I relied on the idiot light to let me know.  I probably should have checked them with the gauge as well.  It probably doesn't hurt to do a visual check too.

And one last thing.  Restrain your pets when they are in the car.  I was so glad that Wilson had on his seat belt.  I didn't have to worry that he would jump out of the car as I was fumbling, in my panic, for the spare.  He just sat in the back seat and watched.  Never a peep out of him.  What a reasonable dog.

We are home now.  Steven greeted me with open arms, ate dinner with me and then drove off to compete in a swim race tomorrow.  Wrigley seems to have missed me.  Frannie could care less and Wilson does seem bewildered even now.  He is probably anticipating more road time tomorrow.  Good luck fella.  I am not getting in a car until I have to go to work on Tuesday.


  1. Thank the Lord you got through this safely and home again. Rest, take deep breaths and relax.

    1. Yes. I was saying THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU A LOT !!!!

  2. OMIGOSH! I am grateful that this was not a huge disaster and you kept calm. So glad you are home. I also have a red VW, but it is a Rabbit. I think I will go check my tires. Please let me know what I can do to help with the TOGA.

  3. That's terrible. Glad you got the new replacements and all is well. Poor Wilson. He looks like he lost his last friend.

  4. I read somewhere that the better steering wheel position is 9 and 3 now. Something about the airbag and I don't remember what else. But I can't seem to break the 10/2 habit. Does that mean we're dating ourselves?

    Glad everything is okay and safe. So I can lurk on your blog more.

    1. Actually, at the last Defensive Driver course I took, the current hand position recommended is 8 and 4. I tried it on the trip but found that I felt best at 10 and 2. Plus the Jetta has grips at 10 and 2. None the less, 10 and 2 worked for me.

  5. Wow. Thank goodness for kind strangers, and that no humans or animals were injured! Glad you're home safe.

  6. very relieved you and Wilson are OK. This is too freaky and close for comfort!!!

  7. I had a flat tire years ago. I waited on the side of the road, calling for help on the CB every few minutes. The lug nut tool was missing from my car, and, back then, no one had metric tools (I had a Honda). Finally a nice semi driver turned around, drove back several miles to me, and found a tool in is truck to change my tire. He told me where to find a tire place up the road, and gave me the tool to change my tire again, if I ever had the need. What a nice man. I now make sure every car we own has a good tire tool to fit it.

    1. The nice thing about my Sewing Machine Chariot (AKA Jeta TDI Sportwagen) is the full sized spare. I am going to check the Sienna and see what it has and pump it up.

  8. Thank you, thank you! Your post sent me out to my car and sure enough one tire was low. You couldn't' really tell by looking, but it was VERY low. I'm willing to bet there are many of your readers that went out and checked their tires! Thank goodness you and Wilson were OK and thank you for sharing!

    1. I have an idiot light that is supposed to tell me when the tire pressure gets too low. I know it is working because when I left Sears it came on and I had to go back to have them check the tires and the front ones were too low. I think my problem was damage to the tire from road debris that I struck; either right then or previously. Who knows? Yes, I am so grateful we are all OK.

  9. Where did your pup wait while you were in Sears? I used to take my dog with me on my road trips from St. Louis to my ancestral homeland of Pennsylvania, but after the last one where she panted and shook for 14 hours, she has to stay at my MIL's house now. Too old and creaky and arthritic :(
    I am also thankful that you were okay, because I sure do love your blog!

    1. We took a walk (only on asphalt, for some reason Wilson would not walk on the grass) and then waited in the waiting room. He was a VGB (Very Good Boy). Kids wanted to pet him and more than one person had to tell me all about their dog at home.