Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A TOUGH DAY: A TOW TRUCK, A COUPLA’ TIRES, AND A HAPPY ENDING

A bit desolateHighway 93 runs north from Wells, NV to Twin Falls, ID.  It is mostly two lanes, with not much in the way of shoulders – just gravel that slopes rather steeply away from the roadbed.  Every so often there is a gravel pullout on the side of the road, but nothing very big… certainly not very accommodating for a large motorhome towing a vehicle.

As we left our overnight spot in Wells this morning, Odel noticed that the motorhome was pulling to the left, and more than “just a little”.  After some discussion, we decided to pull over and do a walk around of the rig… except that there was no safe place to pull over.  In fact, there was no unsafe place to pull over.  No place to pull over period!

We had around 120 miles to our destination in Twin Falls, so did all that we could do – kept on going, nervously.  Oh, how I longed for one of the many large, lovely rest stops we had visited along I-80 yesterday!

Check this out!Forth-eight miles from Wells, our Pressure Pro tire pressure monitoring system began screeching its alarm: low air in the front left tire of the Jeep, 26 pounds.  No place to pull over, of course.  Within 15 seconds, the air pressure was down to double-ought: two big zeros on the display.  Our first blowout.

We were climbing the slope of yet another small mountain range.  All Odel could do was slow down (though of course we both freaking out verbally – I’m sure I said something like “Wah, wah, wah!!!)). 

As we neared the top of the summit, guess what?  A large (sloping, of course) gravel pullout!   We were so shaken that I don’t know if we drove a 1/4 mile or a 1/2 mile after the blowout, but we were SO GRATEFUL to have found a place to get off the road.

The tire was in shreds, but the wheel was still undamaged.  Hurray for Pressure Pro!  Without the warning, who knows how much damage we would have done as we continued on to Twin Falls?

In spite of our problem, we had points in our favor.  First, a pullout, so we were safely off the road.  And not just a pullout – a pullout at the top of a summit where were could use our cell phones and WiFi (we had just driven through many miles of little to NO cell service in the valleys below).  What great good fortune.

Adios, friend Jules.It was almost comedic trying to describe our location to the service rep at Coach Net, our emergency roadside service provider.  She had a hard time understanding that there was no “nearest intersection” and no “street address”, that the “nearest community” was 18 miles away and consisted solely of casinos and motels.  The best I could provide was “a gravel pullout alongside highway 93, 18 miles south of the Idaho/Nevada border, surrounded by miles and miles of desolate scrub”.  If there was a community in the area, WE were it, a community of 2 named Brokedown! 

Thanks to our wonderful Garmin NUVI GPS, I was able to provide our GPS coordinates, our distance from Wells (south of us), our distance from the state line (north of us), and our distance to Twin Falls, all with the simple touch of a button (I could have provided the elevation, too, but she didn’t need it).

Next, I pulled up Google on my computer (hurray for our Verizon aircard!) and found the Les Schwab tire store in Twin Falls, Idaho.  A quick phone call confirmed that we could be towed there, and elicited the name of a good local towing company with a flatbed truck.  I called Coach-Net back with our destination address, the tow company suggestion, and things got underway. 

Rock Creek CampgroundOne and 1/2 hours later, the tow truck arrived, Jules was loaded, and we took off to meet again at Les Schwab.  Too bad for us, we lost an hour when we crossed into Idaho and the Mountain Time Zone – but Jules had two new-to-us (good, used) tires mounted and we were back on the road before too long.  Just two and a half miles to our goal, Rock Creek Park, where we are now comfortably situated, looking out on lovely green lawns and Rock Creek.  I am unwinding with a margarita while Odel went off to try to solve another (thankfully minor) Jeep problem.

The big question: what the heck happened?  We had four brand-spanking-new tires on the Jeep, just purchased in Sacramento.  We ALWAYS (and this morning was no different) check to make sure the Jeep tires are rolling (not sliding) and the brake lights are working before we pull out for the day’s drive.

Rock CreekWe noticed the motorhome pulling to the left as we left Wells (a big clue, since that problem was solved once we detached the Jeep), but the tire didn’t blow out until 45 miles later!  The left front tire was totally ruined, but the right front tire was ALMOST usable, just moderate damage (it did need replacement), and the back tires are fine. 

If it was a brake problem (brakes locked for some reason), wouldn’t both tires (or all four) have similar damage from being dragged?  Since they didn’t, does that imply that the front left tire sustained major damage later in the trip – a nail or other major puncture?  Yet the “pulling to the left” symptom was evident almost from the start, 45 miles before the tire failure.  It’s a mystery, probably not to be solved by us non-mechanics.

So we lost a day, and paid out $190 for a couple of good used tires.  Coach-Net picked up the $260 bill for the tow.  The weather is great, the margarita now gone (but another is not far away), and all is well in our world once again.

26 comments:

  1. Individual brake calipers can stick and affect the rolling of only the one wheel. It might be a wise idea to have the front brakes on the jeep inspected. If the calipers on the left wheel did not properly release it can do it again. If it is sticking it will also show more wear then on the right hand caliper. Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

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    1. Thanks, guys! We didn't know that. We just had the brakes "done" recently (in Tucson, I think). Sounds like we should have them inspected - this seems like a possible reasonable explanation for what happened.

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  2. Good heavens. We are so happy that you two are safe. What a scarey situation. I was nervous reading this post.
    I am no help with what went wrong just so happy you two are safe!

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  3. my goodness..that is quite the travel day the two of you had to endure!..glad you landed safely!

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  4. Are you sure that the steering wheel was unlocked so the front tires could turn. My cousin did this once with the wheels turned just a degree or two and made it 24 miles before the tire blew.

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  5. You could still have a brake issue as the front brakes are probably the first to apply so if they were being applied more forcefully than normal maybe that would account for the loss of tread. The suggestion of the steering being locked could do it also. Good thing you were going up the hill and not blasting downhill!

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  6. I am glad to hear that things were resolved without any other damage and that both of you are safe. The little things that we have, like pressure pro, verizon air cards, and GPS's sure do make for a safer journey. We never really know when we will need them.

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  7. What a scary day you had. I am a big believer in tire monitoring systems and this just shows how they can be helpful.

    Glad to hear there was no problem with the motorhome.

    Why don't you post something on one of the Rv forums and see if anybody has any other ideas about what could have happened. I know you probably won't be completely comfortable until you know why it happened.

    Good thing you had internet, gps and margarita!

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  8. Can't comment on the cause, but can sympathize with you on CoachNet's needing street address, nearest intersection, etc. Their service is great once you get past having to describe where you are. We've had that same problem with them twice. Glad you guys are safe and now relaxed after a couple of margaritas.

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  9. YIKES!!! I too walk around the jeep as Michael starts to pull away with the motorhome to see if all the tires are turning and the steering wheel is moving. Glad all ended well--you deserved those margaritas!!

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  10. One town I hope we never get to visit... the community of 2 named Brokedown!

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  11. Egad! Not a fun time for sure. :(

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  12. Eldo thinks one of the calipers locked up on the brakes on the car while you were going down the road, which would cause the pulling to the side. Then the tire would eventually blow from the heat build up. Pressure Pro doesn't detect heat, so maybe a hole was created, then causing the pressure to drop, tire to blow and the system finally detected it.

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  13. David has formed the logical conclusion that your steering wheel was locked. As such, you would have felt the pull right from the start, as the wheels would have had a slight turn to them, thus applying force to the rear of the motorhome in one direction. The wheels may have still been turning, but at a slight angle, putting pressure on the side wall and thus eventually blowing out. It was only a matter of time before the other front tire would have blown. Most braking systems do not have enough pressure to lock the brakes. We'd hate to see you put money into your braking system, as we feel this is not the culprit.

    In our humble opinion, but as you already know, David lives in his own world, called "Davidland".

    Glad to hear you both are safe and sound. You've earned that Margarita!

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  14. I'd blame it on Idaho (you were almost there!). Our only tire trouble with Smartie happened near Twin Falls, Idaho 10-12-10 blog post). A rear tire shredded, but we were actually in front of a tire store when the problem was discovered! Scary stuff, but we all seem to be taken care of, don't we?

    Another way to look at it: You helped stimulate the economy!

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  15. With a fiver, we don't have a toad, but we have had 3 blowouts on our previous fiver, a Cougar...That's one of the reasons we got our Hiker...Blowouts are very scary...Glad you got it all fixed...A motorhome is just like a vacation home...Anything can go wrong at any time..

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  16. Always good when the whole calamity is over. We don't pull our Jeep flat on all fours, but have it on a trailer. To buy the trailer was a lot cheaper then getting the gear for flat-towing installed. And we have no wear and tear on a costly car. Trailers are much, much simpler to maintain and repair if anything occurs. Besides, we like to be able to back up. Can't do that with a flat-tow.

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  17. What a day! So glad to hear things got resolved safely and relatively quickly, in time for a tasty margarita or two! Safe travels...

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  18. Thank you for this post guys. I'm new to RV'ing and Pressure Pro sounds like something I may want to invest in. In the RV I'm always thinking 'what if' (not much of a vacation huh?) and some of the highways I see with no shoulder really worry me.

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  19. We are just starting to think about a toad. EKK! More to worry about on the road. Glad all was well in the end and no one was hurt.

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  20. This is a cautionary tale for us all for sure. So glad to hear you had all the right equipment and that there was a happy ending. My little worrywart mind would be needing the what caused it answer so I could prevent it again. Sometimes finding that just isn't possible. But two NEW tires....total bummer. You have such a great margarita attitude. I salute you both.

    Sherry
    www.directionofourdreams.blogspot.com

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  21. Oh, my goodness, that is really the pitts when things like that happen!!! Glad u got off the road ok and the fix appeared seamless :) Take Care!!!

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  22. If you have a couple of hours, ask Frank and Gloria about their call to Coach Net when they broke a spring on their 5th wheel on the Alaska Hwy. 50 miles to one town behind us and 150 miles to the next town. Same questions... what cross street.

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  23. Have you thought about the defective valve stem possibility? Sometimes things go awry with new tires and those little thingy's. Either way, I am sure glad it all turned out OK but geez. Scary stuff! We don't have pressure pro. My kids had it on their big rig semi and got rid of it for reasons I won't go into here. I know most RV'rs swear by it, but I decided to listen to my trucker kids. OK. so if I get a blowout with no warning and destroy my rig and toad you can all tell me I was stubborn and stupid. and by the way, after 32 years living in Idaho, I have never actually SEEN Twin Falls. Thanks for the gorgeous photo, Laurie.

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  24. Boy, I miss you one day and you go and get in trouble. Glad everything resolved without too much stress and expense.
    Travel safe,
    Fred

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    1. Yeah, while you're just kickin' back at Cedar Key, probably with a Manhattan in your hand!!

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