The start of it all...

I should probably start off by saying that in the grand scheme of things my day yesterday wasn’t too bad, especially compared with how bad it could’ve been, or some of the other things I know that people are dealing with. Of course it easy to say this the next day on, looking back. I will say in the heat of the moment(s) it was pretty stressful.

I left for work late. I had woken up pretty late and had only had just enough time to get dressed and eat something pretty quick before I needed to hit the road. My usual route to work in the morning is surface streets and back road. As I had left home around the time that I usually clock in, I made the executive decision that it was worth it to take the tollway to work to save a few extra minutes (This is foreshadowing).

Skipping ahead to the part where I was travelling on the highway, I realized that my car was pulling really hard to the right. I look down at the gauges and see my old friend has returned.

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Its ironic in a way. This was my last week on these tires. I had an appointment scheduled at discount tire for this Saturday to put on a very reasonably priced set of P Zero Nero GTs.

So, since I had no idea how long I had been driving on a very flat tire and the next exit was 2.5 miles down the road. I immediately pulled over. Just a few weeks prior, a car directly in front of me had its tread separate from the sidewall. I didn’t want to risk that happening to me.

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Unfortunately this is where I felt I had to pull over. I was on the shoulder near the green sign on the right. This is also where I found out that ~20% of people move over a lane if there is a car on the shoulder (I’m being generous).

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Right around this moment is where my body opens the adrenaline floodgates, which is really not a good thing for me, I have a hard enough time keeping calm, focused, and efficient in situations like these and the adrenaline cranks it all up to 11.

I called my wife and let her know what I was dealing with and set to work. Fortunately the WRX comes with a spare donut tire kit. Unfortunately I had my heavy and cumbersome bike rack and a bunch of biking gear my trunk, as we had just gone for a ride the night before. Sweaty, with half the contents of my trunk on the side of the road, I finally wrest my spare tire free of its circular prison on the bottom of my trunk. Keep in mind with half the stuff out of my trunk, half of it was still in the trunk. Like I mentioned before I have a hard time thinking things through properly in these types of situations, and I definitely made this process harder on myself (This is called a theme... or maybe a motif, I didn’t pay as much attention as I should’ve in English class).

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I go around to my front passenger side wheel and jack up the car with the terrible scissor jack and realize that like the stupid ape that I am, I forgot to loosen the lug nuts with the tire on the ground (there’s that pesky theme again). So I had to lower the car back down again.

Those of you familiar with the joys of roadside tire swapping likely understand that this process is unpleasant to say the least, especially when you’re using crappy scissor jacks. It usually involves the “turny stick thing” coming un-hooked every three turns in my experience. Coupled with the gulf coast humidity and the fact that at any moment I could get pinned between my car and the barrier by some galaxy brain texting and driving, causing my to die a slow and excruciating death...its safe to say I wasn’t a so-called “happy camper”.

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With tire back on the ground I set to loosening the lug nuts. 4 of them come loose no problem...#5 however was a different story.

I knew as soon as I started turning it was stripped or crossthreaded. Then it stopped turning all-together. Its here that my roadside wrenching knowledge is at an end. There’s no way I can break this off. I get back in my car and immediately start calling Subaru roadside assistance as I still have coverage with my extended warranty. Right then, one of these heroes show up.

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generic pic from google

I really cannot be more grateful to this (not the one pictured) angel in a high-vis vest. He walks over and lets me know hes here to change my tire. This is a free service provided by the Harris County Toll Road Authority.

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“Hey man I’m really appreciative that you’re here but I’ve got seized lug nut” I explain.

“I think I can get it off for you, let me take a look at it”

So he walks around and finds what I told him is true.

“So its just the one” he tells me “and you can drive on 4 lug nuts, so if you give me permission to break it, I’ll go get my impact gun and send you on your way”

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So I give him permission. He breaks it off, gets my spare on and even fills it with air. They don’t accept cash tips, as I found out, but you can bet I’ll be filling out that comment card he gave me. Seriously mad props to these guys, and especially the guy who helped me.

I wish I could end this story here. Its a nice positive note. However as he put the donut back on he warned me that when I go to replace the broken stud, that it might be a good idea to replace another stud he pointed out that looked like it was getting worn. (“oh boy” says you, “more foreshadowing. I love reading unnecessarily long form blog posts by sub-amateur writers”)

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I call up Discount Tire when I get to work to see if my tires have arrived yet for my Saturday appointment. I am told that the tires are there and that if I bring the car in today they can put the tires on today. I work like a madman to clear my plate so I can duck out early and drop off my car at discount tire.

I was feeling pretty relieved. I would have my new tires on all four wheels, donut spare safely back in its prison and I wouldn’t have to have my wife drop me off at work the next day. As it turns out I was to be punished for my newly positive attitude.

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It only took them ~40 minutes to install my tires, so I was in a pretty good mood heading back to the tire shop. Until I arrived and saw the donut spare was still on. I was pretty nervous about the other stud stripping after the HCTRA roadside assistance guy warned me about it. He assured me he felt like the nut went on fine and it should come off okay too. When I ask about why the donut tire is still on the car, the tech explained that when he went to take the wheel off he couldn’t get the lug nut off with the impact gun and didn’t want to strip the stud and have me leave on 3 studs. “Crazy crossthreaded” was the term he used.

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Discount tire doesn’t do car repairs, so this morning I dropped the car off at my longtime family mechanic’s to get that fixed. I also have a dealer appointment next Tuesday to get some warranty related stuff looked at, so if I get time I’ll probably do a write up on that as well because I’m sure it’ll be anything but straightforward.

Thanks for reading. It helped a bit to get it all in writing. I had to take a quick nap yesterday evening after I got back from discount tire to reset the stress-o-meter. I wish I could control it better sometimes, especially when I know its not a big deal and I’m fortunate to be in the position to be able to afford the work and have enough time to get it all done. Typing it out and reading it the next day certainly does help put it all in perspective though. I just wish it was easier to come to that perspective in the moment.