In preparation for my new job role, I booked my car in for a service at a local garage. I asked them to make sure that the vehicle was in good condition and would get me through another 10,000 miles of motoring. I made it clear that I will soon be driving up and down the country on a regular basis and that I simply MUST be able to rely on my car to get me from one place to another.
I’ll admit that I was somewhat surprised when the garage rang me to tell me that the only thing my car needed was a set of wiper blades and a new set of spark plugs. I asked again if the vehicle would be fine until its next service (in 10,000 miles time) and the garage once again assured me that it would. I drove away from the garage confident that my car would be fine.
Things ran smoothly for the first couple of days. My brakes appeared more responsive and the car drove as well as it ever has. Even though a massively long drive, I was looking forward to my first overnight stay at a hotel in my new role. My line manager had appeared to take pity on me last week when she scheduled me to work somewhere relatively close to home for the first few days. A 60-mile a day round trip would be nothing compared to later weeks in my schedule…
It was while driving back from the relatively local location that my car began to make a strange noise. At first, it made the noise only intermittently and so I carried on driving. In less than a mile, the car began to sound awful and I knew then that I needed to pull over, the only issue being that I needed to crawl past a slip road first while not causing a multiple-car pile up. Unfortunately, my tyre gave out before I could pull over onto the hard shoulder, blowing out with an almighty bang.
I will forever be thankful that it had been a rear tyre that blew and not one of the front tyres. My car is front-wheel drive and, had the tyre blown out at the front, I could have easily lost control of the vehicle entirely. I limped my car lopsidedly as far off the motorway lane as I could, switching on my hazards and all the while panicking as to what to do next.
I’m the first to admit that I did panic at this point. I was stuck on the side of a busy motorway, just past a slip road with traffic zooming past me at 70mph. Stupidly, I sat in my car for at least five minutes trying to decide what to do, completely ignoring the fact that another vehicle could have smashed into me at any given moment. Visions of what had happened to my cousin filled my mind and only served to increase my panic.
‘Get out of the Goddamn car!’ I screamed silently, before realising that I would be opening my door straight on to the flow of traffic. I climbed over the centre console and got out of the passenger side instead. ‘Ring the recovery company,’ I told myself, only to ring them and realise that my cover with them had expired and that I had neglected to write the number of my new service down and keep it with me. I began panicking that I would have to call the police and that they would fine me for having insufficient breakdown coverage. As it turns out, my previous roadside assistance company offered to send a unit out (at a cost) and I had no choice but to accept.
Cue nearly an hour of waiting on the side of the motorway for a recovery vehicle to arrive. At this point, I wasn’t sure if my shaking was due to the fact that it was cold or that I was still in shock at what happened. It certainly didn’t help my blood pressure when the recovery technician cheerfully told me that I couldn’t have picked a more dangerous piece of road to break down on. Well, it’s not like I bloody well chose to have my tyre explode right then and there!
The technician put my space saver spare wheel on and instructed me to go no faster than 50mph for the rest of my journey home, which is all well and good if you’re NOT on the motorway. Even the articulated trucks were giving me a hard time for driving so slowly and I honestly felt like sticking my arm out of my window and pointing to my temporary wheel. I’d become one of those dawdling drivers that everyone hates…
As is my lot in life, I chose the Easter holiday weekend to have my tyre blow out, which meant that most garages were closed for the long weekend. I needed to drive to Peterborough on Easter Monday and there was no way I could do that on a temporary wheel and tyre. After much phoning around, I managed to find a tyre centre open and so I took my car there, fully expecting them to change the damaged tyre and tell me everything else was fine.
Not only was the rear tyre beyond all repair (that was pretty much a given, seeing as it exploded and all), but both of my front tyres were barely above the legal limit and would have lasted me less than a couple of thousand miles. It was at this point I realised that, in couple of weeks time, it could have easily been one of my front tyres that blew out, and could have resulted in much more serious consequences.
Suffice to say, I will be giving the garage that carried out the service a piece of my mind and I will tell them in no uncertain terms that I am less than pleased with the fact that they did not pick up on the state of the tyres. I know that I had a lucky escape and that things could have turned out much worse for me. I’m just thankful that they didn’t.
If you take anything from this post, let it be this message: If in doubt, get your tyres checked out.