Yeah, this is pretty long. I’m pretty sure that I overdid it. Maybe you’ll enjoy it, maybe you won’t. Whatever. I’m not going to edit it now, but I hope you like it. It’s a mostly-true recent experience of mine, and I just had to share it. Most of the blue links are Canuck references for y’all, eh.
A few days ago, the temperature was around -5° C (23° F). The next day, it dropped to -15° C (5° F). In other words, it was a perfect day to walk out of my house to my truck and find that my tire was as flat as a Saskatchewan Canola field.
The culprit was a screw straight through the tread. It was likely a Phillips head. A Robertson screw wouldn’t have been so rude.
Since changing it in the cold Canadian winter was such a painless, straightforward process, I thought I’d share it with you.
Step 1: Gather your tools. Root around behind the seat for the jack, wheel wrench, and all three extension tube thingys. There, you’ll find the toque that you lost at the start of winter. Sweet! Put it on, your ears are getting cold already. Then wonder where your Pilsner bunny toque went.
Discover that one of the extension tube thingys’ end is bent, like, 30°. Wonder how the hell that happened. Figure “screw it”, you’ll do without it. Realize that two of the tubes have square holes, one has a flat point, and you actually do need all three tubes.
Step 2: Fix the bent extension tube thingy. Put that sucker in the vise, but don’t get too rammy. The tube is pretty thin, and you don’t want to screw it up. Close enough:
Step 3: Retrieve the spare wheel & tire. Like many trucks, my ‘04 GMC Sierra’s spare is held up against the truck’s frame by a cable hoist under the bed, where it gets blasted with water, snow, salt, gravel, sand, & roadkill. It’s #8 in this diagram:
Image source: Nalley GMC.
The retainer flange (the wide, flat part on the bottom of the hoist #8) passes through the centre of the wheel and holds it in place. To lower the hoist, you’ll need the two square-holed extension tubes, and the wheel wrench acts as crank handle. The tubes go through a hole in the rear bumper behind a little plastic door (#1 in the diagram). Attempt to open the door with gloves on. Fail. Take off your gloves and fight with this freezing little bastard until your fingers are numb. Now, you need to connect the extensions together like this:
... but in order to assemble or disassemble them, you need to press that little ball that holds them together. This is impossible to do with gloves on. Your hands should be getting pretty cold now, so you should start getting frustrated. Once assembled, slide the tubes in:
Begin cranking the hoist, which spools the cable out, which lowers the wheel & tire towards the ground, and provides enough slack to pass the retaining plate through the wheel. That’s the theory. In reality, it’ll only go down a couple of inches. There’s a secondary safety latch holding it in place. It’s supposed to release, but it’s jammed full of rust and dirt. You don’t know this yet, so search online to see what the hell is going on.
Contemplate using a second vehicle to bring the flat tire to a tire shop. Realize that it’s bald as hell, and isn’t worth repairing even if it were possible. The other tires are just as bald or worse, but replacing them all is out of your budget. Contemplate buying a single used mediocre tire. Realize that you already have a single used mediocre tire, you just need to retrieve it from the clutches of the spare tire carrier.
Find helpful videos like this one. Grab your channel locks, crawl underneath, and fight with it for awhile. Nothing. Kick the tire, hoping to knock it loose or something. Couldn’t hurt to try. Stay underneath, keep plying and kicking in your gravel driveway until your neck is sore and your ass is too numb to feel the rocks poking into your jeans. Spray the stupid latch with a scuzzy old can of penetrating oil to sit overnight, and call it a day. This blows.
Step 3: Reattempt to retrieve the spare tire. The next day is even colder, -19° C (-2.2° F), but you’re better prepared for what lies ahead. Jeans alone aren’t going to cut it while sitting in the driveway, so you put on your Mr. Dressup pyjama pants on underneath.
By now, you also realize this might be entertaining to others, so grab your BlackPotato Curve and start taking some pics. Since you don’t have any from the day before, you’ll need to stage some pics and pass them off as genuine. The readers will never know the truth, those fools.
For better access, remove your licence plate like the dude in the video did. Grab your car ramps and drive your flat-assed tire up on those suckers:
Make sure the truck’s secure by putting it in Park (duh), and setting the e-brake. Admire the cheapo floor mats that you got at Crappy Tire, and wonder if they’re perhaps the most dependable thing you’ve gotten there.
Realize that the e-brake won’t help much, because it won’t grab firmly even though you’ve tightened the cable as far as you can. Whatever. You’ve got free healthcare.
Crawl underneath and fight with that damn latch some more. The penetrating oil didn’t do anything but make everything stink. Time for Plan B.
Step 3: Remove the entire hoist while the tire is still attached to it. You figure that this freaking latch will be easier to fight if you weren’t cramped under your truck. Regardless of the stupid latch, the tire’s now far enough from the frame that you can access the single bolt (#7 in the diagram) that fastens the hoist to the truck. The bulk of the hoist is held not by the bolt, but by a flange that passes through a slot and sits atop a lip in the truck’s frame. You just need to rotate the hoist to allow the flange to pass through the slot.
It won’t rotate very far with the tire still attached, though. Kick the tire again like you did yesterday. Nada. You have to lay down on your back and push the tire straight up so its weight is off of the hoist. Wiggle the hoist free with your other hand. Oh yeah, that means you need to support the whole tire & wheel with one arm. Avoid dropping it on your face.
Yay, it’s free! Well, there’s still the matter of separating the wheel from the hoist:
Step 3: Remove the hoist assembly from the wheel. Flip your tailgate down and use it as a workbench. Try to release the latch with channel locks again. It’s much easier to work on now, but it’s still not quite releasing. Find a hole in the hoist, jam a screwdriver in there, and pry the latch free. Be so overcome with relief that you don’t bother to take a pic of said screwdriver in said hole.
That’s the latch below, and above is the hoist’s hole that it sits inside. Those two small holes on the side are where you can fit a screwdriver. You never saw them when you were underneath the truck, because they faced away from you towards the front of the truck.
Step 3: Crank the hoist to release the cable. That’s it. Simple. Just crank it counter-clockwise. Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.
Step 3: Remove the wheel from the hoist assembly. Flip the tire over.
Now that there’s sufficient slack in the cable, you can pass the retaining plate through the wheel, followed by the stupid frickin latch thingy that kinda looks like a dick.
Step 3: Replace the licence plate. Why now? Because you thought of it, and if you leave it until later, you’ll probably forget about it and get pulled over by the RCs. You can’t fiddle with those screws with gloves on, so remove them.
Step 3: Top up the windshield washer fluid. Because you’re tidying up loose ends, and the bottle was lying in the front floor after you rooted around for the jack tools.
Blindly dump the entire jug in, because sometimes if the reservoir’s nearly empty, it’ll take an entire gallon jug. Today is not that day, dumbass. Overfill it and spill it all over. Take a pic of the remaining fluid from the French side of the 3.78L jug, because Canada.
Put your gloves back on, it’s freezing.
Step 3: Remove the hub cap from the flat tire. These things are held on by plastic nuts that are supposed to look like the actual lug nuts. At least they use the same size head as the real nuts, so you can use the wheel wrench. Use your ratchet instead, because it’s easier and it’s there.
Step 3: Drive the truck down off of the car ramps. The jack probably doesn’t go that high, so you’ll need it back on flat ground. Get inside, turn the key, and... clickclickclick. Dead battery. Batteries have less voltage at lower temperatures. Did you forget how cold it was?
Step 3: Jump-start your truck with your Dad’s Tacoma. Even though it’s bigger than what you think a Tacoma should be, you’ll have trouble getting in and out of it. Maybe it’s because you’ve got a bunch of layers on, or maybe you’re getting fatter than you’ll admit. Say cheese!
To attach the leads to your Dad’s Taco, take your gloves off so you can fight with the frozen rubber boot shrouding the positive post. It’s not flexible in this cold, so it will snap. Put your gloves back on, you won’t feel your fingers.
To attach the leads to your truck, you need to open this little plastic cover over the remote-mount positive post. Remove your gloves again to do so.
Drive it off of the ramps, and leave it running in order to charge the battery.
Step 3: Jack it up and swap those tires!
Crack the nuts loose before jacking it up. Be amazed that you found the wheel lock key.
Crawl back underneath and place the jack under the axle. Thought you were done under here, didn’t you?
Don’t suffocate from the rich exhaust fumes.
Assemble the stupid three extension tube thingys with the pointy one on one end and the wheel wrench on the other. You’ll need to remove your gloves again because of the stupid friggin retaining ball thingys.
Put your gloves back on, put the pointy end into the jack, jack it up, wayyyyy up, and I’ll call Rusty.
Out with the old, in with the... old? Speaking of Rusty, this spare wheel’s not so pretty. Whatever. As long as it works, right?
You hope it has air. Why didn’t you check this earlier? Twist the cap, and it doesn’t budge. Use the channel locks that you already have laying around, and the whole valve stem spins inside the wheel. You hope that it doesn’t leak there now.
Whatevs. It seems to be firm, so let the jack down. Yay, you have four more-or-less functioning tires!
Notice that your idling truck is emitting the faint scent of coolant. Check underhood, and don’t see any apparent leaks, but the reservoir level is low. By now, you’re tired, sore, and freezing. It’s not even 1:00, but screw it. You’ll deal with the battery tomorrow. Don’t worry, it has a 3-year free replacement warranty, and it’s only 13 months old. Wonder how well made it is if it crapped out after 13 months. The previous battery was the original Delco and lasted nine years.
Step 3: Make some Ichiban.
Boil some water. Take some Extra Strength Advil, because your back and neck are killing you. Your neck will still be stiff when you write this story.
Don’t put the noodles into the water until it boils. Then put the noodles in, and keep it boiling until the noodles are just right. You’ll know when they’re right because cooking Ichiban is way easier than changing a flat tire. Put a bit of the seasoning in your bowl. Put your Californian-made Japanese-style noodles in your Chinese-style bowl. Put a little bit more seasoning on top. Don’t use more than half of the packet, or it’ll be gross. That shit is full of MSG, anyway. Top it with some California-made Vietnamese-style sriracha sauce, and eat it with Japanese-style chopsticks. Canadians are multicultural, eh.
Step 3: Relax. Crack open a Canadian and play some Battlefield. Browse Oppo in between matches.
Step 3: Remove the battery and take it back to Canadian Tire. Remove this silly little brace that is over the battery. What does it do? Who cares right now.
Grab your tools and lock up your truck. Momentarily wonder why the power locks don’t work.
At Crappy Tire, the guy at the parts counter pops the caps, and the electrolyte’s frozen. A fully charged battery won’t freeze above -40° C (-40°F), but a discharged one could freeze anywhere between 0° C (32° F) and -40° depending on its state of charge. Cambodian Tire’s warranty doesn’t cover “neglect” which includes having a battery freeze. Nevermind that the only reason that it froze is because it died, you don’t get a warranty battery.
Leave the counter with your dead, frozen battery. Don’t bother getting new floor mats, because the ones you have are remarkably still good, remember?
Step 3: Thaw and charge your battery.
Bring it inside and let it thaw all afternoon. Using your MotoMaster battery charger, trickle charge it overnight. Later, take a pic with a different MotoMaster battery and again hope that no-one notices the holes in your story.
Step 3: Bring your thawed, charged battery to a different Crappy Tire store. A different clerk won’t know that it was previously frozen, and won’t deny your warranty claim. He will ask whether you use the top or side posts. Your truck uses the side posts, so he’ll test it via the side. It will fail. He’ll test it via the top ones, and it’ll pass. To rule out the possibility of his equipment being faulty, he’ll then test a new, identical, off-the-shelf battery via both sets of posts, and it’ll pass both. So, this means your battery’s internal side post connections are poor or broken, your battery is clearly faulty, and you get a new one that has just been tested. Sweet!
Leave the store with your new battery. Don’t pick up the coolant that you need, because you’re an idiot.
Step 3: Install the battery. Installation is the reverse of the removal. Notice the new ugly Motomaster logo. Woo. Proceed to drop your Mastercraft ratchet somewhere hard-to-reach.
Re-set the radio’s clock, because the battery was missing all night and of course it didn’t remember the time. Why, then, are all of the radio presets still in the memory?
Step 3: Take ‘er for a rip! Go to the PetroCan and fill up your tires. They’re all 10-15 PSI low. Dumbass.
EDIT: I forgot that you need loud music for the road. After a hard, cold day, loud music soothes the nerves. Lamb of God? Very loud, but not Canadian. The Tragically Hip? Very Canadian, but not loud enough. Put your iPod on shuffle instead. It will choose Alexisonfire for you:
There’s fresh snow, so you get the idea to do some victory donuts. Reconsider, and settle for a Tim’s Boston Cream instead.
Go back to the first Cambodian Tire to grab some coolant. Take a Canadian pic for fun.
Go home, top up the coolant, and begin writing a rambling story. Hope that someone gets a chuckle.
And that’s it! You’ve changed your tire in three easy steps.