It’s amazing some of the things that happen on the roads around New England, really!
Here’s a true story from sometime back:
At last it can be told…
It seems the owner of a van (whose make shall remain nameless because too many people know this particular person) had to change the tire as he came out of lunch at a small Asian food place in New England and found the left front wheel flat.
Actually, that’s not really true, two-thirds of the wheel were flat, it’s just the part that rolled on the road was really pancaked, so there was very little choice, out popped the wheel wrench, which doubled as the wheel holder wrench as the doughnut spare was under the car and never moved because it never had to.
After an interminable amount of turning, the doughnut was freed but so was about eight or nine tons loose rust. Whoever the bright person who came up with this storage location for a wheel that was a crucial as a spare, doughnut or full-sized, should well have been investigated by several shrinks because it really makes no sense storing the spare in an open carrier under the vehicle. All that happens is rust forms on rust and then more rust forms on that.
Four-way lug wrench best
Well, since the driver of the vehicle happened to have a four-way lug wrench – which sadly has disappeared – and since he’d used the jack before to raise the vehicle for other things, the lug nuts were loosened pretty quickly and the wheel was spun free and thrown in back.
Meanwhile, not thinking about it, the driver mounted the doughnut spare and tightened the lugs right down on the rust that had accumulated. It was really some sight, too, as there must have been a good two inches of rust built up inside the spare, but the driver was in a hurry to get going and just did the minimum necessary to get going.
Here’s where one can either consider this funny or ironic because everything worked well all afternoon until it was time to head home and as the driver was heading home, he happened to look out the side window and there was the doughnut spare sprinting away from the car without so much as a “Dear John” note.
Spare just ran out on vehicle
That spare wanted its freedom and the funniest part was where it ran away from its vehicle to Lord knows where. Since the vehicle was parked on a bridge, it was logical to assume the doughnut went for a dip.
Meantime, the driver suddenly realized that there was something wrong with the handling of the vehicle. It was at a crazy angle with only the right front wheel mounted and the left front mechanicals bare for the world to see (it’s embarrassing). Worse was the handling was something to behold as the driver had to literally strong-arm the vehicle across three lanes of traffic and off the road (you can still see the dig marks in the road surface if you know where to look).
That done, the only thing that could be salvaged from the whole mess, aside from this piece, now that a decade has past, was that AAA made some money as they sent a ramp truck to drag the three-wheeled van (no it was not a real three-wheeler, either) off the grass and then off to the service area where it cost a new tire, wheel and wheel cover, plus the mechanical work to get the vehicle back on four paws again.
The cost was about $1,000 – today it would probably be more because of tire inflation – probably about $1,500.
The next day the driver arrived at work and parked the vehicle that no one suddenly wanted to ride in, though it was whole again and quite safe, ending up the but of numerous jokes. But there were some valuable lessons learned that one hopes the auto industry hears.
First, don’t store spare tires underneath vehicles and depend on wrenches to drop them. If they are not cleaned regularly rust builds up and up and up. It’s not the kind of rust that drops off easily as you need a heavy mallet or sledge to knock it free.
Second, if your car’s spare is stored there, clean it a couple of times a year and oil it just to keep it in good shape.
Third, if you have to use it and you have forgotten regular maintenance, use a good hammer to whack the rust free and then use a round file just to make sure the lug holes are clean.
Cleanups in order
Fourth, if you haven’t clean it, use a high grit sand paper to get through the grunge and rust build up and don’t worry about having rusty clothes.
If you do these things, you’ll be sure that when you look out the side window your spare won’t be running away faster than your vehicle is traveling.
Just for the record, several makes still do use this method of spare storage as it increases interior storage space and just as much for the record, there’s no mention or proper maintenance, either.