Flat broke

     A Monday morning flat tire! What a wonderful way to start the week. I haven’t had a flat tire for years. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to change one. The spare tire hidden somewhere in the undercarriage of my 2008 SUV has never seen the light of day. The bolts were rusted on so tightly I had to call AAA for help. (Okay, let’s face it, I was going to call AAA anyway.) I saw this scenario coming months ago but somehow I thought I had time to spare, no pun intended.

     A while ago, when the low tire pressure gauge lit up on my dashboard, I blamed the cold weather. After feeding countless quarters into gas station air machines, fighting twisted hoses and busted nozzles, I paid to have the slow leak fixed. A new valve stem did the trick until it snapped one day in the cold (when I was topping off the air in the tire because it seemed low again).

     A tire on the other side of my car began losing air as well. I knew I couldn’t put things off any longer. I tried to shop for new tires a few weeks ago only to find tire dealers in my area are closed on Sundays. Who knew? I thought I could make it through the cold snap before I had a problem. I was wrong.

     I started my car up on a frigid Monday morning to let it warm up. Before I drove off I decided to walk around the other side of my vehicle to make sure my tires looked okay. My rear passenger tire was as flat as a proverbial pancake. Welcome to the working week. I was off to a great start. Talk about Manic Mondays!

     At least I was in my driveway and not on the road. My previous flat tire experiences happened at the most inopportune times and places. A harrowing tire change in Boston’s South Station tunnel at rush hour prompted me to make sure my Triple A membership was paid up (along with my gym membership as I barely had the strength to loosen my car’s fused lug nuts).

     A family vacation blowout on Rte 93 in New Hampshire was highlighted by a state trooper watching me unload an entire vacation’s worth of food and luggage from my overstuffed trunk onto the shoulder of the road so I could get to my spare tire. The trooper was not happy with me. He told me I should have pulled over to the right, not the left side of the fast lane. I told him my blowout didn’t leave me a choice. I stopped arguing as his hand rested on the gun in his holster.

     I still remember my first flat tire on my first car when I was a sixteen year-old kid. I called my buddy Paul who was a genius at diagnosing car trouble. I told him my tire deflated and fell off the rim.

     “You have a flat tire, knucklehead,” he said.

     Luckily he helped me fix it because I didn’t have a clue. Not much has changed in my automotive knowledge since then, other than learning the value of having an up to date Triple A account.I’ve been mulling over the idea of turning in my car as a down payment to lease a new vehicle. Instead, I decided to invest in four new tires. When shopping for tires, I learned you never just pay for the tires. Be prepared to pay for hidden add-ons like valve stems and front end alignments. And tire replacement insurance might be worth the money judging from the condition of the roads around here. My medium priced tires cost more than I thought they would, but you can’t put a price on peace of mind. (My peace of mind just cost me $787.50.)

     I’m gambling that everything else in my 2008 Dodge Nitro will continue to function for another year. I could be wrong. In the next few months some lucky auto dealer may get my car as a trade-in with 4 brand spanking new tires. If they don’t want to take my aging vehicle as a down payment for something new, maybe they’ll at least give me a few bucks for the wheels.

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