Even Autowriters Have Bad Days, The Ones You'd Rather Forget

November 15, 2009

Even autowriters have days they'd rather forget, but which end up pleasantly surprising you. Today, believe it or not, this jaded car writer was pleasantly surprised.

Today started out like any other, I logged into my laptop to check my mail and re-read a piece that I did last night (fiction article, not cars, believe it or not). The morning was pretty good, that is until we had to run out to do a very important errand.

As we motored along the streets of our town, my wife noticed the steering of our Chevy Cobalt LT felt very stiff and heavy. In fact, she was alarmed about it, telling me that the steering is feeling really heavy and the car is pulling to right!!!

At the same time, I could hear the telltale scrunging of an alloy wheel on pavement as the tire and wheel separated and the wheel ground along the pavement. It feels something like an old, bias-ply flat with the wheel slapping against the wheel well.

My wife, who was a little uncertain of what to do, wanted to stop the car in the middle of the roadway and call AAA and I had to tell her get the car out of traffic (more than a little emphatically after she froze) so that we're safe! She asked me what that would do to the tire and I just said it's better to lose the tire and wheel than you or me! So, we crept up onto the shoulder and I ran around to the right front and sure enough, the alloy was bare and the tire was half off the wheel. I've felt that special feeling before and I already knew there was a serious problem.

My wife then asked if I wanted her to call the American Automobile Assn., Southern New England (AAA) and I asked her to wait for a couple of minutes while I checked the tire and wheel and the doughnut spare and the jack and wrench.

I cleaned a lot of the junk out of the trunk that I carry but that I need like the snow shovel, a set of jumpers, a toolbox, a set of snow tracks and some other items and pulled the floor up in the trunk and there was the spare and it seemed like it was in good shape as did the equipment.

It was when I went to loosen the lugs that I noticed that it was taking a little too much effort to get them started (I think that when some work was done on the front tires last spring, the technician may have cross-threaded one or more of the lugs because they wouldn't budge, no matter how I jumped on the lug wrench if you want to call it lug wrench) so I told my wife to call the AAA.

We were told it would take about 45 minutes before the truck would appear and, meantime, a local police officer pulled up to protect our vehicle from someone who might come up on us from the rear. It was a very brave thing for him to do, especially when we told him we were okay and were waiting for AAA and we thanked him.

Actually, he was about to try to help out with the lug wrench when, lo and behold, the AAA truck appeared in just about five minutes some kind of record for us and the driver took over.

First, he put a real pneumatic jack under the car, instead of the factory's scissor jack and then he put an high-torque electric wrench on the lugs and he still couldn't get them off. Loosened a bit, maybe, but not off. Instead, he had to rely on his old four-way lug wrench and he had to stand on that, too.

Fortunately, the doughnut had more than enough air in it and now my wife and are sitting at home devising strategies for the best use of our rather meager resources on the tire issue.

We'll get that solved, I know, but this whole day has been rather a low point in an otherwise pretty good week. This is something we definitely didn't need.

Our hats are off to the AAA and our local police department. It shows that even autowriters have their problems, too!

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