Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I can change a tire in less than 30 minutes

What prompts a title like this?

A little over a week ago, we left Alabama. We were heading to Ohio to spend a week with family and friends at Memorial Holiness Camp, a camp meeting that I (Jason) have grown up attending. As we were driving north to the outskirts of Birmingham, we heard that dreaded noise: POW! I immediately began to pull over while checking my mirror. I saw the fragments of what used to be my trailer tire finding a new home along the Alabama Interstate Highway. Thankfully, it was a merge from the left ramp that I was taking, and the faulty tire was on the drivers side, so I was able to work out of the way of traffic.

I quickly assessed the damage, saw that it was only cosmetic and could wait, and then began the process of changing the tire. I have learned a few lessons from a year ago (read that adventure here), and pulled out my tire changing kit.
It includes:
1-6 ton hydraulic bottle jack
1-12 ton hydraulic bottle jack
1-18 volt impact driver
1-Air compressor with hose and fittings
1-Set of deep well impact sockets
1-High visibility vest (not pictured)
1-18 volt high torque impact driver (added after this incident)

I quickly had the trailer off the ground and the tires swapped out. I don't have a photo of this exact tire, but catastrophic failure is an accurate description. We were soon on our way, chalking this mishap up to horrible Alabama roads and the unofficial state animal, the road gator.

Having kept two tires from our first set that we changed out in St. Louis, we found the nearest Walmart to have one of them mounted to our rim. It may be hard to find a tire, but finding a place to mount a tire to a rim is easy and cheap. We were soon back on our way.

About 30 minutes later, we heard the same sound again. Sure enough, another tire has bit the dust (catastrophically), this one on the passenger side.

Not letting the situation get me down, I hopped out and speedily got this tire changed as well. I'm starting to think to myself, 'I am getting pretty quick with this tire changing business'. I wasn't done.

We once again found ourselves hunting for the closest Walmart to mount the second of our 'spare spares' to a rim. Those gentlemen had us in and out in no time. It was time to hit the road again, trying to figure out how far we may make it with the delays.

By now I am driving a little more cautiously. We make it across the state line into Tennessee, breathe a sigh of relief thinking that we are beyond the horrible Alabama roads and should have some smooth sailing through the Volunteer State. Wrong.

We use a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) on the trailer tires so that we are always up to speed with their pressure and temperature. The system will alert us when the tires are outside of a preset pressure range or exceeding a set temperature. In the case of a catastrophic failure where the tire comes apart in .0125323 seconds, it does not give much warning. With our third tire, it started beeping with a warning. I did not even give it a thought, I just started to decelerate and pull the trailer to the side of the road. I'm glad I did. In less than 15 seconds, the tire went from full and rolling to stopped and flat on the ground. A piece of steel belt had punctured the tire, causing a rapid air loss. Off went that tire and on went the last spare.

That meant it was time to find a place for the night, and hope that we could get there. We were able to make it 10 more minutes up the road to a campground about an hour south of Nashville. This was not even half way to where we had planned on getting for the day.

But we were safe and in one piece.

The next day we were able to find a place 30 minutes north of where we were camped that could get us a new set of tires, including a 'spare spare'. After some back and forth, we had a new set of tires and were on our way. Even with all of the delays and such, we still made it to our destination about 6 hours later than originally planned.

*     *     *     *     *

Overall damage was just cosmetic to the under skirting, which I was able to mostly bend back into place. Having one jack has been handy, but having two jacks seems to be invaluable. More info on the air compressor can be found here.
I used the impact driver with a socket adaptor and the impact sockets, but I would not recommend long term usage. It had enough torque for the lug nuts, but the adaptor was getting stuck inside the chuck with all of the hammering. We had already planned to get the high torque impact, this situation just upped our timeline.


  1. I also carry two bottle jacks and a compressor. With flats being one of the most common issues (and a similar string of flats occurring a few summers ago with our GMC envoy) I will never again be stuck on the side of the road.

  2. Had three flats in two days on somewhat aged tires o. Our fifth wheel. I attributed them to ignorance of adequate cold air pressure. We were only running maybe 58psi warm, causing tire sag, heat, and blow outs......after four new expensive tires and some basic research, we now check them religiously at cold temps and run 65psi. No more issues, yet........

  3. Why two bottle jacks? We have not yet had a blowout while traveling, but hoeing to be more prepared.