Damn, I Got Screwed!!

I got “screwed” twice over, couple weeks ago and I almost got “screwed” for the third time around.

Screw on tire2

(Not the photo of the screw that “screwed” my tires weeks ago but it’s close to what I experienced. Good thing was it did not lead to more serious consequences like my car flying off the highway and causing a bloody mess along the way but still it was a major annoyance . Image source: http://www.the370z.com/)

Let’s start on a fine Monday morning where I got up before the alarm which is a rare these days.

The baby had slept early the night before and rarely woke up in between, leaving us to take a good sleep. So I woke up feeling rather fresh. The morning was great too – the air seemed fresher than usual. My spidey sense should have tingled by now but it did not. The time on my watch showed it was still 6 in the morning. I got into the car and as I started to drive, I felt the steering to be a bit sluggish. Then I heard the loud scrapping sound from the front – I immediately knew that my tire was flat even before I got down from the car. I usually do a “pre-drive” inspection (just like how a pilot checks before he flies a plane) but somehow this morning, I failed to do it. The tire was flat and the front body kit had scrapped the road (but it was not obvious). It was too early in the morning for me to drive to the nearest tire shop.

With a mixed feeling (I was both furious and shocked), I parked the car back into the porch (another scrap of the front body kit, ouch!) and decided to change to the spare tire first. But first thing first – I need to change my clothes first – I know it is going to be hot, sweaty and dirty. It was a good exercise in the morning if you asked me – I was profusely sweating and legs & arms aching by the time I got the car jacked up. The opening of the wheel nuts was a big challenge – it was tighten using a powerful air-powered wrench, so I knew it will not be easily opened using a hand-held wrench. The wheel nuts simply refused to budge even after I used all my strength to press down the wrench. I then decided to stand on the wrench and do several small jumps. With a loud “thud”, the nut finally started to get loose and I did the same for the other 3 nuts. Nuts taken out and the car well jacked up and you will be thinking that it will be easy from there onwards. It was not the case. I could not move the tire – I then decided to kick the flat tire from the wheel hub and only then it started to move and I managed to get the wheel off the hub. Then I found the culprit for the flat tire – a small screw right in the centre. How it got there was a mystery since the tire seemed fine as I drove in to the porch the night before. We suspected that the bloody f**cking screw must have dropped on the porch when we did house cleaning a day before.

The flat tire taken out and the spare tire were fixed without much hassle but then I had nothing else to do until the tire shop opens late at 9.30 am. As my shirt was rather wet with my sweat and the dirt from the tire and a couple of hours to kill, it was time to take the shower and go back to sleep. So much so for waking up earlier before the alarm goes off.

(The right way to change the flat tire – I missed some of the steps mentioned here though)

I thought that was the end of my troubles. After the first flat, the drive did not feel as smooth as it used to be before the flat. It could just be my perception but still, I decided to check the tires and alignments at the tire shop – it has been sometime since I did that so I would be “killing two birds with one stone” – get alignment done and also to check on any damage to the rim. The current tire had plenty of tread left (thanks to the low mileage and having 2 cars in the house) but I was prepared to change the whole tire if need to. The place I usually go was packed so I decided to drive around until I saw a large tire shop with fewer cars at the bay and some of mechanics sitting down, waiting for the next customer. I drove in and asked them to do the wheel balancing and alignment which was done rather half-heartedly especially on part of wheel balancing (the guy claimed that is the best that they can do, which I know was untrue).

They did not do a good job there and I regretted coming to this run-down shop. And what the mechanic said to me after taking my car to test confirmed my impression of the shop. Seeing that my car had low mileage (compared to make year), he probably mistook me for a newbie and said that I need to change my front shock absorbers as it has been ‘damaged’ due to the rain & sunshine (come on lah brother, this is Malaysia). Yes, it was clear that he was pulling a fast one on me – if he had simply said that shock had damaged and was leaking, I would have believed him and would have been ready to throw hundreds of ringgits on the spot for a new set. But no, his reason to persuade me to change the shock absorbers was rather dumb. I knew I need stop on my tracks and get second opinion elsewhere (unfortunately I got an equally dumb answer from the authorised service centre). I know that firstly a good shock absorbers can last for at least 50,000 to 80,000 kilometres (it lasted almost 83,000 on my old car) and secondly a quick bounce test (not necessarily accurate) shows that the shock is still in good working condition. The mechanics were urging me to change the stock shock absorbers (with even dumber excuses) but with an equally dumb face, I said no – even if I had decided to change, certainly this would not be the shop I would go to. This is one kind of “screw” I do not want to be whacked with at the moment.

Despite the wheel balancing and alignment, something was still not right – at a distance of my mind, I started to wonder if the mechanics at the tire shop had told me the truth but as I drive more, the drive was not that bad. And after the periodic service, it got much better but I know I need to deal with tires and shock absorbers when the time comes.

Then I ran into another disaster on the weekend when we went over to Putrajaya where they had the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. We have been planning to go there for sometime now (the Big Boss have been bugging me day and night on this) but could not find the right time to go. My son had swimming classes in the morning and it was too early for my wife and the baby to wake up (I too dread the thought of waking up so early on a weekend – who wouldn’t right?). We decided to go in the evening when it is cooler and when they will fly the hot air balloons again. But sensing that it will be a bit too much trouble if we bring along the baby, we decided to leave her with my mother this time around. We barely drove out from our residential guard house when we seemed to have driven over something. As we continue to drive, there was a loud “thud, thud, thud” sound so we quickly stopped by the road side and checked the tires. Although it was not so visible when I first checked but another close inspection revealed a large screw firmly entrenched on the tire.

Kicking myself (in my mind), I checked and suspected that the tire was loosing air, so there was no time to lose – as the tire shops are closed on Sundays, I had to drive back to the house before the tire goes completely flat and we are “stranded” by the roadside. It will not be easy (and safe) to change tire by the road side. It was a blessing in disguise that we did not drive far from our housing area and we had decided to leave the baby at home. With the loud “thud, thud, thud” sound, I slowly drove back to the house and parked the car on the porch and checked on the tire again – it has yet to go flat but there was no time to change the tire. We quickly hopped into my wife’s car and went to the hot air balloon fiesta. When we came back almost at 8 pm, I had expected my car’s tire to be completely flat but it was not (the air in the tire to be holding well despite the large screw stuck to the tire). My wife and my sister commented that it may be possible for me to drive to the tire shop the next day but before I agreed to that, there was one more test to be done. I took a bit of the soap water and ran it on the place the screw was stuck – the tire was indeed loosing air (bubbles was forming) and I knew that another 7 – 8 hours later, the tire would be indeed flat. So it was time again to change my clothes and take out the spare tire. I rather do it in the evening than in the morning.

Flat tires was nothing new – since I started driving a car, I probably had about 7-8 of them but it was the first time I got screwed twice within a week and thanks to my past experience with car workshops & dubious spare parts, I managed to avoid getting screwed for the 3rd time. It is still a phobia to drive out – sharp end of screws and nails and any sharp objects that can puncture the tires are damn hard to see. The good side of the story was that it happened near to my house and I must thank my good karma for that. It would have been bad if I had to change my tires by the road side or worse, driving fast without me knowing about the puncture.

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